FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Below you’ll find answers to the most common questions you may have about working with our firm. If you still can’t find the answers you’re looking for, just contact us!
What is a fee-only financial planner?
There are three basic ways in which financial advisors are compensated:
- Through a commission-based model
- Through a commission & fee model
- Through a Fee-Only model
Fee-Only financial advisors may be paid hourly, as a retainer, as a percentage of assets (AUM), or as a flat fee, depending upon the services you choose.
What is a fiduciary, and are you held to this standard?
A fiduciary is a person or organization that acts on behalf of a person or persons and is legally bound to act solely in their best interests.
Simply put: We act in your best interest at all times. There are no conflicts of interest – we do not steer you toward investments where we earn a commission. And you pay for advice and expertise – nothing hidden.
Further, as a Registered Investment Advisor, we are held to a fiduciary standard, just like an accountant, doctor, or attorney, which means that we have a legal responsibility to always act in our clients’ best interest.
Are you licensed and regulated?
We are registered in Pennsylvania and New York and can work nationally with individuals in other states where exemptions apply.
We are regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities and New York Investor Protection Bureau.
Where is your office located?
Our principal offices are located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Nevertheless, we are, in many ways, a virtual firm. Our utilization of video conferencing and virtual scheduling services allows us to serve you on days and at times that are most convenient for you.
Visit our contact page for more details.
What makes you different?
We specialize in working with tech professionals and high earners, so we understand our client’s unique income and tax situations.
As financial independence specialists, we evaluate multiple paths to our client’s financial freedom while offering specific, transparently priced services and ongoing client support. We do this through our holistic financial planning and disciplined investment management services.
What’s more, as a fee-only advisor, we are compensated directly by our clients in exchange for our financial planning and investment management services. Franklin Madison Advisors does not sell securities or insurance products, and we do not get paid for buying or selling securities in our clients’ brokerage accounts.
Put simply, we act in your best interest at all times. There are no conflicts of interest – we do not steer you toward investments where we earn a commission. You pay for advice and expertise – nothing hidden.
My situation is unique. How do I know you can help me?
We do not produce cookie-cutter solutions to our client’s unique financial needs.
In fact, our process for identifying your critical questions is intended to help us prepare solutions specific to your unique needs.
What kind of financial obstacles can you help me overcome?
We exist to help driven individuals navigate obstacles standing between them and their ability to achieve financial independence.
To be sure, there will be inevitable roadblocks on an individual’s path to financial independence, like:
- Prioritizing rising wealth with long-term lifestyle goals.
- Not having the time to manage an investment portfolio.
- A desire to become financially independent but lack time to get started.
- Minimizing future tax liabilities related to retirement savings.
- Lacking time to begin financial independence planning.
- Managing emotional discipline through market ups and downs.
Visit our services page to learn more about the issues we can help you address.
What will you do with my information? Will you sell my information to third parties?
No. We protect your privacy at all times and will never share your personal information with third parties unless you give us the authority to do so.
Who do you work with? Who is your ideal client?
We specialize in working with tech professionals and high earners, so we understand our client’s unique income and tax situations.
Our professionally successful clients have often done all the right things with their money yet suddenly feel stuck because of a life change or unique financial challenge beyond what time or tools can afford.
If this is you, worry no more. We’ll look at your financial situation and develop actionable strategies that will help you move your financial situation to the next level.
What do I need to bring to our first call?
Bring your questions! Our first introductory call aims to talk through your current financial situation and see if it makes sense to work together.
During our second meeting, we’ll discuss your financial situation at a high level and ask about your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities.
We will not ask for your financial documents until we have a formal agreement in place.
Where will we meet?
Our clients prefer to meet virtually from the comfort of their homes or office. We use Zoom to conduct all of our virtual meetings.
Under certain circumstances, we can schedule appointments to meet at our physical office location, but given the current environment, we prefer to meet with our clients virtually.
Do you meet virtually or offer evening and weekend appointments?
Yes. Most of our client engagements take place virtually. We offer evening and weekend appointments where possible.
When we meet, will I have to sit through a sales pitch?
You hate sales pitches, especially when it comes to your money-related issues. We don’t blame you.
Many stories have been told about financial advisors encouraging individuals like you to meet, only to waste their time sitting through a boring investment or insurance sales presentation and pitched an investment or insurance product they don’t need. But that’s not what we’re about.
Our firm specializes in helping driven individuals like you overcome obstacles standing between them and their financial independence journey. You can rest assured that we don’t have a slick sales pitch to offer you. We center our approach on purposeful discussions and relationship building.
In fact, our priority is ensuring that we’re engaging with motivated, high-achieving, successful individuals who are serious about taking their journey toward financial freedom to the next level but need a little help getting past a temporary roadblock.
Why do highly driven individuals work with you?
Our clients work with us for three reasons:
- We help our clients clearly define their ideal life outcomes and how they’d like to use their money to achieve those goals.
- We help our clients get their financial house in order and instill confidence through actionable, achievable plans they can immediately put to work.
- Our clients gain peace of mind knowing that they’re working with a fiduciary, fee-only financial planning, and investment management firm.
Schedule an appointment today!
What is a financial plan?
A financial plan is more than a set of financial statements or a written document. It is a roadmap that connects the dots between where you want to go in life and the financial resources you have available today.
Our financial plans are organized around your critical questions, so our solutions and recommendations are always custom-tailored to your life situation.
Your comprehensive financial plan will include strategies centered around retirement planning, budgeting or cash flow optimization, investments, and risk management (planning for emergencies, asset and income protection, and estate planning).
How long does the planning process take?
It generally takes us 15-30 hours to complete your financial plan.
From start to finish, it typically takes 6-8 weeks to deliver your completed financial plan from the time we begin working together.
How much time will I need to commit to the planning process?
Depending on the complexity of your financial situation, about 4-8 hours. This time does not include gathering financial documents and uploading them to your secure portal.
How often will we meet throughout the planning process?
Once our financial planning agreement is in place, we’ll typically schedule one to two more meetings to get started.
During our Onboarding Meeting, we’ll introduce you to your financial planning website, show you which documents you’ll need to gather and how to upload them to your secure online vault, and go over the assumptions we’ll use in your financial plan.
When necessary, we’ll communicate via email, phone calls, or scheduled virtual meetings to discuss additional questions related to your financial documents or information required for your plan.
What financial planning software do you use?
Our financial plans are custom-tailored and written specifically for each of our clients.
We use eMoney, an industry-leading financial planning software for aggregating your financial information, financial statement modeling, tax projections, Monte Carlo simulations, scenario analyses, and more.
What documents will I need to provide for my financial plan?
Our planning process is comprehensive and holistic. To provide you with relevant advice, we need to understand your entire financial situation.
Here are some of the documents we may ask for during our Onboarding Meeting:
- Bank Accounts
- Taxable Brokerage Accounts
- Retirement Accounts
- Education Savings Accounts (529, Coverdell)
- Health Savings Accounts
- Auto Loans
- Student Loans
- Credit Cards
- Private Loans
- Pay Statements
- Social Security Statement
- Annual Living Expenses
- Insurance (Life/Disability/Health/Long-term Care/Homeowners/Auto/Umbrella)
- Benefits Handbook
- Summary Plan Descriptions
- Federal & State Tax Returns
- Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Beneficiary Designations, Advance Directives
What areas are reviewed in a financial plan?
Our financial plans are centered around critical questions that typically fall into four planning domains:
- Retirement – Evaluating how much to save/spend in retirement to ensure your savings last a lifetime
- Cash Flow Planning – Aligning income with saving and spending, planning for big-ticket purchases, paying down debt
- Investment Strategy – Putting your money to work with a disciplined process
- Risk Management – Planning for financial emergencies, protecting your assets, protecting your family
What happens after my financial plan is delivered?
When your financial plan is complete, we’ll schedule a call to discuss our recommendations and provide you with the steps necessary to make your plan a reality.
If you’d like, you can retain our services in an ongoing capacity to provide ongoing financial advising or investment management.
What do I do with my financial plan once I receive it?
You implement the plan!
We provide all of our clients with an easy-to-understand implementation schedule that outlines the work you need to do in the months ahead to make your financial plan a reality.
Need additional help? No problem. As part of our ongoing advisory services, we’ll meet with you at least quarterly to evaluate your plan progress and provide recommendations on how to overcome challenges and obstacles standing between you and your financial independence goals.
We can also help implement investment recommendations and facilitate tax, insurance, and estate planning relationships as needed.
What kind of support will I receive after my plan is delivered?
That depends on what you’re looking for.
We offer ongoing advisory services if you’d like ongoing coaching to help you build momentum and make your plan a reality. This service is billed monthly to give you the support you need to make your plan a reality.
For clients who have already engaged in our planning services but do not want ongoing advisory services, we offer one-hour consultations billed on an as-needed basis.
I don't need a financial plan. How can you help me?
From time to time, even the most successful individuals encounter roadblocks to their best laid financial plans. Quite often, navigating a financial independence journey becomes more complicated when family and career changes take center stage. And in situations like these, the money disciplines that got you to where you are today likely won’t take you to the next level toward your financial goals.
Even so, working with a wealth manager might enable you to create an action plan to address barriers standing between you and your financial independence. How so? Well, it all begins with a process. And a disciplined wealth management process should be structured to diagnose the source of your financial obstacles by fully understanding you as a unique individual and then providing you with a custom-tailored remedy from the perspective of your overall savings and lifestyle goals.
In this context, you see, a financial plan is a remedy because it’s a means to taking your financial independence journey to a higher level. To be sure, rather than being a collection of financial statements and statistics, a solid financial plan is like a roadmap that charts a course for how you can overcome financial obstacles. More specifically, a financial plan does three things.
First, it clearly delineates in black-and-white the specific issues holding you back from achieving a higher level of financial freedom.
Second, a solid financial plan may instill in you a sense of confidence as it can help you visualize what success will look like when you arrive at your financial destination.
Finally, a financial plan may give you peace of mind as it lays out in plain English the specific actions you’ll likely need to take over the coming months and years to fast-track your financial independence journey. This granular level of planning work, however, often begins by speaking with a trusted advisor.
If you’re serious about taking your financial independence journey to the next level, then give us a call at (412) 204-6711 or schedule a meeting online.
I have accounts spread across various financial institutions. Can you help me sort them out?
Yes. As part of our financial planning engagement, we will review your financial accounts, including bank, investment, and insurance providers, and offer suggestions to reduce cost and financial risk by consolidating services where appropriate.
Can you help me with insurance and estate planning?
Yes. Income and asset protection strategies and estate planning are critical components of the risk management recommendations we offer as part of our financial planning process.
Can you help me figure out how social security fits into my plan?
Yes. We’ll show you the consequences of retiring early, the benefits of taking benefits before your Full Retirement Age (FRA) or delaying benefits a few years.
Our financial plans incorporate projected social security income benefits as part of our scenario analyses and retirement planning.
I want to pay down my debt as soon as possible. Can you help?
Yes. We’ll help you evaluate the tradeoff between which debts to pay down first to minimize your interest expense and maximize your available cash flows.
Do you consider taxes as part of your analysis?
Yes. The tools we use to prepare your financial plan allow us to perform robust tax analyses, particularly regarding asset location (the type of accounts your savings are held), stock awards, Roth conversions, and charitable giving.
What is your investment philosophy?
With experience in multiple bull and bear market cycles, we have found that a disciplined investment process focused on owning low-cost, tax-efficient investments and managed for the long-term trumps market timing or buying what’s hot on Wall Street.
Who is your investment custodian? Where will my investments be held?
If we manage investments on your behalf, our preferred custodian is TD Ameritrade.
How often will we meet to review my investment account?
Some clients prefer annual meetings. Others prefer quarterly investment account reviews. It depends on our client engagement, but we’ll meet no more or less than you would prefer.
What Asset Allocation do you use?
Our Asset Allocation decisions are based on the investment objective you select when we prepare your Investment Policy Statement (IPS). Our investment strategy is comprised of U.S. and international assets, with allocations to stocks, bonds, and real estate dependent on your risk tolerance, goals, and investment horizon.
For example, an investor with a conservative risk tolerance dependent on retirement income likely will have a higher allocation to bonds versus stocks.
Ultimately, identifying your ideal asset allocation is a transparent, collaborative process, and you’ll always know how your portfolio will be invested beforehand.
How often do you rebalance investment portfolios?
We rebalance our client investment accounts at least quarterly or as market/portfolio conditions warrant.
What tools do you use in your investment process?
We use a variety of tools throughout our investment process to assess your risk (FinaMetrica), rebalance your portfolio (iRebal) and provide ongoing performance reporting (Capitect).
We also use proprietary statistical modeling to develop the capital market assumptions used in our long-term investment return and risk projections and tools like Portfolio Visualizer to create portfolios with ideal risk-adjusted characteristics related to each investment objective.
Can you help me with concentrated stock positions?
Yes. There are various ways to deal with concentrated stock positions and their related tax consequences. As we work together, we’ll identify a set of strategies custom-tailored to your unique financial situation to minimize costs and maximize diversification.
My company recently went public. Can you help me figure out how to deal with Alternative Minimum Tax?
Yes. For many individuals, figuring out how to deal with AMT is frustrating at best and downright anxiety-provoking at worst. We’ll evaluate your equity award and walk you through various scenarios for dealing with the tax consequences of exercising your stock options.
Can you help me figure out what to do with my restricted stock?
Yes. We can discuss when and whether to hold on to restricted stock after it vests, the various tax consequences, and techniques to diversify your holdings when necessary.
I work for a private company. Can you help me evaluate my stock options?
Yes. We’ll help you evaluate the cost/benefit of pre-IPO stock option exercise and the related tax consequences.
I recently came into a financial windfall and want to retire early. Can you help figure it out?
Yes. We’ll begin our engagement off with a comprehensive financial plan to evaluate what you want the money to do for you before providing any investment recommendations.
How is financial independence different from retirement?
Retirement is typically defined as an age (like 65) when an individual has saved enough money to stop working altogether.
Financial independence is a point in life where you have saved enough money to sustain your lifestyle even if you quit your job, regardless of age.
Not only do we help our clients prepare for retirement, we help them become financially independent to live life on their own terms.
Do all financial advisors help with Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE)?
No. There are nuanced issues to consider, like social security benefits, longevity investing, asset location, potential medical expenses, and insurance.
Creating FIRE strategies takes more creative work than allowed by cookie-cutter financial plans.
Fortunately, our custom-tailored process enables us to help individuals plan for financial independence and early retirement.
How can you help me become financially independent?
The American Dream is not what it used to be. Indeed, the playbook of yesteryear once argued for going to college, getting a steady job, buying a house, and saving for retirement as the means to a fulfilling lifestyle.
Today, however, many individuals find this lifepath insecure and unfulfilling. They want to use their financial resources to take control of their lives and chart their own destiny. That’s why becoming financially independent is increasingly a path chosen by high achieving, motivated individuals to attain true financial freedom.
Reaching and maintaining financial independence is not as easy as it sounds, and you likely will encounter roadblocks along the way. How can we help? Well, we empower driven individuals like you by providing clarity on what it will take to get the most from your life by helping you realize how to make your money work for you. Then, we give you the confidence to tackle the obstacles blocking your path to financial independence by creating a practical action plan for taking your game to the next level.
Our work doesn’t end there.
We’ll provide you with clear, easy-to-understand implementation guidelines that lay out exactly what you’ll need to do on a month by month, year by year basis. Or, if you prefer, you can partner with us, and we’ll help you implement your financial plan. Either way, you will gain peace of mind knowing that you have a trusted advisor working in your best interest.
Ready to learn more?
Schedule a 30-minute no obligation meeting to see how we can help.
Do you sell insurance?
No. While we can offer advice on insurance companies, as a Registered Investment Advisor, we are not licensed to sell or receive compensation from third parties on the sale or recommendation of insurance products.
Do you sell securities or mutual funds?
No. While we can offer advice on specific securities, as a Registered Investment Advisor, we are not licensed to sell or receive compensation from third parties on the sale or recommendation of securities like mutual funds.
Do you charge commissions or trading fees?
No. As a Registered Investment Advisor, we are not licensed to sell or receive compensation from third parties on the sale or recommendation of insurance products or securities like mutual funds.
What will you sell me if I hire you?
Our clients pay us for our time and expertise to:
- prepare a financial plan
- provide ongoing financial coaching and
- manage their investments
We do not sell insurance or investment products. Third parties do not compensate us for the advice we provide you.
How do you get paid?
Our clients pay us directly for our time and services.
We do not sell insurance or financial products.
We are not compensated by third-party brokers, insurance companies, or banks for the advice we provide.
What is the all-in cost for your services?
Initial Financial Plan – Our initial financial planning fee starts at $3,000 and rises with your financial situation’s complexity (taxes, compensation, investment, estate planning).
Ongoing Advisory Services – Ongoing advisory services start at $125 per month. These services are geared toward clients who want financial coaching after we’ve delivered their financial plan.
Investment Management – Investment management costs start at 1.25% and decline to 0.40% as assets under management rise. This annual rate is billed monthly. For example, an annual fee of 1.00% is billed 0.08% per month directly from your investment account.
Please note: we have the right to waive, adjust or otherwise change fees.
There may be costs assessed by third parties when it comes to implementing your financial plan. These can include tax preparation fees, legal costs associated with your estate plan, custodian fees, and fund expenses.
What hidden costs do I need to be aware of?
None. Costs related to our services are always laid out in black and white before work begins.
How do I pay you?
We use a secure third-party payment service to invoice and collect payments from our clients electronically. We do not accept cash or check and never store your bank information on file.
Investment management fees are typically withdrawn from your custodian account. Or, we’ll invoice you directly, and you can pay us via electronic payment.
Still Have Questions?
Schedule Your No Obligation 30-Minute Introductory Meeting to Find Out How a Fee-Only Financial Planner Can Help You.