Frequently Asked Questions
- How much do you charge for your services?
- Is there a charge for the initial consultation?
- Can we retain your services for financial planning without having you manage our investments?
- What is fee-only financial planning and why does it matter?
- What is the difference between a financial planner and a Certified Financial Planner™?
- How do you deal with conflicts of interest?
- Where can I find more information about your company?
1. How much do you charge for your services?
Our investment management fees are 1% of assets under management per annum, billed quarterly in arrears. Our minimum portfolio size is generally $500,000, although we reserve the right to make exceptions on a case by case basis. We have reduced investment management fees for portfolios over $2 million.
Investment management clients do not pay additional fees for financial planning services, although the implementation of the financial plan may require that our clients retain the services of professionals such as estate attorneys, insurance agents, tax return preparers, etc. who are independent of our firm and will charge professional fees for the services they provide.
2. Is there a charge for the initial consultation?
Initial consultations are free of charge. They can be in person, by video conference (generally Skype) or phone, depending on the circumstances. The purpose of the initial consultation is to help us and our prospective clients determine if we are the right fit for one another and if it makes sense for us to enter into an advisory relationship.
We serve a specific cross-border market, with the US on one side of the border, and typically Switzerland, but also other countries, on the other side. The initial consultation provides an opportunity for prospects to determine if we have the set of skills that they are looking for in an advisor, and for us to evaluate if the prospect is the kind of client we are looking to serve and who will benefit from our advisory services in the long term.
3. Can we retain your services for financial planning without having you manage our investments?
Yes, we work on an hourly basis to provide financial planning services to non-investment management clients, with a minimum two-hour planning fee per engagement. In such cases, we offer an initial 30 minute complimentary meeting or call, during which we discuss client concerns and the scope of the financial planning services we can provide to address them.
4. What is fee-only financial planning and why does it matter?
A Fee-only planner is one who, in all cases, is compensated solely by the client, with neither the adviser nor any other related parties receiving compensation contingent on the purchase or sale of any specific financial products.
When financial planners have a financial stake in the course of action that they recommend to a client, because they receive a commission or some other form of compensation for having sold a particular product to the client, they face an inherent conflict of interest that can impact their objectivity and ability to make unbiased recommendations. This is true even if the planner truly believes that he or she has only the best interests of the client at heart.
The vast majority of financial advisers are sellers of financial products. Some or all of their income is dependent upon their ability to steer their clients to a limited number of the thousands of financial products available today. Financial advisers who work for large institutions (banks or brokerages) often have extra incentives for advising clients to buy their employer’s financial products.
These advisers include stock-brokers, analysts, insurance agents, accountants and attorneys, as well as financial planners. Many clients are not aware of their advisers’ dependence on selling products, or do not recognize its significance. We believe that some of the problems that beset investors today in their financial affairs – including the miss-management of debt, failure to protect retirement assets and poor allocation of savings and investments – relate directly to the conflicts of interest that exist in the marketplace. We encourage you to do your research and ask your adviser to verify in writing how they are compensated.
5. What is the difference between a financial planner and a Certified Financial Planner™?
The Financial Planner designation involves no specific training and can be used by anyone. It is a general term used by a wide spectrum of service and product providers. Financial Planners are usually divided into 3 groups:
- Commission-only - More commonly called stock brokers or insurance agents. All of their fees come from commissions on products they sell. Not necessarily the best way to go for objective advice due to the conflict of interest potential discussed in the prior section.
- Fee-based - able to take commissions on products, but also charges a fee for certain services. Fees are charged one of three ways: flat, hourly, or as a percentage of assets. As long as commissions are involved, the advice may not be objective.
- Fee-only - Compensated only by fees with no commissions. Again, either flat, hourly or a percentage of client assets. This type of compensation can more easily be aligned to objective advice devoid of conflicts of interest.
The Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) designation is a professional certification mark for financial planners conferred by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board) in the United States, and by 25 other organizations affiliated with Financial Planning Standards Board (FPSB), the international owner of the CFP® mark outside of the United States. To receive authorization to use the designation, the candidate must meet education, examination, experience and ethics requirements, and pay an ongoing certification fee. CFP®s are required to follow the Standards of Professional Conduct of the CFP Board. They are obliged to uphold the principles of integrity, objectivity, competence, fairness, confidentiality, professionalism and diligence as outlined in CFP Board’s Code of Ethics. The Rules of Conduct require CFP® professionals to put client interests ahead of their own at all times and to provide their financial planning services as a “fiduciary”—acting in the best interest of their financial planning clients. CFP® professionals are subject to CFP Board sanctions if they violate these standards.
6. How do you deal with conflicts of interest?
Due to the impact that conflict of interests can have on objective advice, White Lighthouse has taken steps to minimize conflicts of interest and to disclose them to our clients whenever they exist.
White Lighthouse has adopted the fee-only compensation model, with compensation coming exclusively from clients. Our advisors are all CFP®s, who are required to act as client fiduciaries.
We have developed an extended network of trusted professionals in the cross border financial planning arena. At times, per our clients’ requests, we may refer our clients to professionals in our network. We do not take referral fees from these professionals and we provide more than one referral per category whenever possible. If there is a personal relationship between us and the professional referred, for example, because the advisor making the referral uses this professional for his own financial planning needs, we disclose this relationship to the client at the time the referral is made.
Regarding investment management and broker selection, we recommend brokers based on their technical ability to deliver information about accounts and investments and on their reporting capabilities to us and our clients. Most of our clients have their assets in custody with Charles Schwab & Co. Inc, but we work with other brokers and a few of our clients have accounts at other brokerages houses of their choosing.
7. Where can I find more information about your company?
White Lighthouse Investment Management, Inc. is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and our registration information is available to the public. You can obtain this information directly by contacting us to request a copy of our forms ADV, You can find them on our Web site on our Disclosure page or you can download them directly from FINRA – the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s website, using the BrokerCheck feature.
Are there any questions and answers that you would like to see posted here or answered personally?
Please contact us.