Fee-Only Financial Advisor in Atlanta
It's your money — what are you going to do with it? That's a question many people don't know the answer to, yet the assumption is often that people can easily figure out the best way to plan for the future and to invest their money on their own. Those who do seek advice might fall into the trap of trusting so-called financial planners or advisors who are only in the business for the profit.
Fortunately, there are ways to choose a financial planner or advisor whose recommendations you can trust to be made in your best interests, not in the interests of lining the pockets of the financial planning company. You want to look for an independent, fee-only fiduciary advisor. In Atlanta, Heritage Financial Planning offers its services on a fee-only basis and is bound to a fiduciary standard.
Who Is Heritage Financial Planning?
Heritage Financial Planning is a wealth management firm with offices in:
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Grapevine, Texas
- Dallas, Texas
Our founding principal CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, Steve Blankenship, is licensed to practice in Georgia and serves clients at our Atlanta office. He is a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), a nationwide network of fee-only financial planners and advisors. NAPFA's support systems and networks provide access to the experience and knowledge of more than 1,200 other industry professionals and financial advisors who share our philosophy. Steve is one of several advisors at our firm who serve as a member of the Financial Planning Association, the largest financial planning professional association. 1
It's Important to Work With a Fee-Only Financial Advisor
You've worked hard for your money and to build up a sizable nest egg and wealth. You want someone who is going to have your best interests at heart managing your money and making recommendations to you. For that reason, it's important to work with a fee-only financial advisor. To learn more about how Heritage Financial Planning can help you, contact us today.
Financial Services Offered in Atlanta and the Surrounding Area
Heritage Financial Planning offers multiple financial services to people living in Atlanta and the surrounding area. Whether you are nearing retirement or are just looking for advice to make the most of your money, our services can help you plan for the future by making smart choices today. These are some of our top services:
Personal Financial Planning
A personal financial planner will examine your current financial situation, identify any goals you have and create a plan for action to help you achieve those goals. It can involve creating a budget to keep spending in check and increase savings, finding a way to pay down debt or avoid debt in the future, and determining what mix of investments or other savings vehicles will best help you reach your savings goals for retirement.
Retirement Planning Strategies
Even people who have set aside a significant amount of money have questions about planning for retirement. You want to make choices that will improve your chances of having enough money in retirement and decisions that will help you enjoy the greatest amount of tax benefits and other benefits from your retirement savings.
Also part of developing a strategy for retirement is determining where your money will come from during that time. You might have income from Social Security, a pension and IRAs, 401(k)s or other investments. You want to know how to maximize that mix, so you don't end up running out of funds during retirement or get hit with a significant tax burden. A fee-only financial planner can help you understand the income sources available and how to use them to your best advantage.
Another part of developing a retirement strategy is knowing where to invest. Where you invest when you are in your 30s or 40s might be considerably different from where you put your money as you get closer to retirement. A financial advisor can help you decide what to invest in based on your specific needs.
Lump Sum Distribution Advice
If you have a pension at work, you might have the option of taking a lump sum payment or receiving a portion of the pension in monthly installments. Which option is better? It depends on several factors, and our certified financial planners can help you weigh your options carefully and make the best choice for you.
Stock Option Advice
Another question people often have is what to do with their employee stock options. Stock options give employees an opportunity to buy stock in their employers, usually at a reduced price, for a set period. In exchange for the stock option, you usually have to remain with your employer until the stocks vest at which point you can sell them or otherwise do what you want with them. Your financial advisor can help you better understand the ins and outs of stock options and can make recommendations to you about them based on how long you plan to stay with a company and based on the projections for the company's future.
College Planning Advice
College is expensive, and the price is only expected to go up. What can you do to save for college for your children? If you currently have children who are near or at college-age, you might wonder if tapping into your retirement savings to pay for some or all of their college expenses is a good idea. A fiduciary advisor can explain the various options available for paying for college, such as student loans, grants and scholarships, and can help you weigh the pros and cons of going to a pricier, private school versus a less expensive state or public university.
Personal Tax Planning
If your personal tax bill is big and seems to be getting bigger each year, you might not be making investment choices or other financial decisions that allow you to maximize your deductions and minimize the amount of tax you owe. Our financial advisors can help you see which deductions are available to you as well as things you can do throughout the year to lower the amount of tax you owe on April 15.
Ongoing Asset Management
As fiduciaries, our financial advisors offer ongoing asset management. A financial decision or stock purchase that makes sense today might not make sense for you a year, five years or 10 years down the line.2 A fiduciary will continue to monitor your assets, making updated advice and recommendations to you when they are appropriate.
Insurance Needs Analysis
Insurance is a part of financial planning that often gets left out or neglected. Some people take a skeptical view of insurance. It can seem like a waste of money to pay for it. But it may be wise to take the "better safe than sorry" approach and choose policies that will offer you some protection in case of injury, illness or death.3
How much and what type of insurance is appropriate depends on your needs, family situation and financial situation. If you have school-aged children and a spouse who depends on your income, you might need life insurance to provide for them in case something happens to you. Everyone can benefit from health insurance, but how much and how big of a deductible you'll need to pay depends on whether you have any medical conditions or not.
Reviewing your insurance policies every year or every few years is essential for making sure that you have the coverage you need. A financial advisor can evaluate your current situation and your policies and make recommendations to you that will provide the greatest amount of protection, but not more protection than you need.
Meet Our Founder
Steve Blankenship, the founder and principal at Heritage Financial Planning, holds a bachelor of business administration from Baylor University and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional. While a student at Baylor, he received the "Most Outstanding Student in Financial Services and Planning" award. He has worked with several of the most respected people in the financial planning industry, with four of his mentors being named to a list of the Top Financial Advisors in America by Worth Magazine.
Steve's goal when he founded Heritage Financial Planning was to combine the best elements of his university education, his experience in the real world and what he learned working with respected financial advisors. He specializes in retirement planning, asset allocations, stock options planning and investment management, but has a background and experience in all financial planning topics. He's a Registered Financial Advisor with NAPFA.
What Sets Us Apart
Two things set Heritage Financial Planning apart from other financial services firms and financial advisors. The first is the fact that our financial advisors make recommendations to our clients independently, without outside influence or pressure from particular investment funds or companies. The second is the fact that we offer our clients objective advice, based on information and data. We put our clients first, encouraging them to make the best financial decisions for their specific situations.
We can be objective and independent because we are a fiduciary offering fee-only financial planning.
What Is a Fiduciary?
In the simplest of terms, a fiduciary is duty-bound to put the needs and interests of their client first. That means that a financial advisor who is held to a fiduciary standard needs to act in the best interest of a client, even if doing so means that the financial advisor loses money. Fiduciaries are also required to avoid any conflicts of interest, such as recommending a stock to a client that they have a stake in. If a fiduciary does have a conflict of interest, that needs to be reported to the client.
A fiduciary financial advisor has a duty of care to their clients, which means that they will continue to monitor a person's assets and investments in an attempt to look out for the best interests of their clients.
The fiduciary standard or rule is often compared to the suitability standard, which is much less involved and which doesn't require that client's best interests always be the critical consideration. A planner or advisor who follows the suitability standard should research investments and should recommend assets or investments that are suitable to a client. But once the trade takes place, the advisor who follows the suitability rule is not required to continue to monitor the investment and to make sure that it continues to serve the best interests of a client.
What Is a Fee-Only Financial Advisor?
How a financial advisor receives compensation for their services influences whether or not they are following a fiduciary standard. Financial planners or advisors can be paid in one of three ways:
Fee-only: A fee-only financial advisor charges a fee for the services they provide. They do not earn a commission or receive a kick-back from the sale of assets or investments. A fee-only financial advisor usually charges a flat rate or an hourly rate. Fee-only financial advisors are the only advisors who follow the fiduciary standard.
Fee-based: Fee-based might look like fee-only, but it is very different. A fee-based financial advisor charges a fee to a client and receives a commission from the sale of any investment products. A fee-based advisor might have some conflicts of interest. For example, they might recommend a particular stock or asset to a client that isn't in that client's best interest if they get a commission for selling that asset. That means that fee-based advisors aren't fiduciaries.
Commission-only: At first glance, a commission-only financial planner can seem like the most budget-friendly option, since they receive a commission from sales of assets, not from fees. But commission-only planners might recommend certain stocks or other investment products to clients because the sale of those stocks will provide the most significant commission, not because those stocks are in the best interest of their clients.
Economic Outlook in Atlanta
When you are looking for a personal financial advisor in Atlanta, it's a good idea to work with a planner and advisor who knows the local area, including the local economy, the cost of living and average income. Here are some facts about the local economy in the Atlanta metro area:
In Atlanta, the median household income is $46,439, slightly less than the median income for the U.S. as a whole, which is $53,482 per year. The per capita income is $35,719. About 5.7 percent of the Atlanta metro area earns more than $200,000 per year while 11.2 percent earns less than $20,000 annually. In Atlanta alone, about 8.3 percent of the population brings in more than $200,000 and around 20 percent bring in less than $20,000.
The area is the fifth most populated in the U.S., with around 5.8 million residents. Atlanta is also growing, with its job growth over the next decade expected to be around 38.5 percent, just slightly higher than the job growth for the entire U.S. as a whole. Production in the area is growing, too. Between 2015 and 2016, Atlanta's GDP increased by nearly four percent, from $308.7 billion to $320 billion. Only San Francisco saw more growth than Atlanta over that same period.
The cost of living in Atlanta is two percent higher than the national average, which is an important consideration when you're deciding how much you'll need to have saved for each year of retirement. It's also important to know the tax rate, which is currently six percent, as you are likely to be liable for paying income taxes on any sources of retirement income. Another factor that can affect your cost of living in retirement is sales tax, which is currently eight percent in the Atlanta metro area.
Wealth Management in Atlanta
The fee-only fiduciary advisors who work at Heritage Financial Planning are solely committed to meeting the needs of their clients. Whether you are looking for a financial planner in Atlanta who can offer you retirement advice, general financial planning assistance or help with another area of your finances, contact us today to learn more about how our team of financial planners can work with you and give you peace of mind when it comes to your financial situation.
1 - FPA Affiliation:
- FPA supports high standards of professional competence, ethical conduct and clear, complete disclosure when serving clients. The firm affiliation does not constitute an endorsement of the firm by the Securities Exchange Commission.
2 - Ongoing Asset Management:
- Past performance is not indicative of future earning results. Investments may vary with the success and failure of investment strategies selected and implemented by the management of Heritage.
3 - Insurance Needs Analysis:
- Heritage does not render legal, accounting or tax advice. Please consult your tax or legal advisors before taking any action that may have tax consequences.