If you have a financial planner, get your plan!

If you’ve been monitoring my FP columns and Wealthy Boomer columns the last week (see scrolling lists to the right of this blog), you’ll see a recent focus on financial planning. My Saturday column in the Financial Post simply reported on the annual symposium held last Wednesday by the Financial Planning Standards Council.

Even so, readers and even certified financial planners (CFPs) themselves seem to be surprised by the revelation by the cream of the FPSC’s own membership that many clients of financial planners don’t automatically receive a comprehensive financial plan at the start of the relationship. My blog on Monday shows some of the reaction, including from one RFP or Registered Financial Planner (who regard themselves as an advanced form of CFP). See IAFP.ca.

Financial planning is key element of The Findependence Day Model

Let me make it clear, as anyone who has read the book and this web site devoted to it, that I’m fully in favor of most investors engaging a financial planner, ideally a fee-only or at least a fee-based one, as opposed to one paid by commissions on product sales. I’ve argued that the heart of what I call The Findependence Day Model is a self-directed investor who buys ETFs or individual securities through a discount brokerage but ALSO receives guidance through a fee-only or fee-based advisor or financial planner.

In the book, there are not one but TWO characters who are CFPs: Theo, the grizzled veteran who has achieved his own Findependence Day and charges a low annual fee for clients who want to mimic his personal portfolio; and Bernie, the frugal financial planner who moonlights as a record store owner.

It should be obvious that if you’re paying someone to be your financial planner, then you should be getting a financial plan. If you’re paying on a fee-based model (i.e. asset-based), then the comprehensive financial plan should be included. If you’re paying on a fee-only basis, then it’s quite acceptable for the financial planner to invoice you for the preparation of this detailed plan prepared at or near the onset of the relationship.

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Improvements to this site

While this site was only launched in early September, this week we’ve made several changes, hopefully all for the better.

At the bottom right corner you can now see rolling feeds from my Twitter and Facebook accounts. This is in addition to the latest columns I write at the Financial Post and current entries at the Wealthy Boomer blog, which is housed at FinancialPost.com.

While we’ve not yet added feeds from the other two social media I participate in, you can also find me at Linked In and Google Plus (which I described here).

Cosmetically, we’ve added a bigger more visible button for those who want to order the book via PayPal. We’ve added some links under the Reviews & Media tab, including a fabulous new endorsement from none other than the Wealthy Barber himself: David Chilton.

We’ve also revised and expanded the entry describing the book: never easy in this hybrid category of financial primer/ fictional novel. (yes, the “financial novel” genre pioneered by the same David Chilton but see this entry for how Findependence Day has pushed the envelope on this genre.)

For those who have enjoyed the book but have trouble summarizing it to friends you think may be interested, my shorthand description is “a financial love story.” That’s how it’s described in one set of targeted Facebook ads that are currently running.

Findependence Day and Financial Literacy

With Financial Literacy Month coming up and then Christmas, I’d hope those who have enjoyed the book will spread the word.  Tell friends, neighbours and even local libraries about this unique book that helps raise the financial literacy of young people who are just entering the workforce and starting to form their own families.

Cartons of 36 are available at greatly reduced prices and you’d be surprised at who are buying entire cases: NOT the giants of the financial industry but everyday working people and parents. One dentist bought a case for his patients in British Columbia. Real estate agents are buying them, credit counselling groups, even business people from church.

Of course, the full-carton deal is also popular with individual fee-only and fee-based financial advisors: those I naturally consider the “good guys.” (and gals: the first to buy a case was a top-knotch Oakville advisor I first “met” on Twitter!) With Christmas coming, I’d remind financial professionals that if purchased in quantity, the book makes a less-costly client gift than a box of chocolates but will be timelier and longer-lasting.

U.S. e-book edition coming

One exciting development is that Findependence Day will soon be available as an e-book or tablet edition in a brand new U.S. edition. For now, the existing North American edition will be available only in the “dead-tree” edition sold on this site. As those who have read it know, the original edition provides both U.S. and Canadian financial content and is set in both countries. The new e-book is set only in the U.S. and provides a lot more information about IRAs, Roth plans, Social Security and other topics.

In response to reader feedback, the new edition will also feature a glossary and an end-of-chapter summary of what Jamie and Sheena learned. I have mixed feelings about this. I didn’t go that route initially because I didn’t want to break the “fictive dream.” On the other hand, since this book IS primarily a tool for raising financial literacy, once you’ve read it it’s useful to have a chapter summary at the end in straight prose.

There will be a few other surprises, so stay tuned. Remember, while I may only update this particular blog twice a week or so, the site as a whole is constantly changing because of the continual new content from my day job and social media activity.

As they say on 680 News radio, “the news is constantly changing, so check back three, four, five times a day.” Just kidding but hopefully there’s enough here to merit a bookmark and a look once or twice a week.

See you next time!

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How fee-only financial planners can help take the emotion out of DIY investing

Unlike the United States, where fee-only financial planners are ubiquitous (See NAPFA’s site here), they are a rare breed in Canada.

In fact, according to one of them, Jason Heath of Markham-based EES Financial, there are only about 150 true fee-only financial planners in all of Canada. Compare that to 75,000 who sell financial products of some kind, or to the 25,000 who call themselves financial planners, or the 18,000 who are CFPs or Certified Financial Planners.

Jason was the second half of my presentation at the MoneyShow in September. As I noted in this blog then — here — I view fee-only financial planning as one of three key strategic components underlying what I call The Findependence Day Model: the other two being use of an online discount brokerage and making exchange-traded funds or ETFs the core of a portfolio.

How DIY investors can avoid doing it TO themselves

Earlier this week in my Wealthy Boomer blog — here — I described a TD Waterhouse survey on discount brokerage use and emotions. I noted that while DIY (Do It Yourself) investors may think they can go it alone, at least in bull markets, in these kinds of violently volatile markets, it’s as likely they will do it TO themselves. A fee-only or even fee-based advisor will likely more than pay for themselves just by acting as a sober second opinion and restraining the self-directed investor from succumbing to emotion-laden decisions at what may ultimately prove to be the worst possible time.

But fee-only planners do a lot more than just pick investment funds. Heath’s list includes tax planning and preparation, insurance needs analysis, estate planning and settlement, retirement planning  and negotiating or advocating on behalf of clients.

In short, fee-only planners can help reduce both investment costs and taxes.  As I argue in the other blog, no matter how knowledgeable a self-directed or DIY investor is, it’s extremely hard to overcome the emotions inherent in participating in today’s financial markets.

Fee-only is not an interchangeable term with fee-based

I think we’re in for several years of turbulent or sideways markets. If you can’t find a fee-only planner it shouldn’t be difficult to find at least a fee-based one. Remember, the latter charge a percentage of portfolio assets, typically between 0.75% and 1.5% a year. By contrast, a fee-only planner or advisor charges by the hour, monthly or year, or by the project: such as designing a financial plan or conducting a comprehensive portfolio analysis.

Scrutinize this web site as the months go by and you should be able to identify some of the country’s better fee-only planners with whom I’m familiar. Heath is certainly one of them. You may be able to find a video interview I conducted with him when we originally launched Findependence Day.

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Evelyn Jacks recommends Findependence Day

I missed this when it came out a few weeks ago but tax guru Evelyn Jacks recently recommended Findependence Day in a recent roundup of financial books and online resources in a story entitled The Truth is Out There for Online Investors.

Here’s what the article said:

Evelyn Jacks is a fan of Jonathan Chevreau, who writes The Wealthy Boomer blog and Financial Post column, an informative look at finance, tax, wealth creation and investing issues. She also recommends Chevreau’s 2008 Findependence Day book, and works by author Gordon Pape (website, blog and extensive archives at www.buildingwealth.ca).

This shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise, given that Jacks is on the federal Task Force for Financial Literacy. Findependence Day is also one of several books (including her own!) sold through The Knowledge Bureau. Click here to buy various titles online.

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Time to add your 4th Social Network: Google Plus

Most visitors to this web site are no doubt well familiar with social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. Off to the right of this blog you can click on either to check out my activity on those two sites. I’m also active on Linked-In and for the past three years have been content to leave it at that. It’s a big time and energy commitment to get involved in these sites and I find they chew up a lot of time nights and weekends.

For that reason, I’ve been reluctant to jump on board every new social network that comes out. I didn’t join My Space and I only briefly tried out FriendFeed until it was acquired by Facebook. I didn’t join Google’s first attempt at social networking but have made the decision in the past week to join Google’s second try: Google Plus. I’m active there as Jonathan Chevreau.

Here’s my logic for “starting all over again,” despite a significant commitment to the other three sites, which I’ll continue to be active on. I always viewed Facebook as primarily for Friends and Family, although the Facebook account linked from this site is a newer account used for broader business and investment purposes. I view Linked In as essentially a rolodex of business contacts: the same people you’d normally exchange business cards with over the course of a working day.

Twitter I’ve viewed as a sort of free-for-all, open to the serendipity of random encounters. Of course, Twitter’s List feature allows you to drill down on very specific types of Tweeters. Since my focus is personal finance and financial independence, I maintain Twitter lists on everything from stocks to retirement to insurance and annuities to economics and politics, hedging and options.

So how is there room for Google Plus? Well, first of all, Google is a web powerhouse we all use anyway. Second, by being late to the market, Google seems to have figured out a way to leverage the experience of all who preceded it in social networking.

All my life’s a circle

The key concept with Google+ is Circles. The first “Circle” is your immediate family. The second is Friends: people you’ve actually met and with whom you have some kind of positive relationship. These two circles I view as equivalent to how I originally used Facebook:  a way to keep up with the family, to see what photos Daughter has posted while at college, etc.

The third Google+ circle is Acquaintances: people you’ve met that aren’t strangers, but nor are they bosom buddies. Probably, many people you know at work would be classified initially as Acquaintances, and hopefully after time some become real friends. But at least they’re real people who you’ve met.

The fourth circle at Google+ is “Following.”  These are people you’ve never met and with whom you have no relationship: many are celebrities or gurus of some sort who don’t know you from Adam. You’ve heard of them but not vice versa. So you “follow” them in the same way you’d follow someone on Twitter, fully expecting to be able to monitor whatever they’re putting out on their “public” feed. They may also be putting out more intimate content to their inner circles but alas, it is unlikely that we ordinary followers will be privy to those feeds. Such is the nature of the beast.

Finally, you can create and label additional circles, just as you might use Twitter lists to sort Tweeters into various categories. Since you’re currently reading a web site devoted to Financial Independence, you can be sure I’ll create at least one circle devoted to that topic.

It’s a big commitment to “start all over” with yet another social networking site. It’s still early innings for Google+. Through much of the summer, there was a three-month “by invitation only” trial but Google just threw it open to the rest of us a few weeks ago.

If you’ve not jumped aboard the earlier social networking sites, you might be comfortable starting now with Google + since almost everybody but the early-adopter stars are just getting up to speed and learning about it, building their circles from scratch. For those already active on the other sites, it remains to be seen how much Google+ displaces them. Personally, I expect to be a tad less active on Twitter and I was never hyperactive on Facebook to begin with.

Hope to see many readers of this blog over at Google +, in whatever circle makes sense.

And enjoy the rest of this beautiful Thanksgiving weekend!

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