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Disturbing Trends in Some RIA Firms


Financial advisors are divided into myriad designations, descriptions, business models, and offerings. Most of the categories are filled with glorified salespeople, making a living by earning sales commissions on products or transactions. Many of them are quality people, providing fine products and services, and making a good living. Others, not so much. How is an average consumer to know?

More than 100 designations and titles are used by practitioners in the financial services industry. These designations range from meaningless to substantial and contribute to mass confusion among people seeking financial assistance and/or advice.

Van Wie Financial is a fee-only, fiduciary, Registered Investment Advisory, or RIA. Our advisors all hold the designation Certified Financial Planner® , or CFP® . In the financial advising industry, CFP® is among the most respected certifications, and it takes years to obtain. Becoming a CFP® requires an undergraduate college degree, successful completion of an additional CFP® Board-approved specialized curriculum, adherence to a strict Code of Ethics, and passing a demanding exam. Then, an experience requirement must be completed prior to earning certification. A CFP® engaged in business for compensation may render financial advice regarding securities and other financial assets.

The CFP® designation is clear proof that a financial advisor has demonstrated competence in a wide range of financial topics. Most self-described “financial advisors” can only discuss investments, and do not qualify as fiduciary, fee-only, financial planners and advisors. The fiduciary standard requires an advisor to place clients’ interests ahead of the advisor’s own. The “fee-only” standard requires the advisor to never accept commissions, whether from sales of insurance products or from securities trading.

Many “fee-only” firms conduct business in the same manner as Van Wie Financial, but some are starting to “embellish” their own compensation. This is a disturbing trend and one we believe the public should know about and understand. These firms are starting to charge “extra” fees for such items as phone calls, emails, and even routine meetings with clients. These add-on fees are on top of the annual percentage-of-assets under management fee schedule.

That is just plain WRONG!

Consumers, whether current or future clients of financial advisors, owe it to themselves to understand how their advisors are compensated, now and in the future. Seek simplicity and transparency to foster a long-term relationship.

Van Wie Financial is fee-only. For a reason.