Frequently Asked Questions
1. Please tell me about the financial planning process. Financial planning is a multi-step process that provides you with two important things: (1) An in-depth review of your current financial situation, and (2) a blueprint that shows you how to achieve your goals and objectives for the future. It is important to remember that financial planning is a process . . . not an event.
2. How do you create this blueprint? First we focus on your goals, objectives, priorities and values. For instance: the reduction of current and future income taxes may be an immediate goal, funding a quality education for your children and/or grandchildren may be an intermediate goal, and enjoying a secure financial future in your retirement years is likely to be one of your most important long-term goals. Another great goal in life for some people is creating wealth and/or leaving a legacy for your chosen beneficiaries or charities. You may already be on the road to meeting these objectives and simply need a new strategy, professional insight, or to fine-tune your plan. Whatever your unique situation may be, everyone needs a periodic assessment of where they are on the road to meeting their financial goals. That’s why we do an in-depth review of your current financial situation. Next, you need to know how you can set about achieving (or continue working toward) your financial goals. By focusing on cash flow, investments, taxes, pensions and retirement plans, estate planning, insurance issues, savings opportunities and other general financial matters, we design and help implement a customized financial plan for you. Finally, to achieve the intended results, you must implement and monitor your plan.
3. What does our ideal client relationship look like? Or what is the right client fit for Heritage Financial Planning? Finding the right fit for your financial planning needs is absolutely critical, and finding the right fit for client relationships is essential for us as well. Our ideal client is fun to work with, interesting both personally and professionally, and one that appreciates professional guidance. Our ideal client understands that the reason that they are coming to us in the first place is that they are not an expert and want to work with experts not only in developing their financial plan, but also know that they are not experts when it comes to the implementation of the various facets of a financial plan. Our ideal client also understands how imperative it is to have ongoing rebalancing and monitoring of the investments.
4. Sounds like a lot of work! It may seem like that at first, but the good news is, if you follow your plan and maintain a disciplined approach, you can rest well knowing you can reach your stated goals.
5. Can I implement/execute my asset allocation on my own? Our experience is that failure rate of this type of arrangement is off the charts. Through our years of vast experience, we have shifted our approach on this topic. Of course it is always your money and you make the ultimate decision, however we are adamant that the stakes are too high for individual investors to implement on their own. That said, we are certainly not the only firm that excels in this area. We happily refer clients to other firms for this work when appropriate or at the request of clients. We want to avoid making this a self-serving proposition, instead focusing on ways to get people the help that they need even if that means working with another firm. You come first, always, and with a failure rate at approximately 80%, we cannot and do not recommend implementing on your own.
6. What is "Fee-Only" financial planning and why should that be important to me? Because we are Fee-Only financial planners, we do not accept sales commissions; we work solely for our clients. Because we do not sell financial products such as investments and insurance, there are no third-party relationships or outside influences to color our thinking and financial recommendations. For more information on Fee-Only financial planning, including our Code of Ethics, Fiduciary Code and member requirements, please visit www.NAPFA.org. In addition, all NAPFA Member firms are Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs); RIAs must comply with a host of regulations designed to protect the consumer.
7. I understand the benefits of working with a Fee-Only financial planner, but I might need to obtain financial products. How will I be able to do that? While we do not sell financial products, we will offer specific recommendations and opinions regarding the purchase of the various financial products that may be appropriate for you. If you need to obtain an insurance policy or a new mortgage, or find an estate planning attorney or tax professional, we can direct you to the resources you need and/or help you obtain these products and services. We prefer to be involved in the implementation of the portfolio, but there are times where another firm is a better fit.
8. Currently, Steve Blankenship is generally taking clients by referral from his existing clients only while Paul and Allison are taking referrals from his existing clients as well as new clients to the firm. In cases where Steve is the lead planner, Paul or Allison may consult as well and vice versa. We believe that a collaborative approach utilizing both planners as needed works best for our clients.
9. I have already accumulated substantial assets and think I am doing quite well. But as I progress and build for the future, things seem to be getting more complicated. I want to be sure I am on track, but I don’t always have the time or inclination to manage the myriad details by myself. Can you help me? Yes. People who need more sophisticated financial planning or advice will find our services appealing and beneficial.
10. What types of securities do you provide advice for? We provide advice for all types of securities, including mutual funds, stocks (as they relate to your portfolio holdings), bonds, bank deposits, variable and fixed annuities, limited partnerships and tax shelters. We also provide advice on mortgages, budgeting and cash flow issues, 401(k), 403(b) and other retirement programs, stock options, life and disability insurance, etc. If it has to do with money and finances, we can provide counseling, guidance and/or resources for you. Clients are encouraged to call us when they have a major life event, such as a new job, a baby, a marriage or divorce, or if they are planning to buy a new home or start their own business. We also encourage our clients to call us with more common everyday questions, such as: "How should I invest within my 401(k) or 403(b) plan?" "How can I reduce my taxes?" "What advice can you offer on refinancing my home?" "How can I maximize my Flex Spending Account, Cafeteria Plan or Section 125 Plan at work?"
11. Tell me about your investment philosophy. As financial planners and investment consultants, we believe in the following fundamental principals with regard to designing an investment portfolio and making specific recommendations: The purpose of a client’s investment portfolio is to fund current and/or future financial objectives. The design of the portfolio must take into account the client’s financial objectives, tolerance for risk, needs for current income or liquidity, and special considerations such as income and estate taxes. The important thing to remember is that no one can predict the future. It is difference of opinion that makes a market. Investment and economic "experts" provided with the same information often come to different conclusions. We do not suggest that we can, or that any of the money or mutual fund managers that we recommend, will make the correct decision every time. We do believe, however, that studying the historic trends and relationships of investment classes and the philosophies and approaches of successful investment managers can provide valuable insight. The appropriate allocation of investment assets for your goals and risk tolerance is the most important component in developing an investment portfolio. We believe that having a diversified, well-balanced portfolio, following long-term buy-and-hold strategies, and having patience, will increase the likelihood that one will achieve their long-term financial objectives.
12. How much will my financial plan cost? Financial planning fees are determined on a project basis; the total fee for a financial plan will vary from client to client based on the specific needs and complexity of your situation. An estimate is provided after the Initial Consultation Meeting, when your personal needs are fully identified. Once your financial plan is complete, most relationships will evolve into an ongoing wealth management relationship based on a percentage of assets.
13. Are your fees tax deductible? Yes. Section 212 of the Internal Revenue Code permits an itemized deduction for tax and/or investment advice in the miscellaneous section of Schedule A. It is subject to a 2% floor of the adjusted gross income on a personal tax return.
14. How can I get started? The first step is an initial inquiry from you. Call us, at: