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 FAQ 

New Clients

Q: What should I bring to our first meeting?

A: It’s helpful if you do some thinking before our meeting about the goals you have. Write those down and bring them along. Account statements or a summary of your assets and debts is useful, but not mandatory. You should definitely think of questions you want to ask and write those down as well.

Q: If I hire you, what sort of information will I need to provide?

A: In general, I’ll ask for statements for each financial account that we’ll we working with. I’ll also require you to complete a Risk Profile Questionnaire. In some cases, I may ask you to provide things like Summary Plan Descriptions for your employer retirement plan, or documents related to your estate plan or insurance coverages.

Q: Do you have a minimum asset requirement?

A: The short answer is no. If you are looking for Financial Planning or Divorce Planning services, I do not require you to place assets with me and thus do not have a minimum asset requirement. Clients seeking Investment Portfolio Management in addition to planning are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Q: I’m new to planning and investing. Will you help me learn what I need to know?

A: Absolutely! Part of my job is to help you learn what you need to know to feel confident about the decisions you will need to make.

Q: If I work with you on a flat fee basis, what are your accepted forms of payment?

A: At this time I am only able to accept payment by check.

Expectations

Q: How often should I expect to hear from you?

A: In the initial stages of our relationships, you’ll hear from me as often as weekly. Once your plan (and in some cases investments) is in place, you’ll generally get a phone call, email, or snail mail every other month.

Q: If I email you or leave a voicemail message, when will you get back to me?

A: My goal is to respond to all incoming messages and calls on the same day where possible, and always within 24 hours.

Q: If I hire you as my Investment Portfolio Manager, what sort of return should I expect each year?

A: Your returns will depend almost entirely on the amount of risk you are willing to take as an investor. Once we’ve determined your risk profile, I will discuss with you the historic average annual returns for your risk profile and how that return can vary over time.

Q: I want to beat the market every year. You can do that, right?

A: No. I can’t promise to “beat the market” any year, much less every year. I can promise to help you select investments that are suitable for your risk tolerance and investment goals. I can also promise to help you interpret your results so that you know if you are getting a return adequate for the risk you are taking.

Q: Are you a fiduciary?

A: Sometimes. When I provide Advisory Services and programs to my clients and their Advisory Accounts, I act as a fiduciary. Clients who select an Advisory Service or Program typically pay a periodic ongoing fee based upon the assets in the applicable Advisory Accounts and, with some exceptions, do not pay commissions on trades executed by Baird. This fee arrangement better aligns my interests with those of my clients, and avoids many of the conflicts of interest associated with a commission-based Brokerage Account.

Q: Do I have to pay you an annual fee?

A: Not necessarily. I have flexible arrangements that you can learn about in the “How I Get Paid” section of this sight.

Q: What types of investments do you recommend to clients?

A: That depends on the client. In general I use individual stocks, individual bonds, mutual funds and exchange traded funds in my investment portfolios. When selecting a combination to recommend I consider client fit factors like cost, time horizon, risk, ease of use and the client’s level of comfort with the particular investment type.

Divorce Planning

Q: My soon-to-be-ex-spouse and I want to cooperate in reaching a divorce settlement. Can you still help?

A: Yes, I can. It is becoming more and more common for couples to cooperate in reaching a settlement agreement and I support this type of collaboration. Both of you would be my clients and we will work as a team. This helps us optimize the settlement for both parties and can help save money on attorney fees and the stress of arguing.

Q: How do I know if I need a divorce plan?

A: Not every case is complex enough to need a plan. If you find that you are having difficulty formulating a settlement or saying “yes” to a settlement that has been offered to you; then its likely that you need a plan or some analysis. A one hour consultation is the best place to start and that hour is always at no charge.

Q: Divorce is expensive! I don’t like to idea of paying yet another person to get this case settled.

A: I hear you, divorce is expensive. So are sub-optimal divorce settlements. I work with each client to define as narrow a scope as possible so that I only do work you need done. We also agree on a fee up-front so there are no surprises when your bill arrives.

Q: What is a Certified Divorce Financial Analysist™ and what role do they play in a divorce?

A: The CDFA® designation is relatively new and many clients wonder how we can help. The Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts has an excellent article on this topic that you can access here.

Q: I don’t have an attorney yet. Do I need one?

A: Yes. I am not an attorney and I can’t give you legal advice. I can provide referrals to you based on your needs and personality.

Q: Should I hire a financial professional or an attorney first?

A: You can decide on either person first, but it’s best to hire both at the beginning of the process. If you are able to hire only one person to start, hire an attorney first.

Q: I don’t have any idea of what we own or what we owe. What am I going to do?

A: Your attorney will work on your behalf to get the information we need to build a clear picture of what is owned and owed in your marital estate. Each state has a process that helps make sure information is passed from one party to the other so everyone has all the relevant information. My role is to help you make sense of the information we get.

Q: Will you attend my mediation?

A: Yes, I will attend mediation on request under an hourly fee arrangement. However, my objective is to prepare you and your attorney well enough that you will not need me to attend your mediation session. I will make myself available by phone when possible in case questions arise during your session.

Q: How long will my divorce take?

A: This is a good question for your attorney. In general my work on a case can be done in as little as four week but often takes one to two months. I’ll be by your side from the time you engage me formally to the time your divorce decree is signed and entered with the court.

Q: Once we are done with my case, can we still work together?

A: Yes! You can choose to continue as a Financial Planning client, or you can choose to engage me as both your Financial Planner and Investment Portfolio Manager once our initial engagement is concluded.

Q: I just want out. Do we have to fight over every little thing?

A: No. In my process I work to minimize conflict so that we don’t waste valuable time and emotional energy fighting over every little thing. When something is worth fighting over I’ll make sure you know what is at stake so you can make a confident choice in how to proceed.

Q: My divorce is already final. Can you still help me?

A: Absolutely. I can assist you with making a plan even after your decree is written, signed, and certified.

Q: I was awarded assets in my divorce settlement and I’m not sure what they are or how to manage them. What should I do?

A: This is a very common concern. The best thing to do is to educate yourself and maybe hire a Financial Advisor. If you think you need a Financial Advisor, interview multiple candidates and hire someone who is willing and able to teach you what you need to know to feel confident.

Q: Am I going to be ok?

A: This is by far the most common question clients ask. My job is to help you craft a plan, take control of your life and chart a path to being ok.

Financial Planning

Q: How is Financial Planning for Women different?

A: Women, especially single women, face challenges unique to them. Women are likely to live longer in retirement, accrue less in savings and Social Security benefits and can sometimes be less confident and engage in their investments. If you are doing more with less, work with a partner who understands that.

Q: How is Financial Planning for Families different?

A: Planning for a family means balancing the needs, wants, desires and biases of two people. Part of my role is to help you articulate what matters to you and integrate that into a plan that serves both members of the couple and gets you to your goals.

Q: How is Financial Planning for Travelers different?

A: If you’ve chosen to make travel part of your lifestyle, you’ve already made a choice outside the norm. This choice means you’ll have to plan differently and make more tradeoffs than investors who lack wanderlust.

Q: How long will it take to make my Financial Plan?

A: Much of this will depend on you: how much time you have available to find and deliver information, and how easy it is to get a meeting on your calendar. In general, the process can be completed in as few as six weeks, though it often takes two to three months from consultation meeting to final delivery.

Q: What if something changes in my life, and I need to change my plan?

A: We assume that you’ll experience numerous changes over time, and I ask each client to re-draft their plan annually. If something changes in between, we can always tweak along the way.

Q: Do I have to hire you to manage my investments?

A: No. I offer Fee-Only Planning services for those who are happy with their investments but still need planning services.

Q: Do you ask clients to sign an agreement or engagement letter?

A: Yes. This protects both you and me by clearly defining the work to be done, the cost for that work and the rights and responsibilities of both parties. You’ll have ample opportunity to read and ask questions about the agreement before signing. You can download a copy now from the Documents section on the Client Experience page of this site.

Q: I’m not wealthy (yet). Can you still help me?

A: Yes! Financial Planning isn’t for “rich people” - it’s for people who wish to become and then remain wealthy.

Q: I’ve never hired a Financial Planner before. What questions should I ask?

A: This is another common concern we see. The CFP Board has a list of Ten Questions to Ask Your Financial Advisor. This is a good place to start.

Personal Finance

Q: How do I make my money grow over time?

A: The formula is simple but it’s not easy to execute. You’ll get better results if you identify a long-term saving program and investment strategy that you implement with discipline. That means saving on a regular basis, not panicking when markets fall and not becoming greedy when market climb. Most individual investors struggle with some or all of these tasks.

Q: Should we pay off our debt or save first?

A: This is a very common question and the answer depends on you. The rule of thumb we use is that we pay off anything that costs more than we might earn by investing. For example, if your loan has an interest rate of 7% and you expect to earn 5% from investing; paying off the loan makes the most sense.

Q: Do you have any books or blogs to recommend?



Still have questions?

Call me directly at (713) 296-8005 or email me at scuddy@rwbaird.com