Being a financial advisor/planner is personal to me. Not only is this a job I’m absolutely passionate about, it’s also about how I personally have benefited from having my own financial advisor. When I was grappling with grief and loss, I depended upon my financial advisor as a trusted companion to help guide me through major financial decisions and be a voice of reason. I wrote all about that experience in my previous post “Advice for the Newly Widowed.”
If you haven’t already read my full post about the questions you should ask when hiring a financial advisor, I recommend you go and read that first and then come read my answers here as it will make more sense.
10 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Financial Advisor
(I used them when I hired my own financial advisor and have given these to family and friends)
1. Are you a fiduciary 100% of the time? Will you commit to that in writing?
Yes, and definitely yes!
A fiduciary is a professional entrusted to offer planning and advice or manage assets or wealth while putting the client’s best interests first at all times. Financial advisors who follow a fiduciary standard must disclose any conflict, or potential conflict, to their clients before and during the advisory engagement. Fiduciaries will also adopt a code of ethics and fully disclose how they are compensated. Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) like Wise Stewardship are legally held to that fiduciary standard of care. By law, we must act solely in the best interest of their clients all of the time. The firm is legally liable if we don’t.
Wise Stewardship Financial Planning proudly follows each of those standards. The answer below explains even more about the professional organizations and code of ethics for those that we follow. Read our ADV and signed fiduciary oath.
2. How do you get paid?
Wise Stewardship is set up as a fee-only registered investment advisor. We never take (or pay to anyone else) any commissions of any kind or have any hidden fees. The only compensation we receive for services is directly from our clients. We only work for them. Period.
We have no asset minimums and are happy to work with anyone interested in our model of financial planning and advice. We clearly post our fees on our website and make sure every client know exactly what they are paying, but even more importantly what they are getting of value in return! When Wise Stewardship was being established, it was done so with three convictions when it comes to fees in the advisory world:
⇒ Transparency: every client should know exactly what fees they are paying and to whom.
⇒ Value: charge clients in a way that the perceived and tangible value far surpasses the price.
⇒ Fairness: no client will be under-served and no client will overpay for Wise Stewardship’s services.
Wise Stewardship is a member of the XY Planning Network and NAPFA (National Association of Personal Financial Advisors) that both have strict codes of ethics. Additionally, as a Candidate for CFP® certification, I abide by the CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Rules of Conduct. These stringent ethical guidelines serve as the foundation for Wise Stewardship’s commitment to everyone we work with.
3. Do you have experience working with clients like us?
Every client’s situation is unique. This is one of the primary reasons that Wise Stewardship focuses so heavily on working with widowed spouses and servicemembers. I have deep knowledge and experience working with clients in these situations which makes my ability to help similar clients that much better for each one of them. I tell my full story over on my About page where you can read about the full journey I’ve had as a veteran, financial counselor, widower, and now financial planner.
However, I also have clients that don’t fit into the widowed spouse or servicemember categories. These are people that have read about our philosophy and story and found that it resonated with what they were looking for in a financial advisor. I firmly believe that there’s a financial advisor/planner for everyone, and am happy to refer people to the financial planner that is best for them. In fact as part of my fiduciary duty to potential clients, if I’m not the best financial advisor for you, I will refer you to the advisor that would be the best one for your situation. The XY Planning Network has more than 900 firms in it now with many different specializations so I know there’s a best financial advisor out there for everyone.
Although I love writing, there’s only so much I can convey in a blog post so I’d love to share more about how I help clients in my free initial consultation call!
4. What experience, education, and credentials do you have?
I’ve always been interested in money since I was a little kid, including out-bidding my siblings for chores-for-hire, to providing loans to my siblings and friends when they had spent all their money and diligently saving my allowance for future goals. Over time this evolved into reading the stock pages in the newspaper as a young teenager and starting investing on my own. Over my adult lifetime, I have read hundreds of books and spent thousands of hours studying financial planning topics just because it was fun and interesting to me. Over the years, I’ve been the go-to guy in my circle of family and friends as I loved helping answer their questions and point them in the right financial direction.
I went on to receive my Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics from Purdue University with Highest Distinction (top 3% of my graduating class). During my undergrad studies, I especially enjoyed the focus on behavioral economics and the emotional aspects of the money choices you and I make. Although not directly relevant to financial planning, I also have a Master of Arts in Military Studies and Strategic Leadership from American Military University which helped strengthen my critical thinking and writing skills. I’m currently a Candidate for CFP® certification while also pursuing my second Master of Science in Financial Planning to further deepen my financial planning knowledge.
I am a licensed financial advisor having passed the Series 65 examination. This qualifies me to legally serve as investment advisor representative and run my own independent RIA (registered investment advisor). Due to my firm being located in Massachusetts, my firm is overseen and regularly audited by the MA Registration Inspections, Compliance and Examinations (RICE) Section. They ensure that my firm meets certain minimum standards of conduct, education, and financial solvency. As one of the nation’s leading proponents of a fiduciary standard for clients, the RICE section also has conducted a thorough background investigation of me and my firm as well as ensuring compliance with all regulations of of the Massachusetts Uniform Securities Act and Regulations. Although my firm is located in MA, I am also able to work with clients virtually (using Zoom video conference software) across the entire U.S.
As an officer on active duty for almost 9 years, along with a brother, sister, and brother-in-law in the military, I experienced firsthand the benefits and challenges that military life can have on all aspects of life especially finances. Frequent changes like TDY’s, deployments, and PCS’s add unique potential opportunities and obstacles to meeting your financial goals and dreams. Add in the often disparate and sometimes confusing military pay, benefits, scattered military discounts, and countless people offering advice or services, and there is often a lack of clarity on how best to optimize all of these to best meet your goals. I’ve seen and been through much of what you probably have questions about. I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t and now use that extensive knowledge to help my clients make the most of their military finances.
During my time on active duty, I spent several years volunteering as a financial counselor and in the volunteer income tax assistance program. These invaluable experiences grew my ability to get into the trenches of one-on-one relationships with people, build trust around challenging topics like money, discover personal goals and follow through, and ultimately align their money with their values. It was so rewarding to see young Airmen come in after being referred by their leadership to handle challenges like debt, savings, or budgeting, help them make a plan, and see their confidence soar as they built a life of financial freedom. I also loved the opportunities to help officers and enlisted alike automate their TSP investments, understand the Blended Retirement System (I was one of the financial bloggers privileged to be a part of the official DoD BRS roundtable), maximize financial opportunities on deployment, and so much more.
As a widower myself, I also know all too well the challenges that grief mixed with financial uncertainty can have. Before my wife Sarah passed away, I was also her caregiver. I learned how to persevere by ordering my life around my faith in God and aligning family, work, and finances with what was really important. Although I would never have wished to go through such trials and hardships, I realize that I now have the opportunity to combine my financial training and experience to help people with a deep, personal understanding of how grief affects every single area of life.
I know how hard grief can be. It’s difficult to even consider forcing an order on your pain, much less the rest of your life. Your financial life might be completely rearranged, irrevocably changed by loss of income or even by life insurance or other death benefits. If your grief is anything like mine was, just getting through the day-to-day responsibilities was hard enough. Trying to figure out your finances might seem crushing or impossible. There is no “moving on” from grief. It will always be a part of you. But, there is moving forward and taking the next step. As a trusted partner and companion in your grief journey, I now have the incredible privilege to help other widows and widowers do that with their finances.
I’m also a frequent personal-finance freelance writer and speaker, especially on military or grief-related financial topics. I love teaching others how to take control of their finances!
You can read even more about my experience, education, and credentials on the About page.
5. Do you have any disciplinary issues or complaints on your record?
No. I have never had any complaints or disciplinary issues of any kind. You find this information and more in Wise Stewardship’s ADV and see our firm’s record is clear.
6. Who is your custodian?
Wise Stewardship utilizes TD Ameritrade Institutional as our independent custodian for assets that we help clients manage. That provides an important safety check as the we do not have access to withdraw or use your funds without your written consent. We also help clients manage their other investments wherever else the clients has them such as a TSP, 401(k), etc. by incorporating advice on those assets into the client’s overall financial plan.
7. How, and how often, will you communicate with us?
We personalize the financial planning process to each client’s unique and individual needs. As a boutique financial planning firm, we are able to develop deep and lasting relationships with our clients helping them achieve their goals and dreams over time. We serve those who are surviving busy lives and help them learn to financially thrive. Your financial plan may be unique, and it may not look like anybody else’s, but it’s yours.
Financial planning is about relationships because a financial plan is not a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process. Financial planning should be proactive, but a single annual meeting leaves you no choice but to constantly react to what already happened over the last year. Think about your business or career goals. How do you think you’d perform if you set your benchmarks for the year on January 1, but didn’t revisit them, or your progress toward them, until December 31?
You’re busy, your life is hectic, and there is a lot going on week to week and month to month. That’s exactly why periodic meetings with your financial planner throughout the year make a difference. There’s no way to capture everything that happened in your life in the last 12 months to present it to an advisor at your annual meeting — let alone have the advisor truly understand your thoughts about it.
To that end, Wise Stewardship offers unlimited email, phone calls for anything financially urgent (we leave that up to you to define), and regular quarterly meetings for our ongoing comprehensive financial planning clients. All of that is in addition to the typical 4- 8 meetings that we have with clients at the beginning of our relationship to get your initial financial plan in place. We firmly believe in ongoing access to your financial planner to help adapt and change as your financial life evolves. We also regularly send out emails to our clients with relevant financial information, interesting articles and resources, market commentary when appropriate, and updates to their financial plans.
8. How do you use technology to benefit your clients?
Wise Stewardship operates as a virtual financial planning firm, so we can easily work with any U.S. citizen with an internet connection all across the U.S. or on military bases around the world. In fact, my clients appreciate having that kind of flexible working relationship with me. Wise Stewardship Financial Planning services and systems have been designed so that all of the information you need to understand your finances can be found on your smartphone, tablet, or computer at any time. With this accessibility, we can easily have impactful conversations about your finances, by video chat using Zoom or phone, wherever you are at without disrupting your routine. We use Docusign for all the signatures required (so you never have to sign a paper copy) and the power of cloud storage to easily and securely share information with each other.
With a virtual financial advisor, you don’t have to trek to an office to get professional advice, so you can work with us in the comfort of your own home or office. It saves you time and money on travel or having to only choose from financial advisors in your immediate area. It also saves our firm significant overhead costs so we can offer the highest quality financial advice at more affordable rates.
We also use a powerful financial planning software tool called Right Capital that gives our clients ongoing access to a comprehensive look at their entire financial lives and can model everything from tax planning to debt payoff to cash flow to retirement analysis. Learn more about this powerful tool with the videos over on our Services and Pricing page. Or, you can sign up for a free demo to check out more about my favorite financial planning tool!
I’m serious about data security so I ensure that RightCapital keeps your information secure. If you are curious about how they do it, you can read all about their security.
9. What options do you have to work together and what specific services do you offer?
Wise Stewardship offers a variety of ways to work together based on your specific needs and wants. You can choose from the following based on what makes sense for your circumstances and preferences:
⇒ Quick Start Plan: $195 — This plan covers one financial planning topic. After you submit some relevant information to your topic of choice, we have an hour-long virtual meeting going over your questions and coming up with a gameplan. Following our meeting, you receive an action checklist reviewing our discussion and giving you the steps you need to implement on your own. Previous Quick Start clients that hire Wise Stewardship for the Foundation or Comprehensive Plan within 5 months of their previous meeting will have the entire $195 applied towards their financial planning fee. This provides a way for people to “test-drive” the service to see what working together is like.
⇒ Hourly Plan: $150 an hour — Have some general questions or just want to talk with a fee-only financial planner? We can work together at a flat hourly rate to customize a plan for your specific situation and needs. A minimum of 2 hours is required.
⇒ Foundation Plan: $999 – $3,999 — Our Foundation Plan is a complete financial plan that includes all of the elements in the financial planning process. We gather and review everything related your financial life and then work together for 4 – 8 virtual meetings (based on the complexity of your financial situation), typically over the course of a few months. We craft a plan with action steps for each area of your finances for you to confidently implement on your own.
⇒ Comprehensive Plan: Upfront fee starting at $499+ & ongoing monthly fee starting at $129+ — The Comprehensive Plan consists of the same elements as The Foundation Plan, but also includes ongoing execution of implemented strategies, quarterly meetings after the initial plan is developed over, and unlimited email support for financial topics. It gives you complete, ongoing access to Wise Stewardship regarding your financial life for all the questions and changes that life may bring. Investment management is available as an additional service to our comprehensive financial planning clients. We will continue to monitor and adapt our strategies based on the fluctuations of the market and your unique needs.
For more information about what each of these financial planning services entails, you can read more details and watch a few videos on our Services and Pricing page.
⇒ Investment Management: Wise Stewardship offers an optional investment management service for comprehensive planning clients that would like to have us manage their investments for them. The investment management program was designed for those who know where their time is best spent — and researching, managing, and stressing over their investments and the health of their portfolios is not it. Making the right investments is critical to building wealth, providing for your family based on investing life insurance proceeds, and meeting your goals. But trying to DIY can leave you second-guessing every decision, missing opportunities, and making mistakes you didn’t even know you were making. Successful investing requires objectivity, and it’s almost impossible to remain objective when you’re dealing with your own money. With endless choices and decisions to make, it’s easy to stray from rational strategies and start buying, selling, and re-balancing based off emotion (if you remember to do these things at all). Don’t lose your potential to create, grow, and keep wealth by making the same mistakes the average investor makes. We provide professional investment strategy that runs off academic research and empirical evidence. When we work together to better manage your investments, you can enjoy peace of mind and focus on other areas of your life.
Wise Stewardship investment management services are based on long-term investment strategies incorporating the principles of Modern Portfolio Theory. This investment approach is firmly rooted in the belief that markets are “efficient” over long periods of time and that investors’ long-term returns are determined principally by asset allocation decisions, rather than market timing or stock picking. We recommends diversified portfolios, principally using passively managed, asset class mutual funds and ETFs.
Although all investments involve risk, our investment advice seeks to limit risk through broad diversification among asset classes and. This investment philosophy is designed for investors who desire a buy and hold strategy. Frequent trading of securities increases brokerage and other transaction costs that this strategy seeks to minimize. In the implementation of investment plans, we therefore primarily uses mutual funds and may also utilize Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) to represent a market sector.
Clients may hold or retain other types of assets as well, and we may offer advice regarding those various assets as part of its services. Advice regarding such assets will generally not involve asset management services but may help to more generally assist the client. These strategies do not utilize securities that we believe would be classified as having any unusual risks, and we do not recommend frequent trading, which can increase brokerage and other costs and taxes.
The bottom line is that I want financial planning and advice to be accessible to everyone no matter their financial situation or amount of assets. That’s why I offer a variety of options to work together and find what’s best for each client. I explain all of these options in more detail during our free, no-obligation initial consultation so come with your questions ready!
10. What do you love about your job?
I absolutely love helping and teaching people! This job is equal parts of both which makes it an incredible opportunity that I wake up every morning excited to work in!
Finances can be such a challenging and taboo topic for most people. Add in the complexity that often comes with taxes, investments, knowing how much to save and spend, behavioral biases, and the list goes on and on. Believe it or not, but all that stuff is fun for me. I enjoy reading about retirement saving options or the tax code. When I get to combine all of my financial knowledge with my real-world life experiences to help and teach my clients, it’s a match made in heaven. Truly.
Financial planning is an opportunity to invest in the lives of my clients. It is so exciting to help them develop a process for using their money wisely that aligns with their values now and in the future. Just like a personal trainer designs the proper program for your specific fitness needs and holds you accountable to staying focused on your goals, I do the same with my client’s money because I love empowering them to make smarter, more informed decisions now that can produce dramatic results in the future.
Some of that value is more intangible than a list of deliverables. The smart financial decisions I help my clients make today (and the not-so-smart decisions I help them avoid) create a compound effect over the long-term: the more they do correctly today, the greater their level of success is likely to be in the future. The small adjustments I show them how to make today, and cumulatively over time to optimize their financial lives, can add hundreds of thousands of dollars to their net worth over their lifetime. My clients then get to use their finances to take care of their families, pursue passions and dreams, and live and give like no one else.
Finally, I love how this company is an opportunity for me to live out my values at work everyday. My personal philosophy on money can best be summed up with the concept of stewardship, hence where the name of the company came from. A dictionary definition of stewardship is “the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving.” Another word we often use in this same concept as it relates to finances today is fiduciary. I strongly believe in transparency and offering fee-only financial planning free from conflicts of interest.
I believe I have a broad responsibility of being a wise steward of the many blessings, not just financial, that I have been given. First and foremost, I have that responsibility to God to use His abundant provision with an eternal perspective. I must be mindful to not separate God’s gifts from His purpose … He has so blessed me so I can bring honor and glory to Him and be a blessing to others! Secondly, I have a responsibility to provide and care for my family with wise planning for our finances. Lastly, I have a responsibility to all those whom I am privileged to work with and educate including each and every client. I make a promise that I will apply those same fiduciary principles of stewardship to everything I do.
I’m also unable to fully share about everything that I believe in and how I can help my clients which is why I encourage people to schedule a free consultation to learn more and ask questions in person. Not ready to take that step? That’s ok — follow me on Facebook and join my email list below where I share other helpful resources, articles, and interesting information.
How Can We Help You?
Follow us on Facebook where we regularly share helpful information, articles, and encouragement on our Wise Stewardship Facebook page for ongoing help and information.
Servicemembers can follow Military Life Planning page on Facebook for information more relevant to military life.
Interested to learn more about how we work one-on-one with our clients? Schedule a free consultation to talk with Daniel and get any questions answered.