+ I'M CONFUSED ABOUT THE DIFFERENT ADVISOR BUSINESS MODELS. ARE YOU A FIDUCIARY? ARE YOU FEE-ONLY?
We agree that the industry jargon can be very confusing. We're a true fiduciary, and our entire business is designed to make sure we work solely in the best interest of our clients. We are fee-only, but more specifically we're a flat-fee, "advice-only" advisor. Advisors that make money from commission-based sales, including so-called fee-based advisors, are to be avoided. Fee-only advisors who charge a percent of assets under management are a step up, but are still clearly incented to steer funds into their managed accounts. We think you should only consider flat-fee asset managers or flat-fee, advice-only advisors.
+ CAN I REALLY DIY MY INVESTMENTS?
We are confident we can teach you to manage your own money, simply and effectively. It has never been easier to buy low-cost index funds that efficiently capture market returns.
+ HOW SOON CAN YOU START?
Each planner starts one comprehensive plan per week, so we typically book your initial meeting 2-4 months from when you decide to move forward with a plan. This gives you plenty of time to gather documents before we begin the process. If you have time-sensitive questions, we can typically address those issues beforehand.
+ HOW MUCH TIME WILL I NEED TO SPEND ON THE PLANNING PROCESS?
It really depends on the situation, but you will probably spend 8-16 hours on data gathering, implementation and meetings. In the future, though, it shouldn't take more than a few hours per year to remain on track.
+ WHAT INFORMATION DO I NEED TO PROVIDE?
We have you fill out an online data sheet with information on your goals, income, spending, assets, debts and insurance. We also ask you to send relevant supporting documents to us via encrypted email. We ask that you redact personal information from your documents, which can be done by crossing out information with a black marker before scanning or mailing. As a matter of policy, we delete and shred all submitted documents when our planning work is finished.
+ WHERE DO WE MEET?
We typically meet via videoconference.
+ WHO WILL I WORK WITH?
You will work with one of our highly-qualified financial planners. Your planner will guide you through the initial process and support you with AptusCare. Our planners exchange ideas and share best practices to make sure you get the benefit of our collective wisdom. Sarah Catherine Gutierrez is not taking on any new clients and is focused on growing our business.
+ WHAT IS APTUSCARE?
AptusCare is our $125/month support service designed to help our DIY clients successfully implement our recommendations and track toward their goals. AptusCare includes a formal annual revenue as well as ad hoc meetings and calls throughout the year. We proactively push out new information and best practices to our AptusCare clients. Many of our clients intend to maintain AptusCare throughout their lives for a 2nd set of eyes on their DIY efforts. However, it doesn't hurt our feelings if our clients eventually decide they no longer want or need our support.
+ WHERE SHOULD I SET UP MY INVESTMENT ACCOUNTS?
There are many great options, but we typically recommend setting up accounts at Vanguard, Fidelity or Schwab. Other options include TD Ameritrade, E*Trade and Merrill Edge. We also work with clients using roboadvisors like Betterment, Wealthfront or Schwab Intelligent Portfolio Premium.
+ DO YOU SPECIALIZE IN ANY PARTICULAR OCCUPATION OR DEMOGRAPHIC?
Many of our clients are physicians, but our work spans a range of incomes, ages and occupations.
+ DO YOU PREPARE TAX RETURNS?
No, but we can collaborate with your accountant if necessary.
+ CAN YOU HELP ME WITH ESTATE PLANNING?
We can help you think about the basics of estate planning, but you will have to consult an attorney in your own state to discuss details.
+ HOW DO I PAY YOU?
You can pay us by check or credit card. For our comprehensive plan, we bill the initial $3,000 after the first meeting and start charging $125 per month for AptusCare after the second meeting.
+ CAN YOU HELP ME EVALUATE MY WHOLE LIFE INSURANCE POLICY?
We can help you consider the pluses and minuses of whole life, variable universal life, indexed universal life and other cash value life insurance policies. If you decide to exit the policy, we can help you evaluate tax loss harvesting strategies.
+ SHOULD I REFINANCE MY STUDENT LOANS OR PURSUE PSLF?
We can help you navigate the byzantine world of PSLF, if your career takes you to the public sector, or evaulate refinancing alternatives.
+ WHERE SHOULD I PUT EACH INCREMENTAL SAVINGS DOLLARS? CAN YOU HELP ME WEIGH DEBT REDUCTION VERSUS INVESTING?
We don't sell anything and don't manage money, so we have no conflcits or biases when helping you decide how to best use your savings dollars.
+ CAN YOU HELP ME OPTIMIZE MY EMPLOYER BENEFITS?
We don't manage money and have no vested interest in aggregating your assets, so we will make sure you take full advantage of retirement plans and other benefits provided by your employer.
+ I'M A BUSINESS OWNER. CAN YOU HELP ME SET UP A RETIREMENT PLAN?
Yes, we can help you think about the many great retirement plan options for small business owners. If appropriate and necessary, we can even act as the advisor to your retirement plan.
+ CAN YOU HELP ME DO A BACKDOOR ROTH IRA CONTRIBUTION?
Almost all of our high-income clients make "backdoor" Roth IRA contributions by making a nondeductible contribition to a traditional IRA and then converting the money into a Roth IRA. We can talk you through that process.
+ HOW MUCH TERM LIFE AND DISABILITY INSURANCE DO I NEED?
We generally believe you should get enough coverage to give you peace of mind and not a dollar more. We can help you think about how much coverage you need now and when you will no longer need it.
+ CAN YOU HELP ME DEVELOP A BUDGET I CAN STICK WITH?
We teach a cash flow system that works universally for clients with incomes from $40,000 to $1,000,000+, and uses your own checking and savings accounts. It automates a process of paying yourself first, saving for future expenses, paying your bills and spending the rest.
+ I'M AT OR NEAR RETIREMENT. DO YOU HELP WITH RETIREMENT PLANS?
Yes, we can make sure you're financially prepared to retire. We can also help you think about Social Security, Medicare, long-term care, required minimum distributions, Roth conversions, withdrawal strategies, asset allocation, charitable giving, and basic estate planning.
+ WHAT OTHER QUESTIONS DO YOU ADDRESS DURING THE PLANNING PROCESS?
We have worked on hundreds of financial plans and counseled thousands of retirement plan participants. Chances are we've run into a situation similar to your own. Our business model makes us uniquely qualified to address a broad range of financial questions. We can evaluate home buying decisions, size up emergency funds, direct you to 529 plans to save for your children's college, look at private real estate partnership opportunities, consider Roth versus pre-tax retirement savings options, asess non-qualified deferred compensation plans and even help you vet job opportunities.