Here’s some of the FAQ and discussion to help you to understand more about how we work together with you.
Frequently Asked Questions
How quickly can I expect to hear from you?
Whether you are just beginning your research to find a financial planner, or are an established client of ours, our philosophy is we will always respond in a timely manner. If we can, we try to respond to emails the same day, but depending on our meeting schedule you may not always hear from us until the next business day (but never any later!). That being said, we’ve heard all sorts of strange places our emails have ended up — spam, junk, promotions, or even so blocked by your email server that we weren’t lucky enough to even make it to spam! It’s always a good idea to add our email addresses to your “safe sender” list. And if you ever don’t hear back from us within a day or two, please know that we did respond and our message probably got lost somewhere in cyberspace. So please check those funky folders and/or email us to let us know you didn’t hear from us. 🙂
Do I need to prepare anything for the initial consult call?
Not really. On the call we don’t need to get into specific numbers, we just like to understand who you are and what your financial goals and objectives are. This helps us get a better picture of where you’re at, life-stage-wise, so we can recommend the best package for you and your budget.
What Is (And Is Not) Included In Financial Planning
Exactly what is covered with your packages?
Typically, a financial planner can address any of the following areas in general and specifically whatever you want covered —yes, we perform our own due diligence to make sure we understand these areas, however, we won’t waste time talking about things you aren’t truly interested in, ONLY what applies in your situation and what information you would benefit from exploring:
- Cash Flow – gain clarity around your current spending, and discuss ways to manage that on an ongoing basis if needed. Fundamentally, we need to see how resources flow in and out of your situation.
- Debt & Cash Reserve – analyze your savings and review levels and returns on liquid assets, and look at potential debt payoff projections and options.
- Real Estate Planning – figure out the best way to move forward with ownership as an investment and/or your personal home.
- Goal Planning – create projections to act upon around business and other goals, such as getting into a home or funding a child’s education.
- Retirement – how much you need to save to maintain your lifestyle in retirement.
- Taxes – explain how income, investments, and other things affect your taxes strategically, plus review withholdings through paystubs.
- Investments – review your current accounts as well as make recommendations for investment options and any changes that are beneficial to you.
- Risk Management – calculate how much insurance you need and assess what you’ve got currently both personally and through an employer.
- Savings Coordination – figure out what the most effective way will be to funnel savings to your short and long term goals.
- Business Strategy – identify process needs to coordinate with your personal situation (tax planning, retirement plans, savings targets)
This is just a general list – we are committed to answering the questions that are specific and customized to your personal, unique situation.
Do you manage our money or invest on our behalf?
We give you the tools you need to take control of it yourself. Why give over all of your hard-earned money to somebody to invest on your behalf who might not be paying as close attention as you would or, worse, what if you’re hoping to delegate this part because you don’t want to deal with it…and the person ends up making a bigger mess of things?
Bottom line is, we don’t believe you should delegate responsibility for your financial life, so we help empower you to make better decisions. We provide investment advice for you to go and do it yourself. Our entire business model is based on the investment concept or slang “set it and forget it.” We’ve seen that for the most part, investment portfolios do best when you leave them alone and let them grow. If you’re letting it just sit there, why do you need to pay a fee for investment management (hint, you don’t!)?
Now, of course, when we come up with your recommendations, we’re factoring in the economy and other relevant things in the environment to decide on a course of action. We have found that people will do great if you give them specific investment advice, let them go implement it at their own brokerage, and then we continue to be a sounding board for thoughts and adjustments along the way.
How specific is your investment advice?
We are VERY specific. In our action plan, we will tell you exactly how to organize your investments in your existing accounts along with trade directions. If we are expecting a tax consequence, we will also give you the heads up on those.
If you need to open a new account, we’ll tell you where, give you a link to open the correct account, and outline the steps from depositing money to performing specific trades.
Our goal with all recommendations is for you to implement what we have discussed and for us to eliminate any ambiguities in the next steps. Therefore, you’ll get ticker symbols, dollar amounts to save, etc.
I feel confident with my current financial situation so don’t feel like I need a full strategy session. Is it possible to get your professional opinion on a few specific questions?
Unfortunately, we’re not really set up to do one-off questions. We believe that the best financial advice comes from a global view of all of the different areas. When it comes to finances, one area always affects another area–and you might not even be aware of the connection. In order for us to provide the best advice, we need to get granular with all of your financial areas to understand your big picture so we can provide quality, specific advice. Our analogy is that it’s a little like going to the doctor… It’s not enough for you to feel confident that everything is fine, the doctor needs to be on the same page as you. The doctor would perform an exam before they would write a prescription. In that same way, we aren’t able to provide advice without an in-depth look first.
And sure, you don’t need an in-depth look every year. We can provide smaller scopes to clients who have already done a Strategy Session. But we believe that every few years, it’s worth doing the deep dive again. Ideas and goals change, jobs change… if you really want to prioritize wealth building, you need a consistent review process.
Meetings And Ongoing Support
How many times do you meet with me?
The short answer is one strategy session meeting (live or virtual depending on COVID or a zombie apocalypse). However, this doesn’t really take into account ACCESS, and how we like to differentiate from a traditional financial planner.
With traditional financial service providers, meeting with you 4-6 times in the first year is normal. Why? Because they are trying to gather all of your assets in order to sell you their products, and the more often you meet with them, the better chance of implementation.
With us, we’re telling you everything you need to do – and then you go do it. And then, you have access to us throughout the year to check-in, ask questions, schedule phone calls (or Zooms if we need to look at the same thing). So you don’t have to wait for a formal meeting to get our help. We just give it when you need it.
With the traditional financial service provider model, there is an ongoing meeting model, because they are charging you an asset management fee with no end date. They are required to meet with you twice a year. With Creative Money, you make the decision every single year whether you need us or not. Nothing much changed? Maybe we don’t formally work together (but you can always email and check-in!). We’re here when you need us.
What does homework look like?
After our consult call, we’ll send you some worksheets to help you collect, organize and prepare for the session:
- What Do I Need To Gather is just a general checklist of documents, very similar to applying for a mortgage but a bit more detailed (the mortgage person doesn’t care about what you’re invested in but we do).
- Inventory Tool gives us your birthdays and contact info. We need to know how old all of you are to calculate retirement, education and other mid-range goals you might have. It also provides space to record data if you don’t have a statement for something. If you DO have a statement, you don’t need to fill out the Inventory.
- Objectives are where we get an idea of your “take” on the different areas of your finances and you can record things you want to be sure to discuss.
- Planning Matrix – just a way to map out life goals.
I get easily overwhelmed by all of this, can you help?
Honestly, we’re not sure. We definitely think the greatest benefit of financial planning is getting clarity and context over your financial life. That is a huge relief to be clear on your next steps. However… This is a partnership. We rely on you to gather data to create an effective plan. We can support you during implementation, but at the end of the day, it’s up to you to follow-through on all of the action steps we’ve identified as being beneficial to you.
Sometimes people come to us wanting more mindset or accountability coaching, and we can help with that…but we always recommend doing a plan first. We find that a lot of times, the plan clears up so much in terms of focus and direction that people don’t want or need the coaching anymore. They are motivated by taking action.
What happens after we have our session and I have my plan and action items?
Your 12 months of support starts when we deliver your plan and you’re working on implementation. We know that we’re going to be your sounding board and support people as you have questions along the way or need help adapting the plan to real life. Lots of clients will just shoot us an email with a quick question (and we are extremely responsive via email). However, we’re also great believers that email can’t solve everything, so if we need to discuss something in real-time, or look at the same thing together, we’ll just schedule a phone call or Zoom with you as needed.
Additionally, we have our own check-in schedule for reaching out to you if you go quiet on us. You’re never required to give us a report though…if everything is fine, you can just tell us that and get on with your busy life. We’re here if you need anything, but if not, we will let you get on with things.
What happens after our package ends?
People generally don’t need a Strategy Session every single year. Many clients do one every 2-3 years. With some people, we might not hear from them for several years, and then they’ll come back for a reboot.
With other clients, they would like more ongoing support. We offer smaller scope options, like updates to the existing plan, or general support, depending on what the individual client needs. We don’t publish these options on the website because we want new clients to do a deep dive the first time around. Therefore, we make these options available to existing clients once their 12-month strategy session is coming to a close.
Fees And Other Industry Jargon
Are you fee-based or fee-only?
This is a confusing term so let’s clarify…
- A fee-only financial planner is paid directly by clients for their services, be it a flat fee, hourly rate or a percentage of assets under management.
- A fee-based financial planner gets paid by the client but also via other sources, such as commissions from financial products that clients purchase.
Sometimes consumers are confused by the terminology because, yeah, it’s confusing. Just because someone is fee-only or fee-based doesn’t mean they are NOT acting in your best interests…but it also doesn’t mean that they are. You have to take things on a person-by-person basis. This is why Creative Money LLC is FEE ONLY, and to avoid conflicts of interest, we only sell financial planning advice. We do not sell asset management and are not compensated by any other entity than the client paying us a financial planning fee.
Are you a fiduciary?
Yes AND… that is an extremely loaded and currently unregulated term. The fiduciary rule, also known officially as the “Conflict of Interest” rule, states advisers have to give conflict-free advice on retirement accounts, putting their clients’ needs ahead of their own potential compensation. That means shifting away from commissions on various investment products and becoming completely transparent on what they do and the advice they provide. This was supposed to become federal law in 2018, but for a variety of reasons, it didn’t (it might in the coming years). The CFP Board, a board designed to guide the ethics of its certificants, implemented its own fiduciary rules that CFPs are required to follow.
Fundamentally, the Creative Money LLC business model is designed to only function as a client’s fiduciary because we literally sell one product – personalized advice. So there can never be a conflict of interest for us.
Ready To Go?
- Start by completing a Prospective Client Intake
- Within 2 business days, someone from our Client Care Team will email you about the next steps. Be sure to check your spam or promotions folder as sometimes the messages end up there.
- If we seem to be a good fit, we’ll meet for a complimentary consultation.
- Then you get to decide if/when you move forward with financial clarity, however it makes sense for you.
Note: We’re currently accepting new clients – If you’re ready to work with us, please complete the Prospective Client Intake. We’ll contact you for a phone consult (or email you back!). Then if it’s a good fit, you can take our next open client slot. (It’s got your name on it!)
Have more questions? Ask us anything.