No reason to beat around the bush with this week’s topic, so let’s get right to it. Starting January 1, 2020, my annual flat fee will be $8,400. It will NOT increase for any existing clients and any clients on board before the end of this calendar year.
As some background, I’ve spent the last year paying attention to what a highly paid consultant would call “key indicators.” They include things such as hours spent with clients, costs of running my practice, new resources I’ve been introducing to clients, and what my peers are charging. While I’m not comfortable jumping to $10,000 a year, which is what my closest peers charge for their “basic” clients, I am making the first fee adjustment since I launched nearly 4 years ago.
As a refresher, below are the key services I provide to clients:
- Investment Management. I focus on low-cost, tax-efficient investments. For investments I’m running, I’ve been able to get costs down to under 0.10%. Considering most investment portfolios cost around 1%, I think that is a hell of a savings for my clients. Remember, the goal is to keep the money in the clients’ accounts and not the investment managers’ yachts.
- Financial Plan. Once a year I update the financial plans for all of my clients. For quite a few, we do it more than once a year as life happens, jobs change and plans need to be updated more frequently. I am rolling out some new financial plan software that allows me to do much more comprehensive planning. This means more time with clients.
- Tax Reviews. Again, I’m not a CPA and never will be. Nor have I slept at a Holiday Inn Express. Wait, I digress. I am working through my Enrolled Agent designation so I can deepen my tax knowledge. Every year I review my client’s tax returns. I will be adding a new component in this review process so we can project future taxes too. Maybe that’s just exciting to nerds like me.
- Insurance Reviews. I do NOT sell any insurance product. I dropped my insurance license when I started my own firm. However, I still do deep insurance reviews with all of my clients. If we identify an insurance need, I help design the solution and then a client can go to their own agent to get the insurance they need or I have a low-cost insurance specialist I refer clients to. The nice thing is they work on salaries and not commissions.
- Estate Planning. Once again, not an attorney. However, part of what I do with clients is to ensure their estate planning documents are in order. This is one of those areas that often gets ignored until it is too late.
- Elder Financial Abuse. In the last year I rolled out a new program that helps protect clients from elder financial abuse issues. The goal is to make sure none of my clients become part of the statistics of the billions of dollars lost by seniors every year with elder financial abuse. Plus, at some point the SEC will require advisors to verify what they’re doing on this end. Some of us are just ahead of the game.
There are some other services I provide to clients, such as account aggregation tools, weekly performance reporting emails and texts, regular communication, always being on-call for my clients (they all have my cell phone number), and never charging more for extra calls or meetings.
A big reason for this change is so I can spend more time with my clients, which is becoming a smaller and more selective group. When I first launched I envisioned capping out at 85 clients. However, I have decided I will only be taking on another 28 clients and then my no vacancy light will turn on. Additionally, to provide the service my clients expect and deserve, I will only be taking on 6 clients per year. While most firms want to grow quickly, I want to have smart growth. Ultimately, the key takeaway is in a few months my flat fee for brand new clients will be at a rate of $8,400.