1. Why did you become a financial planner?
Finding financial security has become increasingly elusive. The reasons for this are many, including: the demise of the traditional pension plan, the proliferation of investment and insurance products, and the overwhelming marketing campaigns to convince folks to give their money to an “expert” who will solve this problem for them. Unfortunately, it’s never that simple.
I believe each and every one of us needs to be actively involved in achieving our financial goals, even if we need some assistance in doing just that. To this end, I want to empower folks to achieve their own financial goals by helping them develop a realistic plan, to give them the necessary tools to achieve this plan, and to help them along the way when they are confronted with challenging situations. And I believe all of this can be done in a way that is much more affordable than many of the more traditional service models in the market. That’s my goal and that’s my mission with Sycamore Financial Planning.
2. What did you do before you were a financial planner?
I had a 10-year career in software engineering and financial operations at IBM in Research Triangle Park. I managed teams from 4 to 50 people spanning the globe with budgets up to $20 million.
By not starting as a professional financial planner right out of college, I gained invaluable life experience that now informs how I manage my money and assist others in managing theirs. Through the years, I’ve learned that managing one’s finances is as much of an emotional process as it is a quantitative one. Sometimes, even if a particular course of action isn’t the most advantageous financially, it may still make sense because money isn’t the most important thing in life.
As a financial planner, my job is to advise my clients on the best financial options available to them, and to then support them in determining the best option given all the considerations in their lives.
3. What are your financial planning credentials, designations, and affiliations?
I am a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional. In addition, I have completed a Master of Trust and Wealth Management from Campbell University as well as completed the Certificate Program from the Southeastern Trust School. I also hold a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with areas of focus including finance, operations, and marketing.
In addition, prior to starting Sycamore Financial Planning, I worked for a local investment advisory firm serving as the firm’s Chief Compliance Officer and as the firm’s primary investment research and financial analyst. During my three and half years with this firm, I conducted the bulk of the firm’s due diligence in mutual fund selection for our clients. I also developed and/or revised many of the firm’s financial plans for its clients.
I am affiliated with the Garrett Planning Network, an international network of hourly, fee-only financial planners. Garrett members believe that professional, objective, and easy-to-access financial advice is something everyone needs.
In addition, I am affiliated with the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), the country’s leading professional association of Fee-Only financial advisors.
I am a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®, and therefore am trained to provide financial information and assistance to people going through a divorce. In this capacity, I examine and analyze the financial issues of a divorce, providing Sycamore’s clients and their lawyers with data to help strengthen their case. Through the skills I acquired in becoming a CDFA® professional, I’m well prepared to help our clients avoid the common financial pitfalls of divorce by offering valuable insight into the pros and cons of different settlement proposals.
4. What are your areas of specialty?
I provide comprehensive financial planning services. I’ve developed particular expertise through my studies and life experience in retirement planning, investment counseling, estate planning, and financial planning issues facing unmarried couples. I have also developed an expertise over the years in advising clients on socially responsible investing (SRI).
5. Please describe your most common engagement / service provided? And the type of client or client situation you target?
I welcome working with clients from all walks of life, regardless of asset size, net worth, or income. Comprehensive, long-term client relationships are my favorite because it provides clients with the most in-depth support and analysis to help them achieve their goals. Also, these relationships give me the best chance to get to know my clients, their values, and their dreams. But I also recognize that based on my clients’ preferences or situations, a one-time engagement, quick check-up, or just getting a couple questions answered may work better. I’m fine with both of these approaches, and I am happy to work with clients in whatever way best suits their needs.
6. Are you a registered representative of any broker/dealer?
7. Are you a licensed insurance agent with any company or agency?
8. Are you a registered investment advisor?
Yes. Sycamore Financial Planning is a registered investment advisor with the state of North Carolina, and I am an investment advisor representative.
9. Are you a fiduciary?
Yes, Sycamore Financial Planning is a fiduciary. In fact, all registered investment advisors are fiduciaries, and they are required to act in good faith and in their clients’ best interests at all times and to provide written disclosures of any conflicts that would render them not impartial or not independent.
In addition, in my firm’s registration disclosure documents with the State of North Carolina, I have agreed not to accept referral fees or other compensation for the sale of a commissioned financial product.
10. How are you compensated?
Yes, fees for the initial financial planning engagement are based on my estimate of the actual time to be spent meeting with you, researching and analyzing your current situation, and making specific recommendations. After the initial engagement, you can continue on an as-needed hourly basis or select an annual retainer that covers your desired services for ongoing planning and/or investment management. Annual retainers are a flat annual fee quoted based on each client’s situation and the services to be provided.
C. Fee-based (fee & commissions):
11. Do you have minimums for assets, account size, annual fees paid, etc? And what is your typical fee or charge for an initial engagement?
I do not require my clients to have a minimum amount of assets, account size, net worth, or income.
Typically, I am able to provide a flat-fee quote for the initial engagement at the conclusion of the initial consultation. With the flat-fee quote, as long as we stay within the original scope of your project, you won’t be charged any incremental hourly fees. You are also free to call and ask questions on the issues addressed in the engagement for up to 30 days after the presentation of recommendations at no additional cost.
All services are billed at an hourly rate of $225. Because of the high variability in clients’ needs, there is no typical fee. In general, my initial engagements with clients range from two to twenty billable hours. A deposit and signed agreement is needed to start the engagement, and the remainder is due at the presentation of recommendations.
12. Do you provide a written agreement detailing the total amount of compensation and services that will be provided in advance of an engagement?
Yes. My standard client agreement will detail the scope of the project including the type of planning services to be provided and the project fee. Once we have the initial consultation, I’ll provide the fee quote, show the client how I came up with the amount, and work with them if we need to tweak the project based on their budget. My goal is to keep my clients’ overall investing costs as low as possible while enabling them to make smarter financial decisions, sleep well at night, avoid pitfalls, and achieve their goals.
13. Do you provide a thorough written analysis of one’s financial situation and recommendations?
Yes. I provide a written analysis and recommendations for my clients’ specific situations. All of our engagements include at a minimum a written summary report. For the full financial plan or investment analysis, clients receive in addition a written detailed analysis including charts, projections, and portfolio reports as appropriate.
14. Do you offer assistance with implementation with the plan? Please elaborate.
Client’s needs and preferences on this issue vary widely. So I price this component separately so they’re not paying for it if they don’t plan to use it. Normally our engagements include an action list for implementation, options for how to accomplish the action items, and the ability to call and ask questions on the recommendations for up to 30 days at no additional charge.
15. Will you provide a second opinion or one-time review?
Yes. We are happy to provide a second opinion or a one-time review of your investment portfolio or other financial products / circumstances. Just let us know how we can help!