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Financial advisor suggestions?

Due to some recent events (mostly positive!) I am considering advice from a financial planner and wondering if any here can provide recommendations. I realize most posters here are do-it-yourself investors including myself till now. The board may have a policy about specific recommendations (not sure) and you may just send me a private message if that is the case. As I have never done this, please bear with me. Here are some reasons/considerations.
1. Need advice on overall financial planning and not just investment selection. This includes estate planning, tax planning, scenario planning for retirement, etc.
2. My different sources of income and potential investments are getting complex enough that an overall assessment/direction from an expert may be beneficial.
3. As always, I am weary of advisers charging significant fees based on assets managed. Preference would be to pay either a low percent fee for assets, or better to pay fee per session. For example, a relatively larger initial fee for set-up and possibly once a year review on a recurring basis.
4. Another consideration is ease of maintenance. Want something that even my wife can understand/manage on an ongoing basis if needed. She has not shown a lot of interest/aptitude till now and it is not likely to change in future:-)

Some possibilities are
1. Schwab Intelligent Portfolio Premium which provides access to CFPs at somewhat reasonable fees. They do tend to hold a lot more in cash (that too in comparatively lower yield options) which is a negative.
2. - lower range of fees, investment philosophy looks good. However, they appear to provide only investment advice and not overall financial planning
3. Firms such as Creative Planning. They have good reviews, but their fees appear a little large to me. If I do use them, I may just use them for initial set-up for the first year and then decide whether to continue (or just manage myself on an ongoing basis).
4. Vanguard Personal Advisor Services. Anyone with direct experience/thoughts?
5. I remember someone in the group had recommended a planner in the Southern California area way back.

Thank you for your help and happy upcoming new year to all!



  • I would interview a few fee-only advisers in you area. You can use the link below to find your options.
  • When you get to the selection process...check out the advisors here:

  • Seek recommendations from some of your trusted friends and co-workers.
  • Without any heads-up, one of my kids moved all her investments (brokerage plus sundry retirement accounts, all willingly / mutually set up per my advice and suggestions, meaning DSENX, FLPSX, and WEMMX chiefly, iirc) to a financial adviser who approached her. Ameriprise.

    I am staying cool about it; everyone has to leave home at some point, and it is true that I have played no role in her older bro's investments. (He was econ major and has MBA, however.)

    Still, I am going to try and have with her a low-keyed discussion, covering these points, to which I welcome brief calm adds:

    - is adviser a fiduciary? how does he get paid?
    - does he read/use MFOP?
    - what is ER for new holdings? (am assuming ETFs ... in-house? what/whose?)
    - what value does he claim to add, and can it be / has it been demonstrated?

    No-fee for now, $500 annual fee after some passage of time. I think. Her total holdings probably at or near $200k, not sure. She is married but new husband is not much part of this, I believe, not certain; he did not bring to their life large savings / investments of his own. Both employed at good gigs. No kids yet; soon presumably. Some life insurance, more tk.

    I think part of the Ameriprise guy's pitch was full-service, setting up 529s, monitoring life events, and that sort of usual patter. She does have a trust attorney, has not yet implemented his beginning-couple recommendations.

    Thanks in advance.
  • edited December 2019
    Your situation sounds similar to mine. Recently came into a lot of cash, 63 years old and market seems high. Have been a loyal Schwab customer for 16 years, so started there...already have done the estate planning elsewhere and significant other does my taxes.

    I am not impressed with Schwab Private Client so far...luckily, I'm getting a free trial through the first quarter. Lots of meetings with my "advisor", who seems just a liaison with the hq in Orlando. Meetings would be beneficial for someone who knows nothing about investing. So far, three meetings and no specifics. Plus, I've had to defend my other investment choices, as well...they clearly want to manage ALL of my assets. Yet another meeting Friday, where they claim they will give me specific investments...we'll see.

    Went to an individual advisor in Naples who I really liked. Very intelligent and young and did give me specific investments. He, too, wants to manage everything...not just the pot of cash. He wanted me to buy two fixed index annuities to provide income I need for basics, then grow the rest. He didn't seem like a "set it and forget it" manager. Told me he would use ETFs when interest rates were falling and individual bonds when they were rising. Equity portion was a mixture of individual stocks and etfs.

    Schwab is starting an Intelligent Income robot advisor on the 1st. I think I'm going to check it out. If I don't use that, I'm probably going with the young financial advisor and just pay him a fee to choose some individual bonds for me. He seems willing to negotiate. Very disappointed in Schwab Private Client. Or maybe it's just me and my unwillingness to sit in the back seat while someone else drives. The good news is, I had to total up my expenses for the year, so they knew how much income I need to generate when my alimony stops in 18 months...and I'm spending a lot less than I thought...and 2019 was definitely not a frugal year for me.
  • What I've seen from talking with a small number of people who have asked me for help/suggestions/advice/management (of which I'll only provide the first couple) is that investment selection is not the highest priority on their list of needs.

    While it may seem silly to pay a robo "advisor" a quarter percent to periodically rebalance or to move dividends to a checking account, those mindless tasks are just what some people don't want to have anything to do with. (I think it is fair to call a robot mindless.)

    Other people are overconfident/frugal, and won't part with a few bucks to spring for a professional for special situations like inheritances, estate tax filings, tax planning, etc. A key problem here is that people don't know what they don't know, so even putting in some work on their own, they can miss deadlines, forms, steps, and more.

    This is what comes to my mind when someone (myself included) tries to do everything without seeking out professionals:

    For the first type of person, IMHO most providers can do a competent job. It's largely a matter of having someone to handle the transactions. That's the value add; it's not improved performance.

    What @little5bee described as a problem - that the person employed wants to manage everything - has a flip side. With someone who really avoids handling money, whatever isn't managed is going to languish, unattended. This can lead to an overall portfolio that's out of kilter.

    The second type of person has a much larger need than just an investment manager. Financial planning, tax planning, estate planning, insurance needs - @Kaspa's numbers 1 and 2. From the little bit I've seen of the basic services provided by the large companies, they seem to fall short in these areas. Their services don't include walking you through the special situations like setting up wills, dealing with probate, or even making sound decisions on setting up trusts. Not that they can't provide these services, but they're not part of what's more widely advertised.

    I suggested Vanguard Personal Advisor services to a person of the first type. From what I've seen, I think they do a good job. However, that is largely one of mechanics. They do take into consideration outside assets when setting up a plan. They are conscious of the tax consequences of taking all investments in house (i.e. converting to Vanguard funds) and will mitigate the pain by migrating holdings over multiple years. They take a holistic view of taxable and tax-sheltered investments (but only those under their control). They're good at hand holding.

    But you still have to have an idea of what your needs are and what you want. I can speak from experience here because I was asked to participate in the interview calls, in the initial setup calls, and even now. I've begged off, since the whole idea is that I'm not giving advice. I think the human touch Vanguard provides is good, and the price is right for what you get. Just recognize that while it's closer to full service in the brokerage sense of personalized attention and some initial planning, it's still basically an investment management service.
  • I would try to find good local professionals for the specific tasks you need by asking people who seem richer and more experienced than you. I have always run quickly the other way when someone claims they or their firm can do all of the above.
    I go to an attorney when I need wills and estate planning, and use a local CPA to do my taxes, if I don't think TurboTax can handle all of them. When we needed insurance when the kids were little, I bought the cheapest but most reliable firms ( Vanguard and TIAA) I could find. I am considering a qualified life annuity but will research online for the cheapest versions.

    I have tried and paid for several expensive planners over the years, but he best financial plan I have ever seen comes with Quicken. You can input your salary taxes daily living expenses college needs etc, adjust for what are reasonable returns and see how you do. It doesn't take long to see if you are saving enough money or spending too much. Redo the inputs yearly. The exercise can convince younger people that they cannot hand control of their money over to anyone without careful attention.

    Unfortunately it does not handle RMDs specifically so retirement planning is a little ore complex, but with the earlier data you have a very good idea of your spending needs.

    An adviser's personal hand holding probably helps most people avoid bailing out at market bottoms but it needs to be personal. I doubt most people who talk to a CPA at Vanguard once a year will listen when he or she says sit tight. In my experience it takes a few days to get hold of your adviser there, usually by appointment, and they have turned over three times in two years on my Flagship account

    Schwab advisers seem to have more stability and local offices but push their products

    Having said all of this, a lot of people do not want to or cannot take the time to get comfortable with a lot of the above. A fee only adviser would probably be worth their money.

    There is a substantial amount of good advice on the American Association of Individual investors site (AAII) and Johnathan Clements Humble dollar blog.

    For what it is worth, a fee only adviser there who seems very sensible and level headed (don't know what he charges or what his minimum account size is) is Adam Grossman who works at Mayport Wealth Management I have learned a lot more about his investment philosophy and approach reading his blogs than I ever did in 60 to 120 meeting with some dude on Wall Street.

    I wish you luck. It is a difficult search and I know very few people who are totally satisfied
  • sma3 said:

    An adviser's personal hand holding probably helps most people avoid bailing out at market bottoms but it needs to be personal. I doubt most people who talk to a CPA at Vanguard once a year will listen when he or she says sit tight. In my experience it takes a few days to get hold of your adviser there, usually by appointment, and they have turned over three times in two years on my Flagship account

    I generally agree with your observations but would like to add a note about Vanguard. When one works with Vanguard Personal Advisor Services, one is assigned an adviser separate from one's Flagship adviser. They coordinate but serve different roles (e.g. setting up an IRA would be done by the Flagship team). The VPAS adviser schedules quarterly "meetings".

  • my daughter in years past has never looked at her portfolio more than once or twice a year and is a calm believer in holding and not fretting and riding-out, so she probably does not need an adviser for handholding and such, like most of us

    I am wondering what issues to add to my list in having a discussion
  • Hi @davidrmoran

    Investing one's hard earned monies could be a game named, "Whattdaya you know?"
    Not unlike many monetary items, including high priced items; I still don't understand why folks don't take the time to get smarter about their money and how they spend or invest. I remain amazed, especially in the age of discovery via the internet; that so many people somehow continue to skip this mindset or being curious and learning. Not a good sign for society; but a great sign for anyone marketing and selling a product. Have others here observed in the past or today how the marketing takes place at HSN / QVC and all the info-mercials that now fill some dead air time on non-cable networks.
    So, David; if your daughter feels the need to use Ameriprise, I will assume that she has admitted to herself that she understands that she doesn't have knowledge about investing and at this time does not intend to study. That's fair and understandable from the point of focusing on a career and family.
    I understand, as I receive the "ask Dad" sometimes. This doesn't always result in, "What I would've done", but at least an attempt.
    A most important perspective(s) I've attempted to push over many years to family and friends is to understand that you know, that you don't know; and don't a expect a proper answer without a proper question.

    As to anyone needing/desiring a financial advisor; well, we all know there are many individual reasons. To the extent that many here consider the higher embedded fees and wrong investments as a what the heck; I suggest that at least a 50% chance exists that most will obtain decent fee charges and decent investments. For them, hopefully; better than not investing in the markets at all, eh?

    I still receive an annual, "I want to talk to you about investing" from a very busy individual who owns their own business. This statement has been in place for 30 years. On the other hand, from years ago; a CEO of a small company that had just started a 401k program that became a IRA rollover upon retirement. She (ex-CEO) found a decent lady advisor, with low fees and uses index funds. This example has been rewarding for her, as she understood she needed the investments; but didn't want to learn more or spend time with the investments.

    As to fiduciary; well this has traveled with changes over the past few years. ONE's best interests from an advisor likely has various definitions on a personal level. I suggest searching for the latest updates as to who and what meets the legal standards today. I believe that fiduciary duties will evolve one way or another; well, for a long time going forward. Without an expressed written legal contract between an investor and advisor as to what is prohibited for an investment choice; an account may be wide open for dispute.

    The below link is a blip from 2018; but newer stories arrive often.

    Ameriprise + others overcharge / misguide account holders

    I suppose a summary towards the advisor subject is that, not unlike marketing for everything around us; is that these are a business doing their best to sell a product to benefit the customer and produce a profit for the business.

    Have a good remainder,
  • Schwab Private Client took quarterly "advisor" fees from both my brokerage account and my Roth IRA. For what, I don't's been in a money market account since I deposited it. I have gotten zero guidance and my "advisor" said they don't charge to manage cash. And taking a fee out of a Roth? Unbelievable! I have no doubt that Schwab's great customer service department will reverse this, but I wonder if this is SOP with uninformed clients...
  • @little5bee; Which Quarter are you referring to & how long was this going on ?
  • Went in middle of November. Still not one concrete suggestion from my "team", despite 3 meetings and assurances that they don't charge a fee for managing cash. Most troubling is they actually took their "advisor fee" rata...directly from my Roth and didn't bill me instead! Not too confident in their financial planning aptitude right now.
  • msf
    edited January 2020
    Edit: I should have read further in the Schwab agreement. It is not supposed to charge for cash of any sort.

    With respect to the pro-rata billing, Schwab says that it will do that unless you indicate a single account for all bills.

    Here are the relevant passages I could find:
    Non-Billable Assets. The SPC Fee is not charged on Non-Billable Assets in your Portfolio. Non-Billable Assets include, but are not limited to:
    • Cash Balances, consisting of money that is awaiting investment, which may include money earning interest through Schwab One® Interest or Bank Sweep and that is in your account as a result of a liquidation of securities or a dividend payment;
    • Non-Billable Fund Shares, consisting of any money market fund shares ...
    Allocation of SPC Fee. Unless you or another account holder in your Portfolio has designated a single billing account, the SPC Fee will be allocated among the accounts of your Portfolio in proportion to their percentage of the Portfolio's Billable Assets. ... Payment of SPC Fee. Unless Schwab notifies you in writing otherwise, the SPC Fee will be debited directly from the accounts of your Portfolio or the single billing account.

    In contrast, Vanguard Personal Services says that it will select the account(s) from which the fees are paid (it's not automatically pro-rata), and that:
    Unless the only account in the Portfolio is an IRA, we [Vanguard] won’t select the IRA as the account from which the fee should be deducted. In the case of multiple IRAs only in the Portfolio, the fee will be taken proportionally from all of the IRAs in the Portfolio. In addition, when sweeping fees from a taxable account with a Spending Fund [a cash buffer managed by Vanguard for your expenses/withdrawals], we’ll prioritize the Spending Fund first.

    FWIW, apparently TIAA operates like Schwab, pulling fees proportionately, including from Roths.
  • Also keep in mind the distinction between paying someone to give you advice and you giving someone the authority to make buy/sell decisions for you.
  • In answer to @Kaspa: I think there is no substitute for an attorney for will, medical directive, and trust planning. We paid a bundle to have our wills done, but our attorney still answers simple questions without charging more. If you are like us, we needed help reading a parent’s will and trust and with one of our daughter’s divorce. He knew where to send her for her own legal help. I asked him also for the name of a financial planner and I ended up paying a couple of hundred for a portfolio review. I did not like the initial idea they proposed ( it involved transferring a huge part of my TIAA account to a 3% fixed fund, known as TIAA Traditional). I am far more aggressive than the usual late 70’s guy, so I didn’t see a good fit at that shop. I still have a free advisor at TIAA, but I have not moved any taxable accounts their way.

    I could see myself exploring Schwab to manage our non-retirement accounts, but others’ comments here have made me skeptical. I’m resistant to relinquishing control, yet I realize my wife would be at sea if I were no longer around. I need to keep reading the wise advice of board participants.
  • you might fido acceptable; I know more than one widow who has felt intelligently treated by them at a local branch after the death
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