What’s the big deal about fee only financial planning?

Do you remember the last time a light bulb went off in your head? Perhaps something clicked for the first time. I think it’s safe to say we’ve all had at least one of these moments in our life…and they’re typically memorable!

For me, one of these moments occurred in 2009 when I was introduced to fee-only financial planning. Why was this such a big deal? Because it completely altered the way I would think about, and provide, financial planning services.

Up to that point, I had been surrounded by smart, honest people at various firms. In that moment though, I realized the conflicts of interest that could potentially arise if I made the decision to move forward any other way. As a result, I chose to eliminate the conflicts of interest by becoming a fee-only financial planner.

So what does “fee-only” mean? Fee-only means I am only compensated directly by my clients. There are no hidden fees, commissions, third-party payments, or product sales in my practice.

In addition, I am required (notice the emphasis!) to act in my client’s best interest. I am convinced most financial planners choose to put their client’s interests ahead of their own. However, not all are required to do so. When seeking advice, this may create a conflict of interest you are not even aware of.

So why do I believe anyone seeking advice from a financial planner should strongly consider hiring one that is fee-only? It boils down to transparency and objectivity.

Transparency

When working with a professional financial planner, you shouldn’t have to worry about conflicts of interest. The unfortunate reality is conflicts of interest usually arise as a result of a planner being compensated for recommending a particular product.

You should be fully aware of the costs you incur, both initially and ongoing. Professional advice is rarely free. (If it is, consider yourself warned…you get what you pay for!) I can’t tell you how many times someone has come to me not knowing what, or how, they pay their advisor. Sometimes they even think the service is free, which I assure you is not the case.

Objectivity

A transparent fee structure encourages objective advice. A fee-only planner may provide a recommendation that requires a commissionable product to be purchased. However, the fee-only planner’s fee remains the same regardless of your decision to implement or ignore the recommendation. As a result, you can be confident the recommendation is made with your best interests in mind.

Objectivity also ensures all potential solutions are on the table. Since the fee-only planner represents YOU, and not a particular company, he or she may explore all options and recommend the one that best aligns with your goals.

Serving my clients as a fee-only financial planner allows me to remain transparent and objective. These are the characteristics of my practice that ensure I put clients’ interests ahead of mine and I encourage you to seek a like-minded professional when searching for a financial planner.