Wednesday, June 1, 2011

No apologies: we eliminate pain for our clients

By Dan Danford, Founder and CEO of Family Investment Center

You’ll hear no apologies from me.

I’m extremely proud of what we do for our clients. We bring experience, expertise, objectivity, and compassion to each client. They don’t always see (or appreciate) everything we do for them, but that’s okay. Much like physicians, we can stop it from hurting, even if our clients don’t understand all the intricacies of modern medicine.

In its simplest form, that’s precisely what we do. We stop it from hurting. Worried about retirement? I’ll show how to pay for it. Worried about sending children or grandchildren to college? I know the best ways to save and pay for education. Worried about the high costs of long-term care or medical expenses? I have some helpful ideas about those, too.

Are you sleepless because your investment portfolio is too volatile? I can minimize risks without losing solid investment performance. Bothered by a lack of diversification? We know how to fix that.

Are you concerned that you might be paying too much for investment services and/or advice? We have extensive research about fund expenses and costs, including sales loads and distribution fees. In fact, we track over 27,000 different mutual funds or share classes and a wide variety of other common investments. We absolutely know what things cost.

Truly, the most valuable service we provide is comfort; that is, the ability to quit worrying and fussing with finance and investments. As fiduciaries, we have a legal obligation to work for each client’s best interest. Decisions we reach for and with clients reduce their decision-making burden.

Sometimes people arrive at our door with a history of painful investment relationships. These people are understandably skittish about accepting our help. But the skittishness evaporates when they realize that we are working exclusively for them. Our commission-free posture puts their interest first, and it’s both unique and welcome in the marketplace.

That may seem simple, but it’s not small. People today are inundated with noise. It comes from a variety of sources and features a lot of contradictory data. Much of it comes with a distinct point of view that may or may not suit their situation. Since we work with hundreds of clients with varied ailments and circumstances, we sort through this distracting clutter.

Could folks research and implement healthy solutions by themselves? Sure. But even after considerable study, they can’t bring our experience, expertise, and knowledge of diverse situations to bear on an issue. We do things for them that they simply can’t duplicate on their own.

As advisors, part of our challenge is structural. What we do is both very simple - and at the very same time - quite complex. Clients can easily see the simple things while the subtleties often hide in distant shadows. Sometimes the most critical issues (risks, costs, performance claims) are hardest to see. Distant benefits might seem hazy.

This clouded view is enhanced by the media. Most personal finance writers support the notion that investors should “go it alone.” And I’ll concur that most people are capable of basic investment and finance decisions. But that’s similar to suggesting that I should change the oil in my cars. That’s inconvenient for me, potentially hazardous, lengthier (including trips to the car parts store and a place to recycle used oil), and – ultimately – more expensive. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Why would I choose to change my own oil?

Truthfully, people I talk with simply don’t want to do it themselves. When that’s the case, the only relevant issue is how to find a competent advisor who offers both comfort and value. If we can answer those two needs, our clients and our firm will prosper. It’s a healthy, beneficial relationship for both.

And, modestly, we provide highly skilled services for an exceptionally reasonable price. Comparatively speaking, we charge very little for professional services. Attorneys? They charge hundreds of dollars per hour, and up to thirty percent of a settlement or awarded damages. Architects? They usually bill fifteen percent of a project’s total cost. Realtors®? A normal commission is six or seven percent of a property’s selling price. Our modest investment fees pale by comparison.

Professional insight adds tangible value. Specialized knowledge about IRA withdrawal strategies might save $20,000 in taxes, or add $50,000 in tax-deferred growth. Is a few hundred (or even a few thousand) dollars a fair price for that reserve of knowledge? Think how much suffering that much money might save thirty years down the road. Similar examples abound.

That’s it. We eliminate pain for a fair and reasonable price. A big part of our job is to know about products, fees, strategies, and options in the marketplace. Routine tools and skills we employ are analgesics for our client’s pain. We ease decision-making and simplify life. We’re worth every penny.

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