Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Why My Financial Planning Process Is Different?

If you have ever worked with a “financial advisor” (someone who sells products), but later had a “financial life coach”, you have already experienced the drastic differences. It’s like night and day! This is for those of you that are caught in the rut of traditional financial planning methods.

Like most, I started out on the sales side of the financial services industry. Firsthand, I saw many well-known, “so-called” financial advisors in my community take advantage of trusting people (knowingly or ignorantly). The reason most financial advisors are led to do more harm than good is because they are compensated by selling, NOT advising. When it comes down to an advisor providing for his own family by selling a product that could harm you financially VERSUS acting in your best interest, what will be their choice? If you haven’t been taken advantage by someone selling financial products… REJOICE!   

I became fed up with the shortcomings in my industry, and decided to create a better process to grow and protect wealth that begins with you! NOT selling products to generate commissions.

Financial Life Coaching is a process focused on asking the right questions and being able to engage clients in meaningful conversations about important life events, situations, and goals. Ultimately, it is the level of competency, care, and integrity that I provide that truly differentiates me from traditional Financial Advisors. 

I focus on what makes you tick, financially. I call this your financial personality. Your financial personality is why you are, where you are. Some people are spenders, savers, givers, do-nothings, over-analyzers, risk takers, or know-it-alls. Some suffer from multiple financial personality disorder! Without knowing your behavioral tendencies, developing the correct financial action plan is a “crapshoot.”

Next, I uncover your “real” financial goals. Not someone else's! Most traditional advisors will ask you things like, “When would you like to retire?” “Where do you want to send your kids to college?” These questions are great, but your answers will have ZERO meaning behind them. Our culture has ingrained in all of us pre-determined answers to these questions. Without really figuring out what it is that you want for your life, and most importantly WHY you want it, you will continue to run like a rat in a wheel. Don’t believe me? What was that last big goal that you didn’t achieve? Why didn’t you reach it? Most of us claim we want to be rich, be swim suit models, etc.! So why aren’t most people anywhere near where they want to be? They haven’t figured out the “WHY”? The “WHAT” isn’t enough! I also bet you have set the same 1 or 2 goals year after year, but have never made any headway. Once I have helped you discover your real financial goals, you will be more likely to get where you want to go! 

Lastly, my process is different because I know my craft! I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance, a MBA in accounting, I hold the Certified Financial Planner designation, and the CLU designation. But I give more weight to MY experience! I came from modest means but quickly reached a level of personal income in my twenties that most don’t see by age 60. I have started 4 small businesses, sold 2 of them, and had one of them totally collapse due to my own stupidity! Most financial advisors have only read about sound financial principles. I not only have Degrees in these principles, but I have put them into action! Regrettably, I have also personally felt the pain from not following them.  I have helped people who were struggling reach success, and also dozens of multimillionaires. I haven’t seen it all, but I personally have experienced more in the last 10 years than most financial advisors will see in a lifetime. But they will sure tell you a great story that makes it appear they know what they are talking about.

I hate clich├ęs (cuz I always get them wrong)! But this is “just the tip of the iceberg.” A Financial Life Coach is an invaluable member of your team. I strongly believe you can't get the same results elsewhere.

For more about me and my process go to www.jasonwqualls.com or call me at 615-878-2134.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Paying Cash For A Car

One of the things you will hear almost every day on one the most popular cookie-cutter financial talk radio shows is that you should always pay cash for a vehicle. Is this always a smart idea?

Well, maybe but maybe not! I have financed cars and I have paid cash, so what I am about to share with you comes from real world experience. I will not get into philosophical views on debt because if your methodologies are based on religious beliefs, nothing will trump that no matter how the math adds up. This article is solely based on simple mathematics.

Let’s say you have $15,000 you have set aside and you want to buy a $15,000 new ride! Should you pay cash or finance it? 

Option 1: Pay Cash
NADA present value of the car: $15,000
Annual interest cost: $0
Monthly car payment: $0
Value of the car in 1 year: $12,750 (based on 10% depreciation per year)
In 2 years: $13,500
In 3 years: $12,150
In 4 years: $10,935
In 5 years: $9,841
Result in 5 years: $0 cash and a vehicle worth $9,841. That’s a loss of $5,159!

Option 2: Finance the car over 5 years at a 4% interest rate 

And invest your 15k in a 5 year Tax Free Government Insured Bond Paying 2% per year.

In 5 years, this would be the result:

Loan Balance: 0.00    
Car’s Value: $9,841 (same as above)        
Cash from Bond at Maturity: $15,000  
Bond Interest Earned: $1,500
Car Interest Paid: $1,575

Your car payment would be $276.25 for 60 months = $16,575

You would pay $1,575 (16,575-15,000) in interest but earn $1,500 on your Tax Free Bond = basically a wash!

BUT now you have a paid for car worth $9,800 and you still have your 15k!

I don’t know about you, but I like Option 2 over Option 1! 

It is really this simple? Of course NOT! But you CAN use leverage to your advantage even when buying a car. The major argument you hear against option 2 is that its too risky, so just pay cash. That's stupid! I would argue there is more risk of putting your money in a depreciating asset that turns 15k into 9k all to avoid paying $75 in interest. When people usually evaluate leverage they use mutual funds. That is too much risk. But in my example I use an insured tax free bond only paying 2%. There is virtually no default risk since its insured!

Another, statement I hear made against using leverage to buy a car is..."Rich people don't finance cars." Well, the stupid rich people may not use leverage BUT the smart ones who understand money and can add & subtract DO! I want to be rich, BUT I don't want to be a stupid rich person.

Important things to consider here… Cash flow levels: if it is not extremely likely you could easily make the monthly car payment then paying cash may be your best option. Also, if you are an extremely disciplined saver (most people are NOT), you could pay cash for the car now and pay yourself back over the next 5 years by saving $250 per month. 

The real point of all this is to get you thinking! There is more than one way to skin a cat in financial planning. Everyone’s situation is different! Don’t believe everything you hear or read when it comes to your money! Most people are ignorant on the subject. Most financial pundits want to “dumb” it down so they can sell you a book or a seminar. 

For more on how I can help you manage debt and risk, call me at 615-878-2134 or click www.jasonwqualls.com

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What Is Your Financial Advisor Costing You?

If your “Financial Advisor” gets paid by selling you financial products, like mutual funds and insurance policies, how do you know what they are recommending is in your BEST interest or theirs? You don’t!!! This is a major problem within the financial services industry. But you do have another alternative!

Traditional financial planning is the source of most of the stress that people feel in their financial lives. The term "Financial Planning" is often used by self-proclaimed Financial Advisors as a marketing tool to sell financial products and generate commissions on the recommendations. The individual working with the Financial Advisor generally has almost no way of knowing whether the recommendations are in their best interest or the best interest of the advisor. They also have little way of knowing whether the products could have been obtained elsewhere at lower cost. This is because the majority of Financial Advisors actually work for a mutual fund broker/dealer or an insurance company, and don't really work for the client. The brokerage firms and insurance companies actually control what products can be recommended!

Most believe that if you want to work with a Financial Advisor, that you must work with someone that ultimately gets paid by selling you mutual funds and insurance products. That is completely FALSE!

A better alternative to remove conflicts of interest is to work with a Fee-Only Financial Advisor. Fee-Only advisors do NOT sell financial products or accept commissions. They work for the client and usually are fiduciaries. Meaning they must only make recommendations that are in your best interest.

You will also get more comprehensive advice from a Fee-Only Advisor. Why? Because the commission guys only get paid by selling you investments and insurance policies. Their advice will always relate back to the products they want to sell you! They have ZERO incentive to help you with your budget, your estate plan, your tax return, reducing your debt etc. All they care about is telling you that you have done everything wrong up to meeting them, and they can solve all your problems if you just buy the products they recommend. A fee-only advisor will help you with your entire financial life and be your coach along the way.

So what is the cost of working with someone that gets paid a commission versus someone who only gets paid a fee? Well, I know firsthand because I started out on the commission side of the business in 2001. I was always fighting an ethical battle with my employer’s management. I quickly realized that there is NO way to avoid conflicts of interest when you work for a broker/dealer or an insurance company that makes its money by their advisors selling financial products. 

Let’s look at an everyday married couple as an example:
75k of Household Income
50k of Investable Assets (IRA’s, College Plans, Non-qualified Accounts)

Costs of the Commission Model:
·         On $50,000 of investments you will typically pay a sales commission of 4.5% = $2,250

·         Mutual funds also usually cost you more each year when working with a commission advisor because they have NO incentive to make sure your mutual funds are cost effective. The 2010 industry average mutual fund expense ratio was 1.15%. Vanguard, a top NO Load mutual fund company, had a 2010 average expense ratio of 0.21%. Let’s not forget that load or commission mutual funds have what’s known as a 12b-1 fee that the commission advisor gets paid each year. All this equates to an additional $595 per year.

·         How much more in taxes will you pay since the commission advisor has no incentive to help you with tax planning? And probably knows nothing about tax planning! Let’s assume you only miss just 1% in overlooked deductions each year = $750

·         How much more will you spend because no one has helped you develop a realistic budget? Commission advisors are only paid when you buy financial products. What incentive do they have to help you budget? NONE! If you had a coach to hold you accountable could you save at least another 2%?  = $1,500

      How much are you wasting on unneeded insurance premiums because you don’t have an advisor that examines all your insurance needs? (auto, home, life, disability, liability, id theft etc.) Let’s assume just $15 a month = $180 

Lastly, what is the cost of bad advice? The last two are unquantifiable! 

·         What will it cost you or your family if you currently don’t have all the appropriate insurance coverage’s in place because your advisor can’t or won’t advise you in all risk management areas?

·        If you go to www.CFP.net, there are only 7 Certified Financial Planners in Murfreesboro, TN (my home town). There are about 110,000 people in Murfreesboro! That’s 7 people that have been through the proper training to help you with every aspect of your financial life! If you aren’t working with someone that has been properly trained in financial planning, you DON’T get to wonder why you aren’t receiving good advice. You wouldn’t go to a medical doctor who was NOT an M.D.! So don’t trust someone with your money that isn’t a CFP!

Total Cost of Working With a Commission Financial Advisor in our example = $5,275 +
And more than likely the commission advisor is NOT helping you with every area of your financial life. Only your investments and life insurance if you’re LUCKY! 

Cost of Working With a Fee-Only Financial Planner:
Well, this will vary from advisor to advisor, but my fee for someone in our example would only be about $2,000 to help them with everything! Including budgeting, investments, risk management, retirement planning, debt management, and estate planning. And it also would include quarterly meetings to re-evaluate their plan.

And you would get someone who is coaching you in every area of your financial life. Not someone trying to sell you a financial product! It makes NO sense to over pay especially for inadequate advice! 

If you would like a free 2nd opinion of what your current Financial Advisor is doing, give me a call at 615-878-2134 or go to www.jasonwqualls.com. I’ll tell you like it is… which is also the TRUTH, because I hold fiduciary responsibility to my clients. I don’t sell financial products or accept commissions! I only work for my clients!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Your Financial To Do List Before Year End

  1. Find a financial adviser. Find a qualified professional that is client focused not sales driven. The qualification to look for is the marks of a Certified Financial Planner™. Go to CFP.net to search for someone in your area. Also, consider how the advisor is compensated. Someone that derives most of their income from selling financial products may not be able to act in your best interest.

  1. Review your credit history. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com and you can get a free copy of your credit history.

  1. Take of advantage tax deductions. The window for some tax advantages closes at the end of the year. Can you add more to your 401k plan at work? Can you take a deductible loss on an investment? Make a charitable donation?

  1. Rebalance your investments. Take a look at how your investments are performing. It may be time to make sure you aren’t taking on too much risk.

  1. Max out retirement contributions. The annual limit for IRA’s is $5,000 for those under 50 on Dec. 31 and $6,000 for those older. Your tax filing deadline is the time frame for IRA’s, but not your 401(k). You only have until Dec. 31 to contribute the max.

  1. Spend your FSA. If you’ve set aside money in a flexible spending account, it’s gone after Dec. 31.
  2. Budgeting and Cash Flow. Now’s a good time to look at your spending habits versus your projections over the past year.
  3. Get a Will. This is one that you just can’t wait until the last minute. It will be too late!
Financial planning is NOT an event, it’s a process. To contact me call 615-878-2134 or click http://jasonwqualls.com