Frequently Asked Questions
Answered by Tyler R. Elliott, JD, CFP®
Why should I select the ongoing membership rather than pay a flat fee for the project-based plan?
Financial planning is an ongoing process, and it's often the first thing that busy professionals will put off doing. During business hours their own clients, customers, and patients come first. Outside of business hours, time with family, friends, and much needed recreation will take precedence every time, and understandably so. I want to empower my clients with an efficient way to track and update their financial plan and provide a clear schedule for when and where critical conversations about current household finances occur.
When an adviser charges by the hour, there is a tendency for the client to do independent research rather than trigger a bill for each question asked -- which then eats up their already limited free-time. Flat-fee appointments on an annual basis are a good way for the client to control the initial cost of advice, but without a process for tracking things along the way we will need to get organized all over again, get back up to speed, and then go through another financial plan from scratch because so much has changed. This is a time & labor intensive process, so it's easy to push an annual appointment back because of the reasons stated above (work, family, recreation, etc.). When this happens, the advisory relationship can start to feel like a burden. Suddenly you have your financial planner and your dentist pestering you with constant reminders that your check-up is overdue!
With a monthly membership, however, we are able to collaborate in real time, track things consistently, and communicate in whatever fashion is most convenient for you, all without the worry of how much it's going to cost.
That being said, I understand that there are those who are simply not interested in being ongoing members. As such, I also offer Financial Life Plans via a flat-fee.
What types of clients do you work with?
I work with young professionals who have an idea of where they want to go in life, but would like to develop a clearer path for getting there. They have strong personal interests outside of work, and would like to strike an appropriate balance between vital recreation and long-term saving strategies.
It might also be worth mentioning who I don't work with. Namely, anyone looking for a hot stock tip, a get-rich-quick scheme, or a way to avoid the use of basic planning tools. I believe in low-cost investment strategies, global diversification, and staying in the market at all times when investing for the long term. As a former bankruptcy attorney and a CFP,® I also believe in the use of insurance and cash savings to provide contingency plans should the unexpected occur. Those interested in trying to time the market or outperform a stock index should look elsewhere, as should anyone who believes that robust insurance coverage is a waste of money.
Do you work with younger households?
Absolutely! I love working with younger households because the financial decisions we make in our 20's and 30's can have an enormous impact on our 60's and beyond. If you are under the age of 40, ask some family members or colleagues in their 50's and 60's the following question: Do you wish you could go back in time and give 30-something-year-old you any financial advice? My guess is zero percent of them will say, "Naw -- I had it all figured out by then. I did a really good job of taking care of my future self and future family, and I have nothing to say to 30-year-old me other than, good job!"
Our 30's are also when we begin to adopt a lifestyle for the decades to come, which can be hard to alter if it starts to get the better of us. Most of us have interests outside of our career that we hope to devote time to once we have "established" ourselves and, thus, have the available resources to do so. When asked, almost everyone I've ever met would like to strike a better work/life balance. Too often, however, people find themselves tethered to a job title and to an amount of work hours that they burned out on years ago, but are now necessary to fund an ongoing lifestyle. This happens so gradually that it is difficult to be aware of the risk prior to realizing the result.
When clients retain me as a planning partner, we work to figure out how they want to live now, but they also retain me on behalf of their future selves. As a fiduciary, that's who I'm going to have to answer to in 20 years, and I'm excited by the difference that we can make through working together.
Do we have to be in the Portland metro area to make an appointment?
No, I offer virtual services and am able to work with clients from wherever they are. Even if you live in Portland, I recommend you take advantage of this option because -- let's face it -- it's a pain to fit an appointment into multiple work and child-care schedules, and then fight traffic to and from the appointment. In my experience, this is a major reason why people put off meeting with a financial planner or have trouble staying committed to the process after one or two meetings.
I have designed my practice to be as convenient as possible for new clients, allowing them to easily engage in in-depth planning via online meetings, phone calls, and email. That said, clients are welcome to meet in my office if that is what they prefer.
Why did you start WWP and how is it different from other financial services firms?
When I made the decision to transition from practicing law into the advisory business, I first went to work as an advisor for a financial services firm in Lake Oswego, OR. It was a great experience which allowed me to develop as a planner, and I was able to learn how the industry works from the inside of an insurance broker/dealer. It didn't take me long to discover that young people and households without large assets are mostly excluded from getting good financial advice. People in their 20's, 30's and early 40's typically do not have large investment accounts, so traditional wealth managers will not take them on as clients. Financial advisors who sell life & disability insurance and who manage smaller IRA accounts can help middle-class families in a couple of key areas, but primarily through a sales process that begins and ends with the sale of an insurance policy and/or some mutual fund shares. Often, each subsequent review then serves as another sales meeting where a new insurance or investment product is recommended.
I wanted to go well beyond investment and insurance planning to address the other primary questions that clients have. The best way for me to do this was to sever all employment relationships with investment and insurance firms, and to go wholly independent as the founder and principal of WWP.
In addition, as a fee-only planner I can work with clients without a product sales process driving our advisory relationship.
Are you a fiduciary and, if so, why?
Yes -- as a Certified Financial Planning® Professional, I am a sworn fiduciary. Click here to view my oath.
As I see it, a "financial advisor" can offer four distinct services: (1) investment advice under a fiduciary standard, (2) investment product sales under a suitability standard, (3) insurance product sales under a suitability standard, and (4) financial planning advice under either a fiduciary or suitability standard, depending on the circumstances. Many times these services are jumbled together and it's difficult for the client to know what role the adviser is playing within the spectrum of options and corresponding duties of care. I believe clients should be able to choose the exact services they want, to clearly understand the role the adviser plays in providing them, and to have the adviser bound to a fiduciary standard at all times, regardless of the type of advice given.
Do you sell life, disability, or medical insurance?
No, as a fee-only planner I do not sell any products, and I do not accept any commissions for policies purchased by clients as part of their financial plan.
I do, however, maintain an insurance license with the State of Oregon, and I comply with the annual continuing education requirements for all insurance producers in the state, so that I may give advice and recommendations in those key areas.
If a financial plan calls for a new insurance policy or an increased amount of coverage, I refer clients to 3rd-party providers who customarily work with fee-only planners, such as Low Load Insurance Services. If you already have an insurance provider that you are comfortable working with, you are free to continue to do so when implementing a recommendation. Regardless of the provider you select, if you are a Financial Life Planning Member I make myself available throughout the application and underwriting process to ensure that any policy issued is in your best interest and consistent with your overall financial plan.
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