What should I do with my money if Ward’s not here to advise me?
A couple of astute clients have asked “what happens if you stop doing this professionally/retire/die?” Here’s your guide as a Better Tomorrow Financial client on what to do if tomorrow you’re NOT a BTF client (whether you choose not to be or not!)
As of this article’s date, BTF is run by one advisor, me, Ward Williams. If business gets too busy for me to do it on my own, then another partner will be here to help with ‘succession planning’, but until then, here’s what you should know and what I advise. (I really hope to continue giving advice beyond the grave, but let’s not get too morbid or grandiose here…)
Let’s start with the worst case scenario first in terms of how difficult it might be for you to manage your money.
Scenario #1 – Ward dies
What will happen to my investments that BTF is managing?
In short, nothing right away, since the platform we use to hold and manage client funds will be here even if we aren’t, and unless your investment goals happen to change exactly when Ward died, you should be set up for success for at least several months– if not many years– longer until changes need to be made to your portfolio.
That said, reach out to Altruist here— email email@example.com— to see how to eventually transfer your funds to another platform (since, as of writing, clients can’t manage their own investments at Altruist; only advisors can.)
What brokerage should I choose to manage my money myself?
I recommend moving your accounts & investments as they are (‘in-kind’, which is a must for non-retirement accounts to avoid capital gains taxes) to a good brokerage that you’re already using. Vanguard or Fidelity are my top choices if you need a completely new brokerage, but if you’re set up already at Schwab or TD Ameritrade, they’re fine too. Avoid Robinhood.
What investments should I choose?
The three most important things when investing are:
- Minimizing taxes and fees: max out your workplace retirement plans, IRAs, and HSAs. Read this to see where your money should go. Choose low-fee index funds like those sold by Vanguard. Keep your expense ratios < 0.5%, ideally closer to 0.1%, and pay flat fees to advisors, or very low AUM fees (again, < 0.5%, the lower the better.)
- Asset allocation: ~100% stocks for money you don’t need for 5-10+ years, 100% short-term bonds for money needed between 1 – 3 or 5 years, and 100% cash for money needed 0 – 1 years.
- Diversification: avoid individual stocks, and minimize holdings of your employer’s stock if you get RSUs (sell them upon vesting and reinvest in broad-based index funds.)
The best and simplest way to do all of these things is to choose a Target Date retirement fund for long-term investing, like these from Vanguard or these from Fidelity (choose the lower-fee ‘index’ version of Fidelity’s if you can), and a short-term bond fund for emergency funds or other near-term goals like buying a home or paying for a wedding. College savings plans like a 529 have similar target date options.
Should I hire another advisor, if so, whom?
A bad advisor is worse than no advisor at all. If you at least have some idea of what to do, follow the steps I recommend above to invest simply on your. If you need help beyond that, pay a fee-only advisor either hourly or for a flat-fee (the same way you paid me!) to do financial planning as you need it.
My minimum criteria for your new advisor:
- They must be a fiduciary. All Registered Investment Advisors are fiduciaries by default. (BTF/Ward is a Registered Investment Advisor.)
- The must be a ‘fee-only’ advisor, which means they only make money from clients, and receive no commissions or any payment from a 3rd party what would prevent them from being objective. This rules out nearly all of the big boys like Edward Jones, Raymond James, Ameriprise, Equitable, and insurance companies. You can find fee-only advisors with CFPs at napfa.org.
- They must be willing to either give you advice on investments for a flat fee OR to provide on-going investment for a flat dollar fee, and NOT a percentage of AUM. If you do want to hire someone for a % of AUM, make sure it’s much less than the ‘standard’ of 1%. Roboadvisors change between 0.25-0.35%, but even that seems like too much to me for the limited service you get (just asset allocation usually, and no ad hoc advice.)
If you can’t find a suitable candidate, do the next best thing for investment management and just choose from these two investments for now.
Scenario #2 – Ward decides to stop working as a financial advisor
For me, financial advising is already my second career, the ‘passion’ one, not the one I wanted to exit early but did just for the money (*cough* Big Tech!) Therefore, I expect to be in the financial advising game for as long as I can, but, people change.
Before I’d decide to exit my practice, I’d likely first simply scale back, which would mean not bringing on new clients, and not replacing any that chose to leave of their own accord along the way. This is good for you, dear client, because it means nothing would change.
If, say, even my existing work load became too much, or I wanted to call it quits altogether, I would reach out to people I thought needed me less (or everyone in the case of quitting completely, which I have NO plans to do for the foreseeable future!) and help them move elsewhere, providing support at the very least to transfer and set up their assets elsewhere, but also likely suggesting another advisor if the client wanted one.
If I was completely shutting down, I am certain I would first do some legwork to find a few advisors that I trusted to take over my existing client base, and ‘interview’ each one in turn before recommending clients switch to them. I would never leave any client in the lurch if it was in my power not to.
In either case, you’d have plenty of warning and support through any transition away from Better Tomorrow to another firm or advisor.
Scenario #3 – Ward has to step away from the business temporarily
This might be under some extreme unforeseen circumstance like me having to care for an ailing/dying child, spouse, or parent that needed sudden, urgent, and long-lasting (> a few weeks to months) care.
In this case, I would level with all of my clients if I felt I would not have the time or mental energy to uphold my obligations to them, and offer them a menu of options, like: 1) switch to another advisor and I help you transition, 2) bear with me while I deal with life, in exchange for, say, reduced fees that reflect the reduced time I could devote to clients for the time-being, or 3) clients leave to manage things on their own per the guidance given in option #1 above (with, of course, the option to return anytime they wanted to if and when I was able to devote sufficient energy to my advising practice again.)
Those scenarios cover the possible paths as I see them, but please reach out if you have questions and I’ll add a FAQ or expand something here to answer!