+ What makes you different from the rest of the investment and financial planning firms out there?
Unfortunately our industry makes it difficult for the consumer to understand who does what and how any one advisor is different than the other. There are dozens of titles out there, like ‘financial advisor’, ‘investment advisor’, ‘wealth manager’, ‘investment consultant’ or ‘financial planner’. The reality is, most in our industry are focused on managing/selling investments or insurance.
By contrast, we are a true financial planning firm. In addition to managing our client investment accounts, we make sure they have no financial ‘blind spots’ and that they are on track to accomplish the things that are important to them. In short, we give our clients financial peace of mind and provide the accountability to keep them on track.
We do this by helping them with things like deciding where/how much they need to save, investing wisely, making sure they’re not paying too much in current/future taxes, making sure they aren’t over/underprotected with insurance and maximizing employee benefits, just to name a few things. We’re detailed and thorough in our approach to making sure our clients aren’t “missing anything” when it comes to their financial life.
We do this work under a ‘flat fee’ model, where we’re paid a simple, transparent fee for the service we provide. No commissions, no hidden fees. When we make a recommendation, you don’t have to worry if it’s because we’re making more money or if we are looking out for your best interests. We are fiduciaries.
+ What is your account minimum?
We don’t have any account minimums but do have minimum annual fee. If you don't yet have $250,000+ of investible assets and/or annual household income of $150,000+, it might not yet make sense to work with us.
+ Is Modern Dollar Planning right for me?
You might be a good fit if one or more of the following apply:
- You want to work with a true fiduciary who isn’t driven to sell products for commissions.
- You’re disappointed by the lack of a comprehensive approach from your current advisor.
- You have recently had a big jump in income and want to be smart in using it to build wealth.
- You don’t know what you don’t know when it comes to your finances and want a second set of eyes and an ongoing partner to confirm that you’re making wise decisions.
- You have $1M+ of investment assets and don’t feel you’re getting enough service from your current ‘investment’ advisor charging a percentage of your account.
- You have little by way of current invested assets, but a high income and interest in building toward financial independence.
- You are busy with your career and/or family and want a partner to keep our finances on track.
- You value on your time and are willing to pay for professional advice. You don’t want to be watching CNBC, reading blogs and spending your nights learning financial markets and/or IRS tax law.
+ Who is not the right type of client for Modern Dollar Planning?
If you want an advisor that is going to give you hot stock tips or tell you where the market is headed tomorrow, or next month, we’re not the place. We don’t believe the financial sorcery that tries to predict the future. Instead, we believe in an academically tested, low cost, disciplined investment philosophy.
If you aren’t ready to put some effort into changing your financial trajectory, you might not be ready to work with Modern Dollar. While we are your financial accountability partner, you are an important part of the equation in this relationship. The first 3-6 months of our partnership together requires regular dialogue to get you organized. We work with clients that are motivated to provide us information, talk to us about their goals and willing to make changes. Our most satisfied clients are the ones that keep us updated with what is going on in their lives.
If you don’t think you can grow to trust an advisor and share your entire financial picture, we won’t be a good fit. We firmly believe that all aspects of your financial life are interconnected - investments, taxes, legal docs, cash flow, etc. If we’re going to work together, we ask that you share all of your investment information, tax returns, paystubs, insurance policies, etc. We want to make sure that the left hand knows what the right is going and can’t do our best work if you’re unwilling to share information. We realize getting financially ‘naked’ might be scary, so if you’re not comfortable providing your financial data, we’re probably not the right place for you.
If you’re averse to using technology to manage your financial life, you may not be comfortable with Modern Dollar. We use an online client portal to share information and often communicate with our clients via email outside of in-person meetings for local clients.
+ I’m not in St. Louis. Can we still work together?
Absolutely. With technology, we have the ability to effectively help clients all over the country. In some cases, meeting virtually actually helps us make our meetings more efficient. You can meet with us from the comfort of your own couch instead of a stuffy office. For those in St. Louis, we’re more than happy to meet in person.
+ How do you get paid?
Modern Dollar Planning is what the financial industry refers to as a “fee-only” company. What does that mean to you?... It means we are paid only by our clients. We receive no referral fees from other professionals, no kickbacks or commissions from recommending products or income from anyone but our clients. This allows us to give you unbiased advice. Our only incentive is to make you happy and want to continue our relationship. This is not the way that all financial professionals operate. We urge you to make sure you understand how your advisor is being compensated.
For all of our new prospects we build and deliver a comprehensive financial plan of which we charge an upfront, one-time fee for at the commencement of the engagement. This planning process usually takes up to 90 days and from there we charge you an on-going annual retainer fee. Most clients choose to have their annual fee paid from their investment accounts, but some choose to pay us directly. Either is fine with us.
We are strongly passionate about being transparent. You’ll always know what you pay for our services.
+ How does the relationship work?
The process for comprehensive planning typically follows the outline shown on the Individuals page, but here is a reminder of what you can expect:
- A free 30-60 minute phone or in person meeting to see where you’re at today, what you’re looking for and whether we can help. After this meeting, we’ll be in a position to provide an exact quote for our services.
- If you mutually decide it’s a good fit, we’ll build and deliver your financial plan over the following 3 meetings:
- “Get Organized” - Make sure we have your financial data and discuss your goals in greater detail.
- “Plan Delivery” - We’ll go through each section of your financial life and look at where you are today, where you want to be and our recommendations.
- “Implementation” - We’ll start working through the ‘to-do list’ from your plan. We want to make sure you take action to start moving you toward your goals. We might be making investment changes, changing your employer benefits elections, adjusting insurance plans or connecting you with a relevant attorney, just to name a few.
- After we finish the plan, we’ll move onto a semi-annual review cycle. We like to meet twice a year to adapt to any changes in your life or the world and make sure you’re on track with your plan.
- Between meetings, we welcome you to reach out as life happens. We want you to contact us if you have any questions or worries that can’t wait for our next meeting. We want to be your first call when something comes up in your financial life.
+ Can you help me find a good attorney or tax preparer?
Absolutely. We work closely with our clients' team of professionals. If you need help in preparing your taxes or estate documents we can direct you to vetted professionals in areas all over the country. We receive no compensation for any referrals we offer so you can be confident that you’ll get an objective suggestion.
+ What is your philosophy when it comes to investing?
We believe that markets are relatively efficient. This means that we don’t believe any investor can consistently choose the right stocks or decide when it’s time to get in or out of the market through active management. Active methods typically lead to higher expenses, more transaction costs and higher taxes, which causes underperformance in the long run.
Instead, we rely on the work that has been done by academics showing that a globally diversified, low cost portfolio of indexes gives you the best chance of success. Diversification and cost are critical. We invest in baskets of stocks through exchange traded funds (ETF’s) that in some cases cost 1/10 of a comparable actively managed mutual fund in the same asset class. Those indexes include large and small US companies, international stocks, emerging markets and bonds spanning the globe. They are all publicly traded, ‘no load’ funds that can be bought/sold daily with no surrender periods or penalties.
Together, we decide on an allocation that fits our clients’ desire, willingness and need to take risk and build a portfolio accordingly. After setting a portfolio in place, we monitor it to ensure that as markets move, we keep your assets in balance. This process, known as rebalancing, aims to take the emotion out of investing to keep you on track to meet your goals.
+ What if I decide a few months in that I don’t want to be a client?
Our clients can cancel their ongoing planning arrangement at any time. You should feel that you are getting value for your money. We are big believers in transparency. We believe that this transparency sets us apart. You should know what you’re paying any professional. We build trust by putting everything on the table and letting you decide if you’re getting the value you seek in managing your financial life. Part of that is not tying you up in a long term agreement. You’re free to discontinue at any point. Your investments are yours to transfer to another custodian if it’s not working out for you.
+ You're a small firm - how do I know my money is safe?
We work with an independent custodian (Fidelity or TD Ameritrade) to ensure that your assets are safe. We cannot and will not take physical custody of any of our clients’ assets. This means you can login to your custodian and see your account balance or statements at any time.
While we don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon, even if Modern Dollar went out of business, your dollars are safe. If our firm closed, your accounts would remain intact at one of the two custodians we’ve mentioned above until you decide whether you would like to move them elsewhere or find a new advisor.