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Bridging the Generation Gap: Using Philanthropy to Create Successful Families

Everywhere you turn, it seems like we are hearing about the differences in generations. It is almost certain that if I attend an educational conference, there will be at least one session about how to work with the next generation or how the next generation is different from all the other generations. These conversations are usually targeted toward the workplace, but I don’t hear many targeted toward the family. However, the differences apply across industries and families alike. Don’t we desire to better communicate at home and passing on education and skills in the home as much as in the workplace?

A few years ago, I came across Strangers In Paradise – How Families Adapt to Wealth Across Generations by Dr. James Grubman. Dr Grubman is a psychologist who works with individuals with wealth. Through his research, he has addressed the question of how families can share education and skills and better equip the next generation to inherit and sustain wealth. It is an interesting read that compares migrating to the “Land of Wealth” to migrating to a new country. He essentially divides the “Land of Wealth” into two groups: immigrants and natives.

Immigrants are those who create the wealth. They often come from humble beginnings and build their wealth by taking risks, like starting a business. Immigrants make up 80% of the inhabitants of the “Land of Wealth”. The remaining 20% are the natives. They are second and later generations who have grown up with more opportunities and experiences because of the family’s wealth. Many times, their parents have wanted them to have all the things they couldn’t have as a child. Natives are usually less experienced with risk and may not understand the amount of hard work that was necessary for the previous generation to generate the wealth.

As you may expect, each generation has its own struggles. The immigrants may struggle with trusting the next generation to carry on the wealth (or family business). They may also struggle with accepting and using the wealth, remembering the days before their success as hard and financially tight. This non-acceptance may lead to poor decisions and a tendency to give away wealth to others too easily. On the other hand, natives can struggle with a sense of entitlement due to a lack of understanding about the hard work necessary to create it. They may overspend or not consider the financial consequences of their decisions. Some may even feel pressured to carry on the previous generation’s values and desires because they do not think the wealth belongs to them.

Dr. Grubman argues that there are different skill sets that are necessary at each generation level in order for family wealth to continue. As you can see from the chart below, the skills needed grow with each new generation. This is why it is so hard to keep family wealth for the long term.

Adapted from Strangers in Paradise by James Grubman

Just like an immigrant to a new country, immigrants to wealth primarily transition into the “Land of Wealth” in one of three ways.

Avoidance

Some try to avoid the wealth and deny they are wealthy. They continue to live as they were before they earned their wealth, fearing the loss of relationships or judgements from their old circle of acquaintances. It is important to note that remaining frugal is not avoidance. Avoidance is an inability to accept the wealth or a strong desire to ensure others do not know about the wealth.

Assimilation

Some immigrants embrace wealth to its fullest. They may see it as a way to create happiness. While avoiders may not want to leave their old circles, assimilators may completely leave their old circles to create new circles with those who also have wealth. They tend to raise their own and their children’s standard of living drastically in an effort to fit into their new land and may do so at their own detriment. Some assimilators become more philanthropic, but may do so to appear wealthy, not necessarily because they feel a strong connection or desire to do good.

Integration

The last group of immigrants takes a more balanced approach and integrate their old and new relationships, communities, and values. They may look to their wealth to help them create new opportunities and experiences, but also remember the importance of saving and giving for purpose. They make a point to teach their children about their past while also giving them the opportunity to enjoy and learn from their new life of wealth. Integrators tend to be more adaptable.

Dr. Grubman further suggests that in order to allow for integration and to pass along and teach the skills needed at each generation, it is best to introduce the concept of family capital. He divides family capital into four subgroups. Human capital includes the values and personal attributes each individual brings to the family. Intellectual capital is the education and skills each member can provide. Social capital includes the family’s connections, community involvement, spiritual capital and philanthropy. Financial capital is the wealth and stewardship of the family.

By identifying the family’s capital, the family is better equipped to use the skills of each individual member for the betterment of the family unit and to recognize areas that may need improvement. Some examples of questions that can be asked to help facilitate a family discussion around capital includes:

  • Human Capital
    • What are the individual attributes of each family member, and how does the family use and share the skills of individuals within the family?
    • How can the family enhance members’ skills?
  • Intellectual Capital
    • What are the family’s core values and mission?
    • How is the family using each member’s education?
  • Social Capital
    • What/Who are the family’s connections?
    • What are the family’s philanthropic goals and how can each individual contribute to the goals?
  • Financial Capital
    • How can the financial capital be used to address the human, intellectual, and social capital?
    • How will stewardship be addressed?

Philanthropy is an excellent way to help address some of the questions above and to begin to build the skills that generation 2 and 3 need in order to inherit and pass on family wealth. For example, in order to begin to build human capital at an early age, parents could encourage their children to use their interests and abilities to volunteer or to look for volunteer opportunities that will enhance a child’s skills. Encouraging children to assist in determining the family’s giving goals, identifying which nonprofits the family should support, and what amount of support to give are ways to address the family’s capital while building leadership, financial, and relationship skills.

Regardless of your wealth level, improving your children’s and grandchildren’s financial and philanthropic literacy is important. We invite you to contact us if you are interested in learning more about ways to implement Dr. Grubman’s research with your own family.

In the meantime, here are some great, age-appropriate examples of using philanthropy to build your children’s skills that you can put into practice now:

Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center

I had the good fortune of serving in Leadership Huntsville/Madison County’s Connect Class 19 with Melissa Reynolds, Executive Director of Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center. I saw and felt Melissa’s passion around her work with Merrimack Hall, and I have had the joy of seeing the teams of entertainers from Merrimack perform at a number of events around town. They never fail to put a smile on my face and fill the house will applause.

Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center is a 501©(3) nonprofit organization located in the historic Merrimack Mill Village neighborhood of Huntsville, Alabama. Merrimack offers arts education and social and cultural opportunities to children, teens, and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Debra and Alan Jenkins purchased Merrimack Hall in May 2006 and established the organization as a 501©(3) nonprofit. After nearly $2.5 million in renovations donated personally by the Jenkins family, Merrimack Hall opened to the public in 2007. The facility is now home to a 300-seat performance hall, 3,000 square foot dance studio, and community spaces. Merrimack Hall utilizes these spaces as a venue for socialization and activities for the individuals enrolled in their outreach programs.

Merrimack Hall is home to The Happy Headquarters. The Happy Headquarters has three distinct components:

  • Happy HeARTs – A year-round after-school program of arts education that includes classes in dance, creative movement, choir, yoga, fitness, creative writing and multi-media visual arts
  • Happy Days – A day program for adults 18+ that is focused on arts-related activities, music therapy and life skills
  • Happy Camp – A series of half-day summer camps.

Merrimack Hall serves hundreds of children and adults with special needs diagnoses such as Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and a host of other conditions. They believe everyone deserves the right to participate in the arts regardless of their disabilities. Their Happy team can be found performing all over the city of Huntsville. Visit the Events section of their Facebook page for where you can find them next.

Merrimack Hall relies on the support of over 800 volunteers each year.  Volunteer coaches work with the students in their Johnny Stallings Arts Program (JSAP) to learn music, art, and dance.  More importantly, they serve as mentors and friends to their partners with special needs.  In each program component of JSAP, they encourage their volunteers to interact with students in a meaningful way to create lasting friendships.

For more information, visit them on the web at http://www.merrimackhall.com/, by calling (256) 534-6455, or by e-mail at info@merrimackhall.com.

A Farewell to Marty Whitman

Most of us vividly remember particular incidents in our lives. So it is with my chance meeting with Martin Whitman, founder and driving force behind the Third Avenue Value fund company. He passed away last week at age 93, and to quote his remembrance in last week’s Wall Street Journal, “He was an extraordinary investor, impassioned philanthropist, impactful teacher, and a true capital markets pioneer.” He was all of those things and more. In January of 1999 I took a week off from my day job to attend Benjamin’s Graham’s Columbia Business School course on value investing, resurrected after fifty years and taught by Bruce Greenwald. As you might expect, New York City in January is cold and dreary, and I found myself totally unprepared for the coursework coming at me. On the second day of the course, it was announced that we would have a mystery guest speaker to close the day with a reception afterwards. That speaker was Marty Whitman.

Keep in mind that January 1999 was close to the top of the internet bubble, which made his talk on deep value investing in both the stock and distressed debt markets even more interesting. Obviously, value investing was totally out of favor and Marty, along with other well-known value guys, like Jean Marie Eveillard of First Eagle and Robert Sanborn of Oakmark, was having a hard time and losing clients in that environment. During the reception in his honor, I introduced myself and was surprised how he drew me into a memorable conversation. He asked where I was from, and when I told him North Alabama, he asked where again. When I responded Gadsden, he laughed said he had been stationed at Camp Sibert just on the outskirts of Gadsden during WWII. I quickly understood that he had more knowledge of my hometown during that period than I did, and he enjoyed remembering stories from that time and place. He was very personable and also wanted to know about my family and career. When he found out that I was considering a career change, it became an even more important conversation. He urged me to consider an investing career and to follow a different path. I am forever grateful!

So, you might ask, “What is the relevance of this story”? First, Mr. Whitman was an extraordinary investor and seemed to be passionate about his craft and life in general. His style was global and always deep value. It led to him to outperform the stock market more often than not. Second, he was interested in people, who they were, and what they were doing. He didn’t have to talk to me, but his advice helped. And third, I very quickly learned that although over the years, he had been winning with deep value, that no style, even his, worked all the time. Flexibility and understanding of the rotations of the markets is very important, important enough to understand when and if his style or another style fits into a portfolio. In a 2015 interview he talked about how after the financial crisis, his funds struggled because the Fed’s quantitative easing and the lack of volatility. With the recent volatility, this investment climate appears to be returning to being a “stock pickers market.” Marty, along with many of his deep value peers, is undoubtedly smiling.

Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 Overview

We previously shared with you details from the U.S. House of Representatives’ Tax Cut and Jobs Act  and the U.S. Senate’s Joint Committee on Taxation’ version under the same bill name, Tax Cut and Jobs Act. After negotiations between the two governing bodies, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 is finalized and headed to the President’s desk.

Below is a brief rundown of some of the most notable changes for individuals and families. Most of the new tax laws are in effect for tax year 2018 and beyond unless otherwise noted.

Individual Income Tax Brackets

While House Republicans had proposed a four bracket system for income taxes, the TCJA retains the seven bracket system. However, rates and income thresholds have been adjusted. This means that almost all U.S. taxpayers will see a reduction in income taxes for tax year 2018. The current system’s income tax brackets are 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35%, and 39.6%. The new system sets the brackets at 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%.  The income threshold amounts will continue to adjust for inflation.

Brackets Individuals Married Filing Jointly
10% Up to $9,525 Up to $19,050
12% $9,526 – $38,700 $19,051 – $77,400
22% $38,701 – $82,500 $77,401 – $165,000
24% $82,501 – $157,500 $165,001 – $315,000
32% $157,501 – $200,000 $315,001 – $400,000
35% $200,001 – $500,000 $400,001 – $600,000
37% $500,001 + $600,000 +

The decreased tax rates are not permanent, however, as there is a sunset provision. After 2025, without future legislation, the tax rates would increase. The Senate and House will be faced with deciding the fate of the sunsetting provision in future years.

Changes to Exemptions and Standard Deduction

One of the most notable pieces of the TCJA is the elimination of personal exemptions. The new legislation instead combines personal exemptions and the standard deduction into one single increased standard deduction amount. The new standard deduction amount is $12,000 for individuals, $24,000 for joint filers, and $18,000 for head of household. The additional standard deduction of $1,250 for blind individuals or someone over age 65 remains.

For larger families, this will mean an overall decrease in the combined amount when compared to the current combination of exemptions and standard deduction. However, the TCJA increases and expands the Child Tax Credit, from $1,000 to $2,000 per child, which should more than offset the loss of exemptions in most families. High income earners, $200,000 for individuals and $400,000 for couples, begin to phase out of the Child Tax Credit.

Changes to exemptions, standard deductions, and the child tax credit are subject to the 2025 sunset provision.

Changes to Itemizations

The Pease limitation on itemized deductions has been repealed. The Pease limitation is a reduction in certain itemized deductions that takes affect depending upon your filing status and income level. Once your income crossed the threshold amount ($261,500 for individuals and $313,800 for married filing jointly in 2017), itemized deductions would begin phasing out. The rule acts as a surtax on high income earning households. The repeal will result in a 1% to 1.3% reduction in taxes for high income earners. The sunset provision applies to this repeal, meaning the Pease limitation could return in 2026.

Additional changes to itemizations include:

  • Elimination of miscellaneous itemized deduction, including tax preparer fees, investment management fees, and unreimbursed employee business expenses.
  • $10,000 cap on combined state/local income tax and local property taxes.
  • Deductible mortgage interest only on the first $750,000 of new principal debt. Mortgages taken prior to December 15th, 2017 retain deductibility on the first $1,000,000 of principal debt.
  • Elimination of home equity indebtedness interest deductibility.
    • If a home equity loan is used to substantially improve the home, it is treated as “acquisition debt” and is still deductible.
  • Medical deductions were not repealed. Instead, the deduction was temporarily reduced to 7.5% of AGI for tax year 2017 and 2018. It reverts back to 10% of AGI in 2019.

Charitable Donations

Current rules limits donations to public charities to 50% of your AGI. The new rules increase the limitation to 60% of AGI making it easier to claim larger contribution or use carryforward charitable deductions.

The charitable mileage rate, which was expected to be increased, remains unchanged at 14 cents.

Capital Gains and Dividend Rates

There had long been concern that the 0% long-term capital gains and qualified dividends tax rate would be eliminated, but the TCJA retains the three-bracket system of 0%, 15%, and 20%. Under the old system, taxpayers in the 10% and 15% income tax bracket had a 0% capital gains tax rate. With the new tax bracket system, the capital gains rate is tied to an income threshold amount rather than the brackets. Thus, individuals with $38,600 and couple with $77,200 or less in income will have a 0% capital gains tax rate.

Instead of having the 20% capital gains tax rate take effect at the highest tax bracket, it now takes affect at the threshold amounts of $452,400 for individuals and $479,000 for couples. This means some tax payers in the new 35% income tax bracket will find themselves in the highest capital gains tax rate.

Unfortunately, the 3.8% Medicare surtax on capital gains and qualified dividends still applies. Individuals with income over $200,000 and couples over $250,000 will face the additional surtax. This effectively retains a four tax brackets of 0%, 15%, 18.8%, and 23.8% for capital gains and qualified dividends.

No Repeal of the Alternative Minimum Tax

The original bills by both the Senate and the House proposed a complete repeal of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) system for individuals. Unfortunately, in negotiations, the AMT survived although the exemption amount has increased.

This difficult-to-understand supplemental income tax system dates back to 1969 and was originally designed to ensure wealthy taxpayers paid their fair share of taxes. Yet, over the years, the AMT began affecting more and more middle-income taxpayers. With the exemption amount increased to $70,300 for individuals and $109,400 for joint filers, fewer middle class taxpayers will be affected.

Kiddie Tax Rules

The Kiddie Tax is a tax on unearned income for children under the age of 19 or full-time students under 24. In 2017, tax law allowed for the first $1,050 of unearned income to be tax-free, the following $1,050 taxed at the child’s rate, and any income above that amount taxed at the parent’s rate. TCJA changes this so that the any amount above $2,100 is taxed at trust tax rates, not the parent’s tax rate. This is significant because the highest trust rate is 37% at ordinary income of only $12,500. It would take total income over $600,000 at the parents’ joint rate in order for the 37% tax bracket to apply.

Estate and Gift Taxes

The estate and gift tax exemption has effectively doubled allowing an individual to pass $11.2M and couples to pass $22.4M estate tax free. Portability of the exemption survived; if the first spouse to die doesn’t use the exemption, the surviving spouse can port the unused amount to themselves. The top rate remains at 40%. Some early discussion indicated that the estate tax could be repealed at a future date, but the repeal did not make it into the legislation. These changes are subject to the 2025 sunset provision.

Trust and Estate Tax Brackets

Tax brackets for trusts and estate were compressed, much like the individual income tax rates, leaving just four tax brackets – 10%, 24%, 35%, and 37%. However, the income thresholds tied to those tax rates did not change very much. Thus, it only takes $12,500 in trust or estate income before hitting the top bracket.

Education Planning

While a number of changes were expected to affect education planning, such as repeal of the Coverdell ESA plan and education tax credits, most did not make it into the final bill. However, one change is significant. You can now use up to $10,000 per year from 529 plans for private school expenses for elementary and secondary education. Previously, only the Coverdell ESA could be used tax-free for private educational institutions.

Alimony Credit

The bill eliminates the tax deduction for alimony paid and no longer taxes the alimony received for divorces finalized after December 31st, 2018.

Miscellaneous

  • Deductibility of student loan interest and out-of-pocket classroom expenses for teachers remains unchanged.
  • The mandate requiring that individuals retain health insurance has been repealed for 2019 and beyond.
  • No changes to 401(k) plans, IRAs, and Roth IRAs. However, the ability to recharacterize a previous Roth conversion has been repealed.
  • There are new rules for deferred compensation plans and equity granting plans, like stock option plans, that could result in funds being taxed earlier than under current plan designs. As a result, there may be changes to current plans.

The Women’s Endowment – For Women By Women

The Women’s Endowment – For Women By Women

The Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville recently launched a new initiative established for women by women. The Women’s Endowment “is Huntsville’s first permanent grantmaking endowment that seeks to make a positive difference in the lives of women and families across a broad spectrum of issues that impact the Quality of Life in our community.”

The endowment’s goal is to offer larger annual gifts or multi-year commitments that fund initiatives “that address systemic change and that create positive and measurable impact for women and families.”

Longview’s Jessica Hovis Smith is proud to serve on the Women’s Endowment Advisory Council. The Council is made up of women leaders from the community acting as volunteer stewards for the Endowment.

The Community Foundation celebrated the launch with the Legacy of Love event. Click here for photos from the event.

Click here to learn more information about the Women’s Endowment, including answers to frequently asked questions.

Contact us if you are interested in learning more or getting involved.

2017 Medicare Annual Open Enrollment

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That’s right, Medicare’s annual Open Enrollment Period (you thought I meant the holidays, didn’t you?) Move over sweater weather, turkey and dressing, and time spent with loved ones. Here we are in the middle of that special time of year when current Medicare enrollees can make changes to their existing coverage for the following year. While the complexities of Medicare have been known to make enrollees feel nuttier than your favorite aunt’s fruitcake, we hope to simplify Open Enrollment for those currently enrolled in Medicare and allow you to ring in 2018 feeling confident in your health care coverage.

What is Open Enrollment?

Medicare’s annual Open Enrollment Period (also referred to as Fall Open Enrollment) extends from October 15th through December 7th and allows enrollees to make changes to their coverage for the coming year.

Changes Allowed During Open Enrollment

The chart below summarizes the coverage changes that are allowed during Open Enrollment. Note that any changes made during Open Enrollment will not become effective until January 1, 2018.

Current Coverage New Coverage
Original Medicare Medicare Advantage
Medicare Advantage Original Medicare
Part D A different Part D plan
Medicare Advantage A different Medicare Advantage plan

If you have been unable to acquire a standalone Part D plan or drug coverage through a Medicare Advantage plan because you did not enroll in drug coverage when you should have, note that during Open Enrollment you can also acquire prescription drug coverage for the first time.

Important: Proceed with caution if you are considering a change from a Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare and also plan to enroll in a Medicare Supplement Plan (also referred to as Medigap). Those who enroll in a Medicare Supplement Plan during their initial enrollment period (i.e. within six months of enrolling in Medicare Part B) are allowed to enroll in a Supplement plan without underwriting. However, applying for a Supplement plan after your initial enrollment period has passed could subject you to higher premiums, waiting periods, or a denial of coverage based on pre-existing health conditions.

Reviewing Your Current Coverage

If you have a Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage Plan, you should have received a Plan Annual Notice of Change from your plan provider in September. The Notice details information about your plan for the coming year, such as changes to premiums, coinsurance, or prescriptions drugs covered under the plan’s formulary. You should review the Notice to understand how changes to the plan will affect you. Even if you feel that your current coverage will continue to meet your needs in the coming year, it may still benefit you to research other available plans. You may find that changes made to another plan would result in even better coverage for you.

Researching Other Plans

Prior to your search, gather information pertinent to your health care needs that will assist you in evaluating other plans. Prepare a list of health care providers, preferred hospital, preferred pharmacy, and drugs that you currently take (including specific drug names, dosage, and frequency).

Medicare’s Plan Finder tool will allow you to search for standalone Part D and Medicare Advantage plans (referred to as Medicare Health Plans on the site) with or without drug coverage that are available in your area. You should also input your specific prescription drug information to identify plans that cover the drugs that you take. When reviewing plans, consider factors such as premiums, deductibles, coinsurance costs, and whether or not your health care providers are included in the plan’s network (if searching for Medicare Advantage Plans).

The Plan Finder will also provide each Part D or Medicare Advantage plan’s star rating out of five stars. The ratings are provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and are based on five criteria that include customer service and member experience.

If you identify a plan or plans that may better suit your needs, it is best to contact the plan directly to confirm the information found on the Plan Finder site prior to enrolling. You can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan or Part D plan via the Plan Finder web site, or via telephone by calling the plan, or by calling Medicare at 800-Medicare (800-633-4227).

Finding Extra Help

You can visit Medicare.gov for more information or call Medicare’s toll-free help line at 800-Medicare (800-633-4227) for additional information. Each state also has a State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) with counselors who are available to provide free, one-on-one assistance to Medicare beneficiaries and their families. Visit www.shiptacenter.org to search for contact information for your state’s SHIP.

Next Steps

If you decide not to make any changes to your coverage, you do not have to take any action and will be automatically re-enrolled in the same coverage for next year. If you do decide to change plans, it is not necessary to contact your Medicare Advantage or Part D plan provider or Medicare to notify them that you are cancelling your existing plan. You will be automatically disenrolled in your current Medicare Advantage or Part D plan before your new coverage becomes effective on January 1st, 2018.

What is Fee-Only, Fee-Based, and Commissions?

An October 2017 article published by Wall Street Journal columnist, Jason Zweig, highlighted the growing confusion around the term “Fee-Only” when referring to how financial advisors are compensated. The article, “Some Fee-Only Advisors Charge Commissions Too,” made note of several concerns:

  • Disciplinary actions by the CFP Board of six allegedly Fee-Only advisors who were receiving commissions
  • A 2013 investigation showing 11% of CFP® advisors at brokerage firms receiving commissions while branding themselves as Fee-Only
  • Discrepancies on firm ADVs versus their official brochure materials about their compensation method
  • Advisory firms branding as Fee-Only, when their advisors may not be

Longview wants to make it very clear. Longview Financial Advisors is a 100% Fee-Only firm. Every Longview advisor is a Fee-Only Advisor. We believe this is the most transparent and objective way of serving our clients with fewer conflicts of interest.

With the confusion around terms, what exactly does Fee-Only and Fee-based mean?

What is Fee-Only?

As Zweig noted in the article, Fee-Only has no “official regulatory or legal definition.” Below are a few definitions offered by several credible organizations and sources.

The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) is the country’s leading professional organization of Fee-Only advisors. NAPFA offers this definition:

Fee-Only financial advisor is one who is compensated solely by the client with neither the advisor nor any related party receiving compensation that is contingent on the purchase or sale of a financial product. Neither Members nor Affiliates may receive commissions, rebates, awards, finder’s fees, bonuses or other forms of compensation from others as a result of a client’s implementation of the individual’s planning recommendations. “Fee-offset” arrangements, 12b-1 fees, insurance rebates or renewals and wrap fee arrangements that are transaction based are examples of compensation arrangements that do not meet the NAPFA definition of Fee-Only practice.

The CFP Board, governing body for the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification, offers this:

A certificant may describe his or her practice as “fee-only” if, and only if, all of the certificant’s compensation from all of his or her client work comes exclusively from the clients in the form of fixed, flat, hourly, percentage or performance-based fees.

Finally, Forbes contributor, David John Marotta, provides this:

Fee-only financial planners are registered investment advisors with a fiduciary responsibility to act in their clients’ best interest. They do not accept any fees or compensation based on product sales. Fee-only advisors have fewer inherent conflicts of interest, and they generally provide more comprehensive advice.

In a nutshell, a Fee-Only advisor does not sell products. They do not receive commission. There are no trails, kickbacks, referral fees, rewards, lockup periods, or surrender charges of any kind. No compensation is received from mutual fund companies or insurance companies. A Fee-Only financial advisor’s or firm’s compensation is derived directly from their clients. 100%. That’s it.

Furthermore, Fee-Only financial planning goes hand-in-hand with being a fiduciary. A fiduciary standard, when applied to a financial advisor, says the advisor has a legal duty to act in good faith and trust, placing your best interest above that of the advisor or their firm. The advisor is ethically and legally bound to act in this manner. You, as a client, must be made aware of any conflicts of interest that arise.

What is Fee-Based?

The term Fee-Based has muddied the compensation waters, and it is often time used by brokerage and insurance firms. The term sounds very similar to Fee-Only so it’s no wonder consumers are confused by the terminology, but there is a very real difference in Fee-Based vs. Fee-Only.

Fee-Based advisors can receive commissions, and those commissions are often referred to as “fees.” The commissions often come from sales of financial products, such as life insurance, annuities, and load based mutual funds. This creates an inherent conflict of interest. For example, is the product being offered to you the best fit for your financial need? Fee-Based advisors must be transparent in how those fees are received and are still required to act as fiduciaries.

What are Commissions?

A commission is a charge when purchasing an investment or selling a product, such as a mutual fund or annuity. A mutual fund commission is usually referred to as a load, and the load may be assessed when the buy is made (front-end load), when the security is sold (back-end load), or while the security is being held (level-pay load). For example, if buying 100 shares of a mutual fund at a price of $50 with a 4% front-end load fee, the investor would pay 4% of the $5,000 total cost, or $200, to the broker/advisor.

Receiving commissions does not prevent an advisor from acting as a fiduciary, but brokers only have to meet a suitability standard. This means the investment or product only needs to be suitable for the client’s financial need. The advisor only has to reasonably believe that the product meets the need; it does not have to meet the fiduciary standard thus creating an inherent conflict of interest between the broker and client.

In conclusion, there are advisors who fall under each of these three compensation models that act in a fiduciary manner. Unfortunately, there are advisors under each model that also do not honor the fiduciary standard. It’s up to you as the consumer to ask the questions about how your advisor is compensated.

 

Disclaimer

Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this newsletter or post will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful. Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter or post serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing. Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the newsletter or post content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available for review upon request.


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