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18 Questions To Ask Your Wealth Manager And The Answers You Want

Your wealth manager makes a significant impact on your financial future. It is essential to choose them wisely. As you begin your search for a wealth manager, use the following questions during wealth management interviews to assess if each of the certified financial planners you meet can deliver the financial security you want, without the stress, so you can enjoy the lifestyle you have worked for so hard.

Questions to Ask Your Wealth Manager

Choosing the wrong wealth manager can mean losing tens of millions. It can also mean missing out on tens of millions you could have earned.

Knowing what questions to ask your wealth manager is essential, but it’s just a start. Discover what else to look for in a financial advisor so your investment performance and retirement security are assured.

The stakes would need to be lower for anyone with ultra-high net worth to get this one wrong. And you know what’s at stake because it’s your money. You earned it and want it to serve your purposes, dreams, goals, and ambitions.

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Clients frequently share with us how the knowledge gained from this book helped provide them tremendous clarity, shattering industry-pitched ideologies, while offering insight and direction in making such important financial decisions.

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After reading this post, you’ll be armed with questions to ask in your wealth manager interview that will help you get closer to that goal.

Here’s the deal:

There are 10 questions we think everyone who calls us or any other financial advisor should be asking before they agree to anything.

In this post, for each question, you will see the questions to ask as well as the answers you’re looking for.

Do you get how important these questions are?

Had these questions been raised, many of these affluent investors could have recognized that this was not the financial advisor who could deliver the long-term, worry-free financial serenity they wanted.

Trust, knowledge, and insight mean something in wealth management, and you need to determine which advisors can deliver on what matters most.

Based on our experience, we created two resources to help you explore the issue.

First up are the 18 wealth management questions to ask before you hire a wealth manager, which you’ll find below.

Second, get our 7 secrets book – Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Financial Advisor for Investors with $5 Million to $500 Million Liquid Assets – a free eBook with seven warning signs to look out for when choosing a wealth manager or financial advisor.

Here are the 18 essential questions to ask a wealth manager before you work with them, the answers you want to hear, and why. If you want to hear our answers or need a new wealth manager now and want to speak with an expert, schedule a call with one of our founding wealth managers by clicking here.


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18 Questions to Ask a Wealth Manager

18 Questions to Ask a Wealth Manager

You are interested in the consulting services of a financial advisor. An interview will tell you all you need to know about how the wealth management advisor does their job, and that is how you will make the right choice. The questions below are crucial to pose to an advisor-to-be.

1. What Services Do You Offer?

What Services Do You Offer

Before meeting a wealth manager or a financial advisor, it’s necessary to know the scope and comprehensiveness of their services, most notably in wealth management. This research should ensure that they provide a range of wealth management solutions, including investment management focusing on investment allocation across several asset classes, including government, corporate bonds, and some alternatives like hedge funds.

Inquire about their expertise in retirement planning, financial planning, tax planning, and estate planning services. These are crucial for high-net-worth clients aiming to secure their future through strategic financial goals and planning. If your financial interests include specific niches, such as business planning or managing free cash flows to prepare for growth opportunities, probing the wealth manager on their experience in these areas is critical.

For those who are relatively new in their financial journey or want to improve their knowledge of the financial markets and investment strategies, it is essential to ask about financial education services. This professional development component is crucial for comprehensive knowledge of complicated financial concepts. It lets clients make more informed financial decisions and have good relationships with their financial advisers.

Moreover, if the advisor’s expertise does not align with your financial objectives or requires specialized advice—in tax accounting or navigating capital structures during economic crises—do not hesitate to ask for referrals to other financial advisors or wealth managers with the necessary specialization. The best wealth management firms or financial advisors prioritize the client’s best interest, offering tailored advice and services that align with the client’s risk tolerance, financial plan, and long-term financial goals. A wealth management firm or financial advisor partnership, which offers the necessary services and shows full knowledge of investment management, tax planning, and estate planning, can significantly add to financial security and peace of mind. This collaboration is particularly beneficial for ultra-high-net-worth individuals seeking to navigate the complexities of the financial markets, investment allocation, and investment strategies amidst market trends and inflationary periods, ensuring their portfolios are managed actively and aligned with their best interests.

2. What is your philosophy about active management?

What is your philosophy about active management

This question is more complicated to ask a financial advisor or wealth manager.

What is active management?

Active management means your wealth manager puts your money in the hands of managers who try to outperform the market. This can include frequently buying and selling equities and trying to time the market based on research, gut instincts, and personal preferences.

Strategic management is a more long-term approach that doesn’t entrust your wealth to active money managers too much but relies on broader principles to secure your wealth.

Why is it not advisable to use too much active management? You’ll see it in a bit.

But first, let’s talk fees:

The fees for strategic management are one-fifth (or even less than) for active management. Many active money managers charge 1% or more of the value of the investments under their control. Other managers usually charge 0.2% or even less. Sometimes much less.

Here’s why the fees matter:

The active manager must outperform the market and strategic manager by at least this cost difference to produce the same net gains.

3. How Much Do You Charge?

How Much Do You Charge

Understanding the cost structure of your engagement with a wealth management firm or financial advisor is absolutely essential, not just for budgeting purposes but to ensure alignment of interests. Suppose your wealth manager or financial advisor operates on a fixed fee basis, without commissions on specific financial products. In that case, this minimizes potential conflicts of interest, ensuring that investment recommendations, whether they involve government bonds, corporate bonds, alternative investments like hedge funds, or diversified asset classes, truly serve your best interests.

For those whose fees are a percentage of the portfolio‘s balance, it inherently motivates your wealth manager to prioritize the growth of your investment portfolio, as their compensation increases with your financial success. This model can align nicely with financial goals and objectives, fostering a successful relationship focused on increasing your financial future’s security.

However, it’s crucial to inquire about additional fees, mainly if your advisor earns commissions on insurance plans, annuities, or private security offerings. These commission-based structures can sometimes lead to more beneficial recommendations for the advisor’s financial gain rather than being tailored to your financial plan or risk tolerance.

Given the complexity and variability of wealth management fees, especially for high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clients, exploring the option for restructuring fees based on your portfolio size is prudent. More extensive portfolios often have room for negotiation on scaling payment terms, potentially leading to more favorable fee structures that reflect the comprehensive management of various asset classes and investment strategies.

Asking detailed wealth management questions about fee structures, commissions, and potential conflicts of interest is critical in selecting a wealth manager or financial advisor. These inquiries help ensure that your financial advisor operates with transparency and aligns with your financial objectives, risk profile, and the overall capital structure of your investment portfolio. This approach seeks to optimize your investment allocation and financial plan. It ensures that the advisor-client relationship is based on trust, professional development, and a deep understanding of the wealth management industry’s practices and challenges.

4. What Are Your Qualifications?

What Are Your Qualifications

Hiring the right wealth manager or financial advisor is necessary for the dynamic wealth management industry. This also means going more profound than the surface and examining the particularities of their certifications, like the certified financial planner, which represents a complete knowledge of financial planning, investment management, tax planning, and retirement planning. Similarly, the wealth management sector is highly dynamic, with market trends, investment strategies, and regulatory frameworks changing often. The advisors must be very conversant with the industry’s latest happenings and be committed to continuous education.

It is essential to look at good wealth managers or financial advisors with solid educational and professional backgrounds, including the ones who can have CFP®, CFA®, and CPA® designations. This designation signifies expertise in asset classes like government bonds, corporate bonds, hedge funds, and ethical practices with regular information updates.

Experience is another critical factor. Advisors with a decade or more of experience working with high-net-worth clients, navigating economic crises, and crafting personalized financial plans offer invaluable insights and stability. Their track record should reflect successful client relationships through buoyant and challenging financial markets, showcasing their ability to adapt investment strategies, manage risk tolerance, and achieve financial objectives.

Checking for a clean regulatory and legal history is non-negotiable. A wealth manager’s past dealings with regulators or legal issues can be a red flag, so conducting due diligence through public records or professional organizations is wise. Furthermore, inquiring about any past litigation can provide insights into their risk management and ethical practices.

Understanding an advisor’s specialty and client base offers a glimpse into their expertise and whether they align with your financial goals and situation. Whether you’re looking for a wealth manager skilled in managing the complex needs of ultra-high net worth individuals, someone who excels in tax accounting and estate planning, or a financial planner with a deep understanding of investment allocation and investment management, their focus areas and client volume can indicate their capacity to meet your needs.

Remember, wealth managers’ qualifications extend beyond their credentials and experience; their investment philosophy, communication skills, and commitment to acting in your best interest are pivotal in establishing a fruitful and long-term partnership. While more qualified advisors may command higher fees, their value in navigating the financial landscape, making informed financial decisions, and safeguarding your financial future often justifies the investment.

5. Are you a fiduciary?

Are you a fiduciary

This one’s simple. Yes. You want a fiduciary.

What is a fiduciary?

A fiduciary must prioritize your interests in every advice and recommendation they provide. That means they only propose a particular action if it benefits you. If they suggest a particular investment vehicle, they will inform you of the costs it includes. They disclose everything, hide nothing, and put your goals and optimized outcomes as their highest priority.

So that’s the good news:

You will save a lot of money in costs and fees with a fiduciary. You won’t be cornered into an annuity that benefits the person selling it more than it benefits you. Everything will be on the table at all times.

Answer You Want to Hear: Yes.

6. What Investment Benchmarks Do You Use?

What Investment Benchmarks Do You Use

Understanding the benchmarks of investment your wealth manager or financial advisor uses when gauging the performance of your investment portfolio against the broader financial markets or specific asset classes. This knowledge is essential to wealth management. In this discipline, realizing the financial objectives of high net-worth clients and preserving their financial futures are linked to effective investment strategies and investment allocation decisions.

For those concentrating on equity investments, whether your advisor evaluates the portfolio performance compared to the established benchmarks, such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average for large-cap stocks or the S&P 500 Index for the general market, is crucial. If your investment philosophy is focused on technology or growth stocks, using the Nasdaq Composite Index as a benchmark would provide insight into how your tech investments perform in the sector.

For clients with a diversified portfolio that includes fixed-income investments in government or corporate bonds, the question concerning using benchmarks like the Bloomberg Aggregate Bond Index is necessary. This benchmark gives you a relative measure of the performance of U.S. investment-grade bonds, a mark for your success in bond investment strategies, particularly during inflation or economic crises.

Real estate investors are advised to consult with their financial advisors about monitoring sector-specific benchmarks, including the FTSE NAR EIT Al Equity REITs Index. It is designed to monitor the returns of publicly traded real estate investment trusts, acting as one of the primary benchmarks that investors can use to measure the performance of their real estate holdings within the broader market.

Investment benchmarks are one of the fundamentals of investment management to evaluate investment returns, improve investing strategies, and match asset allocation with the changes in financial targets and risk levels. A good wealth manager or a financial advisor is highly conversant with the market dynamics and will make sure that the portfolios of his or her clients are hinged on the typically every time current and most relevant investment benchmarks. The client’s financial plan and a successful relationship are secured through this alignment, which leads to the best decisions for long-term financial security and growth.

7. Do You Offer Access to New Tech?

Do You Offer Access to New Tech

Integrating robo-advisor technology and advanced financial management platforms in the evolving wealth management industry marks a pivotal shift. Leading wealth managers and financial advisors increasingly leverage these technologies to offer clients exceptionally high net-worth individuals access to innovative investing strategies and real-time market insights. This technological integration is essential for effective asset allocation, portfolio diversification, and adapting financial plans to market trends and economic fluctuations.

Hybrid robo-advisor platforms have become particularly valuable, combining human expertise with algorithm-based advice. They provide transparent and efficient access to financial markets, portfolio management, and tax planning strategies tailored to the client’s risk tolerance and financial goals. The demand for such platforms reflects a broader trend among investors seeking greater control and insight into their investments, alongside the convenience of digital communication with their advising firm.

Understanding a wealth management firm’s technological capabilities is crucial, even for clients who prefer direct interactions with advisors. It’s about ensuring a successful relationship through efficient management of investments and communication. This approach enables advisors to offer comprehensive and sophisticated financial advice, aligning with ultra-high-net-worth individuals’ evolving needs and expectations, ensuring their financial objectives are met with precision and innovation.

8. What Are the Best Options?

What Are the Best Options

The main issue that investors cope with is selecting the safest investment options, from categorizing liquidity to retirement planning, which emphasizes their need for wealth management. Scheduling a wealth management interview with your financial advisor to work out the right conditions for a diversified investment strategy is necessary. For immediate financial needs and emergency funds, liquid savings offer accessibility and flexibility, making them a foundational aspect of your financial plan. These discussions are essential for understanding asset allocation and ensuring your financial goals align with your investment strategies, particularly in the context of economic stability and achieving long-term financial objectives.

On the other hand, cash flow planning refers to short-term financial planning that typically involves liquid investments. In contrast, long-term financial planning tends to focus on illiquid investments like retirement accounts, which benefit from tax advantages but have age-related restrictions for access. These investments are crucial for your financial security. It would be best to be very careful about numerous asset classes like government bonds, corporate bonds, and alternatives like hedge funds. Their way of dealing with these funds needs to be personalized depending on your risk tolerance, financial goals, and growth together with risk balance, keeping in mind the market patterns and crisis situations in the future.

Effective wealth management involves a comprehensive analysis of both short-term and long-term financial aspirations, with a clear strategy for navigating the complexities of the financial markets. A great wealth manager or financial advisor will exhibit sound understanding and proactive communication skills, ensuring your portfolio is structured to meet immediate needs while maximizing retirement savings. This strategic approach should mitigate volatility and align with your overall financial plan, securing your assets across different investment horizons and ensuring a successful relationship that adapts to your evolving financial situation.

9. Which Custodian Do You Use?

Which Custodian Do You Use

The choice of the proper custodian is a critical decision in wealth management, as they are accountable for keeping and utterly controlling a wide variety of investments, such as bonds, government bonds, and mutual funds, as well as alternative investments, such as hedge funds. In an interview on a financial advisor’s wealth management, one should ask which custodian they use. This search must go beyond knowing how much the guardian charges and what security measures are in place to determine if they offer the technological advancements you require and if they meet the objectives of your financial plan and your investment portfolio overall.

Discussing custodian fees is vital, as they can impact the overall returns of your financial plan. These fees, from account maintenance to transaction costs, should be transparent and justified, especially for high-net-worth clients with complex asset allocations and investment strategies. Security is another paramount concern; inquire about the custodian’s regulatory compliance, any past security incidents, and their measures to prevent unauthorized access to your assets. This includes understanding their protocols for fraud prevention and ensuring they have a robust infrastructure to protect your financial future.

Finally, the technological capabilities of a custodian can significantly enhance the management and oversight of your investments. Make sure their platform offers secure and easy access to your account information, where you can get the real-time performance of your portfolio, understanding and allocation of your assets, and more. High-quality first brokers and managers such as Charles Schwab, Vanguard, and Acorns are renowned for their best-in-class services tailored to retail investors and wealth management firms, reflecting core principles of integrity, dependability, and client-centric approach.

10. What is the recommended frequency for Refreshing and reviewing my financial strategy?

What is the recommended frequency for Refreshing and reviewing my financial strategy

In wealth management, it’s vital to take your financial plan for a walk periodically to ensure it works for your changing financial goals, market conditions, and personal circumstances. Yearly engagement with your asset manager or financial advisor is critical to ensure your investment portfolio and strategies still fit your dynamic financial objectives and risk appetite. These reviews are the backbone of wealth management. After that, it is possible to fine-tune the asset allocations, investment strategies, and financial plans based on the current financial situation, capital structure, and the business environment.

More frequent reviews may be necessary for high net-worth clients or those experiencing significant changes in their financial landscape—such as shifts in income, tax laws, or interest rates. Life events like a career change, marriage, or the arrival of new family members can substantially impact your financial plan, necessitating adjustments to savings strategies or investment portfolios to optimize for tax planning, retirement planning, or free cash flows. For instance, modifications in tax laws could present fresh avenues for strategies in tax-advantaged investing, potentially substantially impacting your financial outlook.

Moreover, in periods of volatility or economic crisis, staying up to date with market trends and adjusting your financial plan accordingly is crucial. Whether dealing with fluctuations in the stock market, changes in government bond yields, or adjusting to new financial media insights, proactive and regular reviews with your wealth manager ensure your portfolio is well-positioned to navigate uncertain financial markets. This approach fosters a successful relationship with your financial advisor, ensuring your wealth management strategy is continuously refined to reflect the best interest of securing and growing your assets over time.

11. What do you do to minimize my costs?

What do you do to minimize my costs

First, if they’re fiduciaries, you know they will try to minimize your costs. That’s their job. But it would be best if you had more than that. You need to know they understand the specifics of how to do this. You want examples of how much these costs can drain from your investment performance.

Ask for specifics. You want to hear about taxes, commissions, fees, and internal expenses.

You’re interested in understanding the distinction between short and long-term capital gains, exploring how overconfident active managers contribute to short-term gains, and calculating the potential savings from steering clear of these gains.

When you ask this question in your first meeting with a financial advisor, it allows them to reveal their expertise. To show off a little.

And let’s not miss the point:

They’re showing off ways to save you hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Answer You Want to Hear: Use strategic management, charge no commissions or hidden fees, disclose everything, and minimize taxes.

12. How often do you update my financial plan?

How often do you update my financial plan

This is a sad reality:

Few wealth managers just create your plan during your initial consultation. But then, once you’re in their fold, your plan sits buried in a drawer.

Even some fiduciaries do this because they haven’t acknowledged the inescapable reality that all plans become obsolete in a matter of years.

To preserve the long-term health of your portfolio and maintain peace of mind about your finances throughout your retirement, you want a wealth manager who updates your plan every quarter.

This allows them to:

Continually update your asset allocation

Update your goals

Account for significant changes in your life situation

Adjust for market changes

Rerun your long-term projections

Some wealth managers do this once a year, but that’s simply not enough. Too much happens in the financial markets and your life within a year. If they don’t update your plan every quarter, move on.

Answer You Want to Hear: Once a quarter.

13. Do you believe you can outperform the market?

Do you believe you can outperform the market

According to the SPIVA US Scorecard, produced by Standard and Poor, 92.33% of large-cap money managers, 94.81% of mid-cap managers, and 91.17% of small-cap managers failed to exceed their benchmarks in market performance over 15 years ending in 2017.

Long-term is what counts. In a given year, anything can happen. But over 15 years (or more), which is a better approximation for how long your wealth manager will work with you, active managers fail to beat the market almost universally.

Yet, many financial advisors and wealth managers persist, believing they can outperform the market. Many of their clients persist in searching for that one manager who has the ‘magic touch.’

Don’t bother. It’s a waste of time.

You are unlikely to find someone who can consistently outperform the market AND keep your costs lower than a more strategic manager.

And here’s the thing:

Even if you did, it’s doubtful that Lone Star would offer expertise in all the other services you need as a high-net-worth individual. Those other services matter more than investment performance in many ways. This is another of the 7 warning signs your advisor is costing you money.

When you ask this question in your wealth manager interview, an insecure wealth manager who is unsure of his position on the issue will hesitate to answer or exaggerate and say something about being confident they can.

But a wealth manager who knows the facts will answer immediately, and their answer will be the one you want to hear:

Answer You Want to Hear: Highly unlikely, so I use a strategic approach.

14. When I call with a question, who will I be talking to?

When I call with a question, who will I be talking to

You want personal, concierge-style service. Not a random team of phone specialists hired from India. And not newbies fresh out of college handling all this ‘low-level customer service stuff.

For anyone with ultra-high net worth, there’s nothing low-level about this.

You want your wealth manager on the phone when you have a question who is passionately devoted to protecting your wealth. That person knows you and your situation and can advise you best.

Answer You Want to Hear: Me.

15. How can you help me feel secure that my money won’t run out?

How can you help me feel secure that my money won’t run out

Even if a wealth manager gives you all the answers you want on the first nine questions, chances are they will have a tough time with this last one, which relates to retirement.

And unlike the other nine, it’s pretty challenging to give you a quick answer, even for a wealth management company that does know how to provide the security you seek, such as Pillar.

In our estimation, here’s the answer you want to hear:

Long-term financial security – having the confidence that your money will never run out as long as you live – can be found only by applying rigorous stress tests to your portfolio.

For us, this means running 1000 possible simulations based on real-world scenarios, including never-before-seen extreme scenarios such as a terrorist attack during a Great Recession while you’re unemployed due to a medical crisis.

We run these stress tests based on market performance data that dates back to 1925 – before the Great Depression. History has shown how markets performed through depressions, wars, one-day flash crashes, inflationary periods, and political upheaval globally. This data is in the record.

Our approach capitalizes on that data to project how well your portfolio holds up in 1000 possible scenarios. Few other stress tests compare to the rigor of this one.

What we look for:

If your portfolio remains healthy and your goals intact through 75-90% of these scenarios, we consider you on track and secure for the future. In that instance, you can rest easy and know you’re taken care of.

If your portfolio falls outside that Comfort Zone, either above it or below it, we discuss options for adjusting your plan to get your portfolio back within the Comfort Zone.

We can accomplish this partly because we adjust your plan every quarter.

If you ever fall outside your Comfort Zone, we will know it within a few months and can make the necessary adjustments while they’re still relatively painless.

If we waited a year or five years before discovering we were no longer financially secure, the steps required to repair our portfolio would be much more drastic.

For more information on how to protect your ultra-high net worth portfolios, check out our free book.

Answer You Want to Hear: See above.

16. What is your minimum asset requirement?

What is your minimum asset requirement

It starts with this:

As someone of high-net-worth or ultra-high-net-worth status, you should opt for a financial advisor who exclusively serves individuals within your financial bracket. That person will often call themselves a wealth manager.

Suppose you’re the only millionaire on your financial advisor’s client list. In that case, they will probably not have the experience to effectively serve you in ways unique to people of your financial caliber. You need somebody capable of improving your portfolio performance, not someone still learning.

Answer You Want to Hear: $5 million or more.

17. How long do your clients stay with you on average?

How long do your clients stay with you on average

This is huge:

When it’s working, wealth management is a decades-long relationship. Your confidence in your wealth manager should increase if he’s had clients work with him to the end of their lives.

That loyalty and commitment indicate that this wealth manager’s clients feel at peace about their long-term financial security and investment performance. But if he has clients jumping in and out every couple of years, that’s a severe warning sign.

Answer You Want to Hear: Close to the wealth manager’s years of experience. If his experience spans 20 years, seek clients who have maintained their relationship with him for over a decade. If 30 years of experience, then over 20 years on average.

18. How long have you been a wealth manager?

How long have you been a wealth manager

Be careful that you ask this question right.

You don’t care when they graduated college or got their licenses and credentials. You don’t care when they begin their career in financial planning.

You want to know how long they’ve worked with high-net-worth clients as a wealth manager.

Yes, everyone has to start somewhere.

But let’s get real:

No army puts a fresh-out-of-boot camp soldier in command of an entire mission.

Get a wealth manager with enough experience to set your mind at ease. Remember that some firms may boast years of experience, but only some advisors on their team have the same amount.

Don’t take the risk.

Don’t risk ending up with a newer advisor managing your portfolio.

Answer You Want to Hear: At least 10 years. Answers may vary.

To review, here are 10 questions to ask your wealth manager and the answers you want to hear:

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1. What is your minimum asset requirement?

$1 million or more.

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2. How long have you been a wealth manager?

At least 10 years. Answers may vary.

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3. How long do your clients stay with you on average?

Close to the wealth manager’s years of experience. If he has 20 years of experience, look for clients who’ve been with him for over ten years on average. If 30 years of experience, then over 20 years on average.

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4. Are you a fiduciary?

Yes

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5. What is your philosophy about active vs passive management?

Strategic management – not passive or active – achieves equivalent or better returns at far lower costs to you.

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6. What do you do to minimize my costs?

Use strategic management, charge no commissions or hidden fees, disclose everything, and minimize taxes.

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7. How often do you update my financial plan?

Once a quarter.

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8. Do you believe you can outperform the market?

Highly unlikely, and that’s why I use a more strategic approach

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9. When I call with a question, who will I be talking to?

Me

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10. How can you help me feel secure that my money won’t run out?

See above.

Authors

To be 100% transparent, we published this page to help filter through the mass influx of prospects, who come to us through our website and referrals, to gain only a handful of the right types of new clients who wish to engage us.

We enjoy working with high net worth and ultra-high net worth investors and families who want what we call financial serenity – the feeling that comes when you know your finances and the lifestyle you desire have been secured for life, and that you don’t have to do any of the work to manage and maintain it because you hired a trusted advisor to take care of everything.

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