Questions: We are a single income couple in Southern California, ages 56 and 54. We are seeking a no-fee-only financial advisor to assess our financial situation and provide a one-time consultation regarding the possibility of retirement. The house is paid off, the kids education is pretty much paid for too, about $2 million in retirement savings plus significant other assets/non-retirement savings. (Looking for a financial advisor too? This tool can help match you with someone who might meet your needs.)
Reply: Many advisers offer a retirement readiness consultation for a fee – but what this will look like and what it will cost will vary. You may want to look for a certified financial planner who works on a project basis using sites like LetsMakeAPlan.org, Garrett Planning Network, or XY Planning Network.
An example of what a retirement preparedness consultation might look like comes from certified financial planner David Edmisten of Next Phase Financial Planning. He says that at his firm, for initial engagements, you’d start with a 20-minute phone call that allows their planners to understand the important questions you need answered. This session does not delve into the nitty-gritty components of your personal financial picture, but rather serves as an educational overview of what the advisor and their company can offer someone in a situation like yours.
Then you would have two more meetings: “Our first meeting will then last up to an hour, virtually or in person, and we will meet to gain an accurate understanding of your goals, hopes, fears and resources for your ideal early retirement. We will explain the documents we need from you to build your plan, and we will use the information you share with us to build a customized pension guide card for your pension,” says Edmisten. During another meeting, you will receive a unique financial plan that spells out the exact steps the advisors recommend, including action on Social Security, retirement income, tax reduction, investments and other relevant issues.
Although the cost of a comprehensive financial plan varies depending on a number of factors, certified financial planner Elyse Foster of Harbor Wealth Management says you can probably expect to pay between $4,000 and $5,000 for a planning-only engagement — though sometimes they is smaller. “A fixed amount usually makes more sense than hourly, as hourly can be expensive,” says Foster. Although, to be fair, you might want to talk to the advisor about the possibility of adding hourly help if you run into problems trying to implement their plan.
The fees Foster references are for a comprehensive financial plan, which should include: a net worth statement, cash flow analysis, casualty insurance summary, retirement income sustainability analysis with one or two different projections for flexibility, additional comments on company benefits and retirement options, a written summary of plan results, and an implementation plan for flavor that comes out of the planning process as well as implementation meetings. (Looking for a financial advisor too? This tool can help match you with someone who might meet your needs.)
That said, one-time consultations should be treated as a snapshot in time, says Certified Financial Planner Bruce Primeau of Summit Wealth Advocates. “As tax laws change, portfolios go up and down and retirement plans may need to be adjusted. A one-time consultation can help someone get a good sense of where they stand now, but there are likely more strategies to consider moving forward,” says Primeau.
Going forward, Primeau says it’s important to consider whether Roth IRA conversions should play a role in retirement. “Other things to consider include when to draw from pensions or Social Security and how to draw down assets from your portfolio. My point is that financial planning is constantly changing,” says Primeau — who notes that you should ask even if you want to be your “own advisor and stay ahead of changes in tax laws, changes in property law, rebalance their own portfolio” or weather you want to “delegate this responsibility to a professional.” (Looking for a financial advisor too? This tool can help match you with someone who might meet your needs.)
Before committing to a one-time consultation, Primeau recommends getting an initial assessment and having a financial plan drawn up. “This will give you the floor and maybe some recommendations for what you can do differently. From there, you can decide if the advisor you’re working with can provide enough value to continue working with them on an ongoing basis. Otherwise, you can take the plan and implement it,” says Primeau.