4 Reasons to Hire a CFP ®

4 Reasons to Hire a CFP ®

 

Managing your finances can be difficult and time-consuming. However, finding someone to handle your finances can be just as challenging. Want a tip to make it easier? Hire A CFP ®.

People often ask us what is a CFP ®, how are they different from other financial advisors, and the reasons to hire a CFP ®. We are going to be breaking all that down for you today.

 

What Is a CFP® Professional?

 

First, it’s more than just an acronym. Unlike some designations that are worth little more than the paper they’re printed on, the CFP ® (CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™) designation is one of the most esteemed financial certificates around.  Each CFP ® is held to an extremely high standard and requires an immense amount of work. Typically nine months to two years of study.

In the US there are only 81,109 CFPs ® and only 2,274 in the state of Colorado, according to the CFP® Board professional demographics.  The exam itself is a grueling 7-hour test that assesses the financial advisor’s ability to apply principles of financial planning. It covers all areas of insurance, investments, income taxes, retirement, estate planning, ethics and conduct, and financial plan development, among many other skills.

Beyond the test, there is so much more that goes into the certification. We have condensed it down to the top 4 Reasons to Hire a CFP®.

 

4 Reasons to Hire a CFP ®

 

  1. Fiduciary Standard
  2. Ethics Code:
  3. Fitness Standards:
  4. Experienced Life-Long Learners

 

1. Fiduciary Standard:

Currently, the SEC has NO uniform fiduciary standard that applies to all financial professionals who provide personalized investment advice. This means there is no oversight to protect consumers and clients from paying excessive commissions or receiving substandard performance. Consumers are exposed to even greater and unnecessary risks from products that may be deemed suitable (more on that here) for them but are inferior to other available options and not necessarily in their best interests.

The CFP ® Board has a Code and Fiduciary Standards that require CFP ® professionals to act in the best interest of the client at all times when providing financial advice. So, as a CFP ®, we have a legal requirement to act in your best interest, all the time. In addition to this standard, Bonfire Financial is also a Registered Investment Advisor which furthers this obligation.

 

2. Ethics Code:

All CFP ® practitioners agree to abide by a strict code of professional conduct, known as CFP ® Board’s Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility, that sets forth ethical responsibilities to the public and clients. This ensures we act with honesty, integrity, competence, diligence, and offer services objectively.

It’s a pledge to protect the confidentiality of all client information, avoid or disclose and manage conflicts of interest and always act in the client’s best interests.

 

3. Fitness Standards:

Further, the CFP ® Board has also established specific character and fitness standards for the CFP ® certification. This ensures that an individual’s prior conduct would not reflect adversely upon the profession or the CFP ® certification marks. This helps you know that if you hire a CFP ® you won’t find out later that they have:

    • A felony conviction for theft, embezzlement, or other financially-based crimes.
    • A felony conviction for tax fraud or other tax-related crimes.
    • Revocation of a financial license (e.g. registered securities representative, broker/dealer, insurance, investment advisor).
    • A felony conviction for any degree of murder or rape.
    • A conviction for any other violent crime within the last five years.
    • A felony conviction for non-violent crimes (including perjury) within the last five years.
    • Personal or business bankruptcies.

 

4. Experienced Life-Long Learners:

CFP ® professionals are required to complete 3 years of experience related to delivering financial planning services to clients. They also must have a bachelor’s degree prior to earning the right to be a CFP ®. This real-life experience means that CFP ® professionals have practical financial planning knowledge. They can truly help you create a realistic financial plan that fits your individual needs.

Once certified, CFP ® professionals are required to maintain technical competence and fulfill ethical obligations. Every two years, they must complete a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education to stay current with developments in the financial planning profession and better serve clients.

Need more reasons to hire a CFP ®? We’d love to answer any other questions on what it means to have a CFP ® working for you, feel free to contact us.

At Bonfire Financial we pride ourselves on having a team of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERs™.

 

4 Reasons to Hire a CFP

 

Differences Between an IRA and 401k

IRA vs 401k: What’s the Difference:

 

There are some common misconceptions about the difference between an IRA (Individual retirement account) and a 401k plan. While these two are very similar there are some distinct differences that make each unique.

Before we tackle the difference between an IRA and a 401k it’s important to note that these are not investments.  They are simply accounts.  Just because you have an account open does not mean you have an investment that will grow and help fund your retirement.  Much the same way that just because you own a refrigerator doesn’t mean you actually have any food in it. You have to add to it.

To continue with this analogy…  in your fridge, you can have a variety of different types of food (juice, pickles, eggs, beer, and anchovies- if you’re into that sort of a thing). In an IRA and 401k you can have different investments too.  Such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, commodities, real estate, and more. You can also change or “throw out” the investments in your IRA or 401k if you’ve left them in the back of the fridge for too long. You know like that 3lb. jar of mayo you bought for that party that one time.

Now that you are hungry, let’s get to the dive-in.

 

Overview of an IRA vs. 401K:

 

You probably know fundamentally that saving for retirement is one of the single best things you can do financially. You don’t want to rely on social security, you don’t want to run out of money, you don’t want to be a financial burden to your children, and you want to enjoy your golden years. All great reasons to have a retirement plan! So which retirement plan is best for you?

Both IRAs and 401Ks have tax benefits and are among the most common defined contribution plans. The good news is that you don’t have to choose one over the other. To maximize your retirement savings, you can and should, if possible, contribute to both an IRA and 401k.

The key to note is that a 401k, named for the section of the tax code that discusses it, is an employer-based plan and an IRA is an individual retirement plan. Got it?

First up let’s look at how a 401K and IRA are alike.

 

The Similarities:

 

  • Both allow you to put money in on a tax-deferred basis. Meaning that taxes are not due at the time when you add money. For example, if you make $50,000 and decide to invest $2,000 of it into your IRA or 401k, the $2,000 is not going to be part of your taxable income.
  • Your money within an IRA or 401k can be invested in a variety of ways.
  • The money that is invested is allowed to grow tax-deferred. You do not have to pay taxes on the gains from your investments until you take the money out.  If you make $1,000 off of your $2,000 investment, you now have $3,000 in your account and you will not have to pay taxes on that gain until you withdrawal the money.
  • When you do withdrawal the money for whatever amount it will be considered part of your taxable income. You will own taxes on the withdrawal amount. Let’s say you withdrawal the $2,000 and your current annual income is $50,000 after the withdrawal your taxable income will be $52,000.
  • Since an IRA and 401k are designed for retirement the money that you invest is not supposed to withdraw until after the age of 59 ½. You read that correctly -the government added in a half, well, because your inner 6-year-old knows it’s that important. If you withdraw the money prior to 59 ½ you will pay a 10% penalty on the money plus the amount withdrawn is now part of your taxable income.
  • Also, the government mandates that at age 71 ½ (again the half) you have to take out a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD).  Basically, they tell you the amount that you must pay taxes on.  Quick note, if you are still employed at age 71 ½ and not the owner you can delay your RMDs.

 

The Differences:

 

While an IRA and a 401k have many similarities, they do differ is a few very key areas.  The main one being that an IRA is Individual Retirement Account, so it is yours and yours alone. Anyone can have one. A 401k is company-sponsored, so you can only participate in it if your employer offers one.   Some other key differences are:

  • Since a 401k is employer sponsored typically the employer will match a percentage of their employees’ contributions up to a certain limit or percentage. There is no option for  this in an IRA.
  • Consequentiallybecause a 401K is employer-sponsored your investment options are limited to what the employer offers. Whereas an IRA will allow you to have more variety in terms of stocks, bonds, real estate, etc.
  • Loan or hardship withdrawals are available for 401ks. However, IRAs generally do not permit loans or early
  • withdrawals.
  • An IRA has certain income limts and a 401k does not.
  • Finally, the contribution limits are different and change from year to year. Check with your financial advisor or go here to learn about the current years’ limits.

 

Difference Between an IRA and 401k- A Venn Diagram

Differences between an IRA and a 401k

Which is Right For You?

 

It depends really. If you have the option of putting your money into an employer-sponsored 401k or an IRA you should do both. Max them out if possible. We recommend prioritizing the 401k first especially if your employer offers a match and then adding to an IRA if you are within the income limits.

This hopefully gives you a good overview of the differences between an IRA and a 401k. While there are many factors to consider, the most important thing to remember is that both are great tools to use to help achieve your retirement goals.

Are you interested in learning about a Roth?  We’ve got a great article here for you.

How do Financial Advisors Get Paid?

HOW DO FINANCIAL ADVISORS GET PAID?

 

Do you ever wonder how financial advisors get paid? If so you are not alone. It has been estimated that more than one in five people who have a financial advisor does not know what they are paying in advisory fees. You don’t hire a plumber or join a gym without knowing the cost. So why be in the dark about the cost of a financial advisor?

It should be simple enough…sadly, it’s not really straightforward. Understanding the compensation for financial advisors is often puzzling. It’s a perpetual source of confusion, so we are here to break it down.

Let’s first look at 3 different types of advisors you could choose to work with.

 

3 Types of Financial Advisors:

 

  1. A broker or broker-dealer
  2. Hybrid or dually registered advisor
  3. Register investment advisor

 

Broker or Broker Dealer:

 

First, if an advisor is a broker, which the majority of advisors are, they receive a commission based on the products that they sell and the investments they recommend.

The commission can be upfront (when you buy), it can be on the back end (when you sell), or it can be trailing (they get paid a portion annually).  The problem is that with most of them you “should” read the prospectus (the gigantic legal document you get when you buy or get sold a product and throw away when it arrives in the mail) to find out what you are really paying.

Moreover, there is an even bigger problem with brokers which has to do with what is in your best interest.  They only follow the “suitability” standard. This says the product or recommendation only needs to be “suitable” for the client. This suitability standard is established by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) a private nongovernmental organization.

The suitability standard is problematic.

For instance, a broker could recommend a Mutual Fund that is ten times more expensive to own than a comparable Exchange Trade Fund, and that is acceptable because it’s “suitable” for the investor.  This obviously raises questions as to why a broker would prefer one investment over the other.

Many brokers push annuities as they are notorious for heavy hidden commissions, but keep in mind any investment could carry a commission. Mutual funds can carry sales loads up to 8.5% and brokers may take 1 to 2% off of a bond’s value for themselves. Think of it as a kickback.

To us, this is a huge conflict of interest and why Bonfire Financial is not a broker.

 

Dually registered or a hybrid advisor:

 

Next, let’s look at advisors that are dually registered or hybrid advisor.  There are some nuances between to a hybrid/dual-registered advisor. For the purposes of this discussion let’s focus on the fact that they are registered investment advisors AND licensed through FINRA (again, a private corporation that acts as a self-regulatory organization).

While that sounds good on the surface there are issues with this format.  As a registered investment advisor, they act as fiduciaries and do what is in the best interest of the clients. Great news, but they are also filing with FINRA to sell products as a broker. What? Yes, they can sell investment products and collect a commission.

These advisors can wear two hats with the same client. Not a good look.   They can have accounts which they are acting as fiduciaries on and then have another account with the same client in which they act as brokers and only follow the suitably standard.

In a recent research paper published by Nicole Boyson, professor of finance at Northeastern University, The Worst of Both Worlds? Dual-Registered Investment Advisers, she finds dual registrants “have numerous conflicts of interest.” These include cross-selling insurance products, revenue sharing with third-party mutual fund companies, and selling proprietary investment products. She also found dual registrants charge an average of 2.1% on assets under management. This is much higher than the 1% fee most registered investment advisers collect. On top of that, they are more likely to be the subject of disciplinary actions by securities regulators.

How can someone be a fiduciary to a client but not on all their accounts or money?  I am still scratching my head on this one.  In my opinion, a client would never really know if the recommendations were in their best interest or not! This model was a pass for Bonfire.

 

Registered Investment Advisor:

 

Finally, there is the Registered Investment Advisor (RIA). These advisors have a legal obligation to act as fiduciaries.  Meaning that they have to act in your best interest at all times. They also must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC is a governmental agency responsible for protecting investors.

Further, a Registered Investment Advisor must explain upfront how they receive compensation. Fees range but generally average somewhere between 1-2% of the total value of the investments under management. An RIA must disclose any conflicts of interest.  RIAs usually earn their revenue through a management fee comprised of a percentage of assets held for a client. However, the most important thing to know about RIAs is that they must act as fiduciaries for their clients.

Unfortunately, few advisors that are acting full-time in this capacity, less than 13,000 total in the US, surprising, right?

 

Fee-Only Vs. Fee-Based

 

Another thing to consider in determining how financial advisors are paid is whether they are Fee-Only or Fee-Based. While the term Fee-Based may sound very similar to Fee-Only, there are important distinctions.

The Fee-Based model can be susceptible to the same conflicts of interest that the commission structure has. There are many advisors who are mostly fee-based and the majority of their revenues come from fees, yet they can offer you a mutual fund or an investment that normally has a commission, and a conflict.

Fee-Only advisors don’t sell products, don’t accept commissions and they operate as true fiduciaries. Fee-only advisors work for their clients and clients pay an hourly rate, a fixed annual retainer or a percentage of the investment assets.

 

In conclusion:

 

I have always strived to be upfront and honest with people and my clients.  At a young age, I started my career at a big wire-house and believed I was a fiduciary for my clients and that I could act in their best interest.  However, the more I was learning, the more I began to realize the cards were against me. Decisions made at the top made it difficult to truly act in the manner of a fiduciary.  I was a vegan in a butcher shop, a sheep in wolf’s clothing.

So, I made a switch and I started Bonfire Financial, a Fee-Only Registered Investment Advisor.  Now my core values are in line with the company I am with and I can be a true fiduciary all the time.

If you have any other questions on how Financial Advisors get paid, or if you are curious what category your advisor falls in, feel free to give us a call. 

Why Bonfire Financial?

The story behind the name.

 

A BONFIRE IS A FIRE OF CELEBRATION.

As I look back on my life some of the best memories and conversations have happened sitting around the fire.  I have been pumped up at a homecoming bonfire. Inspired by having deep conversations with friends about the future around the fire. I have felt close to my family on camping trips roasting marshmallows on the fire, and I have felt at peace sitting at a fire and staring at the stars.  Fire is life and all of these are moments are cherished.

 

Life is meant to be experienced.

 

That sounds good an all but I am a financial advisor and what does that have to do with financial advising?

I say everything!  Or at least it should.  Money is a vehicle to those experiences and the time to enjoy those moments.  The more money you have, the more experiences you can afford to have with your family and friends. You can give more to the causes you care about. The more peace of mind you can have.

 

I wanted to create a company that focused on that outcome, not just dollar figures.

 

Everyone has different goals and dreams and how they want to spend their life. What Bonfire Financial does is focuses on those and comes up with solutions to meet them as efficiently and as quickly as possible. My hope is that our clients will enjoy even more moments sitting around the proverbial bonfire celebrating their lives.

In the many years I have spent in the financial industry I have seen that most financial companies only focus on the bottom line. They priorities their shareholders’ value.  This means that the decisions made about the company are not necessarily about how to add more value to the client. They are often about how to improve the share price.  A good share price is nice but it comes at the expense of the client, and the employees of the company.

 

So why is Bonfire Financial different?

 

We created Bonfire Financial as a fee only registered investment advisory firm (RIA) so that we could be true fiduciaries to our clients. Further, all of our advisors are CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERs™  As such, we must do what’s in the best interest of our clients at all times.  In effect, putting our client first, which is where we think they should be. We have a belief that if we add more value to our clients than anyone else, not only will they be happy, the company will thrive.

So, as a constant reminder of these philosophies we came up with a name that reminds us to focus on the client’s outcome everyday so that hopefully soon we will all be sitting around the fire celebrating!

All the best,

Brian

President & CEO | Bonfire Financial

 

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