It’s been hard to find my path as a fiduciary, fee-only financial professional. There are so many sales agents out there that people automatically think I’m just another one. How can they tell, when financial credentials are so thick on the ground? I’ve heard some really ridiculous ones. But a fee-only financial planner who belongs to NAPFA is like the difference between a doctor and a pharmacist. A doctor has a broad range of training and operates under a strict code of ethics to put your needs first. A pharmacist operates under a code of ethics to not harm you. It’s a pretty big difference. One treats you with every tool in their kit, the other treats you with everything they happen to sell.
As happy as I am with NAPFA, the missing piece just fell into place for me. NAPFA advisors are fee-only fiduciary, but they focus more on investment management and wealth management than I do. I’m more focused on tax planning and preparation and continuous planning rather than a one-off financial plan you never look at again. I’m yearning to be retainer-based, to have a group of clients who are just the roster I serve, rather than the ridiculous situation I keep finding myself in of having 500 people call me with “quick questions”, by which they mean, “please use the $3,000 you spent on continuing ed this year to answer my question immediately while charging on an hourly basis.” Uggh. I am happy to work with people, but NOT on an hourly basis, where the more I know, the better I know your situation, the less I make. That business model has failed. Time for something new.
So I’m delighted to have found the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners. All of their members are also NAPFA members, but on top of that, they also have an accent on tax preparation and many of their members came up through the tax prep ranks like I did. No more conferences given during tax season. No more fighting to combat bad tax advice. No more will I have to have an investment advisor with less training and no fiduciary standard making $12,000 on a client who’s getting most of their financial advising from me, not them, thrown in alongside their tax return. I’ll be working with people who understand the HUGE piece of people’s economic life that taxation is. And, best of all, they’re retainer-based! That fits the nature of my relationship with my clients so much better. It’s where I’ve been moving towards.
This group is such a good fit. I’m joining today. Here, see why: this is their (our!) code of ethics.
The ACP Pledge to Clients
In all my dealings with my clients, I pledge to be:
Holistic in outlook.
I will consider all of your circumstances, family needs, goals, values, and aspirations when making comprehensive planning recommendations.
Professional in conduct.
I will protect your privacy. I will strive to maintain the highest ethical standards possible in my work and
life. I will continually enhance my skills and credentials through continuing education, and I will refer you to other professionals when you need help in an area outside my expertise.
Educational in nature.
I will guide you through your options and explain them clearly to help you make the best choices. I will
always take the time to make sure you understand my advice.
Independent in compensation.
I will never sell you a product or service other than holistic financial planning, nor will I take a commission
or referral fee from another professional. You will receive objective, unbiased advice from me.
Committed to your success.
Holistic financial planning is a process, not an event, and I commit to adjusting your plan as your life goals change.
ACP Canon of Ethics
As an ACP member, I agree to the following Canon of Ethics and will uphold it in my dealings with clients, fellow members, and Alliance of Comprehensive Planners, Inc.:
I am in a fiduciary relationship with clients, which means I will put each client’s interests first, before my interests or any others, and disclose potential conflicts of interest to all clients and prospective clients.
I will conscientiously complete all work agreed to in a prompt and timely manner.
I will provide financial planning services solely as a fee-only advisor. I will act objectively in all matters with clients and will not accept any commissions based on advice or recommendations given.
I will continually strive to improve upon the competence and the quality of services I provide.
I will maintain the highest level of professional integrity in relationships with clients, associated professionals, and government officials.
To the extent allowed by law, I will always hold confidential all information shared with me by potential and contractual clients and by other members and staff of ACP.