How Much Does it Cost?

Initial engagements typically require 8-16 hours of work, billed at my $300/hour rate. Once I know the details of your situation and what topics you would like me to address, I will provide an estimate of the cost before we sign an agreement.

What Topics Are Usually Covered?

For retirees and pre-retirees, topics commonly addressed in an initial engagement include:

  • Portfolio review: Looking for ways to improve diversification, reduce costs, and simplify.
  • Am I on track? For pre-retirees, this is an assessment of planned retirement date. For retirees, this is an assessment of whether the current spending level is reasonable.
  • Retirement distribution strategy: Which account(s) to spend from (i.e., tax-efficient spend-down strategy).
  • Social Security: Recommendation as to Social Security filing date(s).
  • Pension: For people with a defined benefit pension, a recommendation as to which pension option to select.
  • Charitable planning: A discussion of tax-efficient ways to give, such as donating of appreciated shares, using donor-advised funds, qualified charitable distributions from traditional IRAs, and so on.
  • Roth conversion analysis: An analysis of whether Roth conversions this year and/or the next two years are likely to be advantageous.

For accumulators (i.e., clients in earlier stages), topics commonly addressed in an initial engagement include:

  • Portfolio review: Looking for ways to improve diversification, reduce costs, and simplify.
  • Am I on track? An assessment of savings rate and intended retirement date.
  • Retirement account contributions: Which account(s) to spend from (tax-efficient spend-down strategy).
  • Charitable planning: A discussion of tax-efficient ways to give, such as donating of appreciated shares, using donor-advised funds, qualified charitable distributions from traditional IRAs, and so on.

Can We Just Do a Quick One-Hour Call?

People often ask whether we can just have a short 1-hour paid call (e.g., looking only at one very specific question), rather than an entire planning engagement. Unfortunately, I cannot do so, for two reasons.

Firstly, in such a context, the likelihood of me giving bad advice is too high. Financial planning topics are interrelated, and looking only at one very narrow piece of your financial life, without being able to see the rest of the picture, is, in my opinion, not a good idea.

Secondly, there would be regulatory challenges with such a business model. A registered investment adviser (RIA) must register in any state in which they have more than 5 clients within a 12-month period. If an RIA were to fill their schedule with one-hour engagements, the total number of clients would be so high that the RIA would ultimately have to register (and maintain registration) in many different states. Such registration processes are time-consuming and often costly. It simply wouldn’t work for anything other than a large-scale practice.

Is Follow-Up Advice Available?

The engagement agreement I typically use provides for a 12-month term, during which you can request further hourly advice on an as-needed basis at the same rate of $300/hour. If a more significant update is required later (e.g., due to a major change in your life circumstances), we can sign a new engagement agreement. Such “updating” engagements generally require somewhat fewer hours, because some of the work does not need to be repeated.

How Does This Cost Compare?

I always encourage people to shop around when considering working with a financial professional. (And I would be happy to provide a list of other professionals you may want to consider.) If you do shop around, you will find that I am neither the cheapest nor the most expensive.

By way of comparison, a 2020 Kitces Research survey found that the median cost for hourly financial planning was $250. A 2020 survey from Envestnet/MoneyGuide found the hourly average was $257. I am not aware of any surveys from 2021-2022 demonstrating the extent to which advisors have or haven’t raised rates in the last years due to inflation.