Align Financial Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ

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WHAT MAKES ALIGN FINANCIAL A GOOD CHOICE FOR ME?

We build long-term, meaningful relationships with all of our clients, standing beside you through the many chapters of your personal and financial life.

  • We go above and beyond in everything that we do, remaining at the very cutting edge of our industry.
  • We stay current so you don’t have to (unless you want to of course). We pay close attention to what’s happening in the world, the economy, the markets and financial and social trends in order to bring you relevant feedback about how it relates to you and your life.
  • Our investment philosophy is evidenced based. You can rest assured that your unique situation is being monitored with a disciplined and sophisticated approach to wealth management.
  • We’re accessible and approachable, and continuously strive to make investments and financial planning simpler.
  • We work to build a trusting relationship with our clients and make it clear that we put their interests first. Always.
  • We take a proactive view of financial planning and wealth management.
  • We help them imagine what’s possible.
DO I HAVE TO LIVE IN DULUTH TO WORK WITH YOU?

We serve clients in the Midwest, as well as the East and West Coast as well as many snowbirds in Florida and Arizona. Our services have been well structured so that we can easily work together from any location. We hold many meetings each year through our simple video conferencing and screen sharing options, and now even much of our financial paperwork can be handled electronically.

For those of your that prefer face to face, we do what we can to coordinate our travel schedules to make it happen. We’ve held review meetings on pontoon boats in Northern Wisconsin, watching the sunset on the beach in Fort Myers and brunch in Burlington, Vermont.

WHAT IF I DON’T MEET YOUR $500K MINIMUM? CAN YOU STILL HELP ME?

If you don't have $500,000 yet but still need financial advice, then fear not - there are still ways we can help.

Our founder, Tanya Nichols, offers free adult education courses through Duluth Community Education - something she has been passionate about doing for the past decade. Currently on offer are the following two classes:

  • Retirees: 401k & Pension Options: How to Replace your Paycheck
  • Women Only: How to Feel Good about your Money

Please visit www.duluthcommunityed.org for the latest class schedule. And if you’re not local to the Duluth area, we advise you search for one of the many classes and workshops offered through your local school districts’ community education department, or the infinite options showing up online all the time.

We also publish a complimentary bi-monthly e-newsletter, packed full of financial articles, advice and guidance. You can subscribe to receive this via the box at the end of this page.

Another option is to check out www.xyplanningnetwork.com or www.letsmakeaplan.org to find a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional to do a simple financial check up or for ongoing financial advice.

Looking for more local advice? Call or email us for a referral to a local advisor.

IS THERE A FEE FOR AN INITIAL MEETING WITH YOU?

We’ve found that a lot can happen in one initial conversation. As such, our initial meetings are complimentary. While we know we might not be right for everyone with respect to an ongoing advisory relationship, we’ve always believed it’s good to share our experience and observations about your situation in this initial discussion. Our goal in this first meeting or phone call is to learn more about the items that are on your mind that led you to us, about you and your family and your priorities, and finally to determine if we might be a good fit for a long-term relationship. Whether you become a client or not, we’re confident you”ll find this meeting beneficial.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I WOULD BE A GOOD FIT?

This is a very good question. We strive to develop long-term relationships with all of our clients, so you can feel assured that you always have a trusted advocate standing with you throughout life’s many chapters. It's important you're able to adequately determine our compatibility from the outset, and as such we endeavour to be totally transparent with you about our approach. You would be a good fit for Align Financial if:

  • You’re interested in a long-term partnership with a proactive team dedicated to helping you organize your financial life and keep it that way.
  • You’re looking for a partner to help you make sense of your present state of financial affairs, and to help you see what the future might look like based on what you have in place today.
  • You’re willing to let go of the illusion of market timing. It’s pretty clear that’s a fool’s errand, so we make a habit of following a disciplined investment process to save our clients from making incredibly costly behavioral investment mistakes.
  • You’re willing to meet at least annually where we can keep each other up to date.
  • You value advice from professionals, and recognize that value comes at a cost.
HOW DO YOU KEEP MY MONEY SAFE?

By partnering with a Raymond James, a publicly traded company with more than 50 years of putting clients first. All of our clients accounts are held with Raymond James. So that means they hold your money and investments, produce your account statements, and tax forms every year. Raymond James also provides us access to some of the brightest investment analysts, a dedicated cyber security and technology support team, and all the important oversight and compliance we need in an incredibly regulated industry. All while maintaining the personal, one client at a time approach, best offered through an independent firm.

WHAT IS A CFP®?

Most people think all financial planners are “certified,” but this isn’t true. Anyone can use the title “financial planner.” Only those who have fulfilled the certification and renewal requirements of CFP Board can display the CFP® certification trademarks which represent a high level of competency, ethics and professionalism. A CFP® has special technical expertise with regards to retirement, estate, tax and investment planning; but the real skill comes in the ability to bring all those pieces of a persons financial life together. And because they are held to a fiduciary standard of care when providing financial planning services, a CFP® professional is required to act in your best interest. (Source)

WHAT IS A CDFA®?

A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst is a financial professional who specializes in the financial issues surrounding divorce. The role of the CDFA® includes acting as an advisor to one party's divorce lawyer, or as a direct advisor to one of the parties. The role of the CDFA® professional is to assist the client and their lawyer to understand how the financial decisions he or she makes today will impact the client’s financial future. (Source)

WHAT IS A FIDUCIARY?

A fiduciary places client interests first and is held to the highest standard of care. Sounds basic but not all financial professionals work as a fiduciary. We do.

WHAT IS YOUR INVESTMENT PHILOSOPHY?

We believe in a simple, but sophisticated and disciplined approach to managing our clients’ investments. It is important to us that our clients should understand their investments, and the process we use to select and manage your portfolio should be consistent. In order to do this, we've created an evidence-based approach to the steps in our investment management process; including – goals-based risk assessment, strategic asset allocation, manager selection and rebalancing. Most importantly, we do not try to time the market.

WHAT ARE YOUR FEES?

After working for firms for many years where the fees are buried deep in your 30-page statement, we’re proud to say your fees are deducted quarterly from your investment account and can always be found on the first page of your statement – front and center – labeled “fees”. Currently, your fees are based on the assets that we manage, and are usually 1-2% of the total.

WHY SHOULD I PAY AN ADVISOR – CAN’T I DO THIS MYSELF?

This is an important question. There are so many great tools for those people who want to handle their own investing and financial planning. What we’ve found though, is that many people have a tough time implementing their plan consistently.

While they may be able to research a great fund, or do their own taxes, the key is bringing all the pieces of your financial life together. Taxes, insurance, employee benefits, investments, cash flow and retirement planning, estate planning, and now even credit reports, and so much more. Whether our clients are raising children or planning retirement, that’s where real financial security and wealth creation happens, a few small but strategic steps over and over again, over many years.

The reason our clients choose to work with us and pay for our services – is because there is a lot to learn. And the cost of making a mistake is high. What if you didn’t save enough to cover for inflation before and during retirement? How do you know if you’re really saving enough? Or if you’ve saved enough? Should you work another year? Or more?

What if you pay off your mortgage at retirement with your 401k and you end up running out of money and you have to sell your house anyways? When is the right time to sell during a market correction? Or is there a right time? When should I take social security? When should I downsize? Or should I buy more company stock?

All these questions might have their own separate isolated answer, but how do you weave together all the pieces of your financial life to provide perspective on each of those decisions. There is no one size fits all answer and it’s hard to google your way to financial security.

Our clients choose us because they don’t want to get it wrong. They want a partner they can trust.

One way to look at it is to ask yourself if you think it’s possible that you’ll have more money or a bigger nest egg or net worth by having a financial professional involved – even after paying the advisory fee. In many cases, we find our clients are paying a lot in fees already (like in 401ks) – even without a real financial planner involved.

Our position is – if what we do for our clients is make sure they do the things they say they want to - save what they need to save, spend what they need to spend, and invest when they need to invest - all in order to help create the life they want to live – how much is that worth to them?

Between taxes, investments, legal issues with estate planning; not to mention just priority setting and having a clear vision of the future – there’s a lot to know and to keep organized and on track. And it takes a lot of time. We think the cost of getting it wrong is high, and our clients must agree. Some of our relationships go back over 12 years, and we deeply value these long-term relationships and the level of trust and respect afforded to us.

I'M READY TO WORK WITH YOU. HOW DO I START?

That’s great news! We invite you to head to our Contact page, where you can send us an email or call to schedule a conversation. We’ll set aside 60-90 minutes to have that initial discussion where we learn more .about you, and you learn a little more about us.

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Still have questions?
Don’t worry – that’s why our initial meetings are offered free of charge, to make it easy and accessible for you to speak with us directly and procure all the answers you need to assist you in deciding if Align Financial is right for you. You are also welcome to send us an email and we’ll be happy to address your questions directly.

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