Looking to improve your personal finances?
You have found one of the few practices in the country whose main focus is Fee-Only hourly financial planning, rather than selling products or managing assets. My practice primarily serves middle income families and individuals in their mid 30s to early 60s. Please note that as of 1/18, I am only accepting new triangle clients through Skype and FaceTime meetings. For Wilmington area clients, in person meetings as well as Skype and FaceTime are available.
Why do clients choose to work with me?Independent, Unbiased Advice
Clients want someone who is representing their best interests and giving them straight answers, not selling them a product. My goal is to keep as much of people's money in their pockets and out of the hands of financial institutions. Fee-Only compensation means no conflicts of interest from product sales or commissions.
Clients get the advantage of an extensive knowledge base resulting from 15+ years as a planner, Certified Financial Planner certification, and 2 degrees in finance. They want an advisor who has seen their situation, understands it, and knows how to improve it with effective strategies.
All planning work and client interaction is done personally by me. Clients are not passed off to junior associates. Each plan is custom written to be concise, unlike like many boilerplate plans that look like small phonebooks.
I can make improvements to most people’s finances that will directly recoup the cost of a financial plan in 1-2 years. Often, the reduction in annual investment expenses alone is greater than the cost of a financial plan. If you are paying a 5% (or higher) commission just to purchase a mutual fund or annuity, or are paying a firm 1% of your assets + another 1% in mutual fund fees to manage your investments, you are paying too much.
How Can Planning Help?
Increasingly, we are in charge of our own financial futures. I work with clients to understand where they are today, where they want to be in the future and how to get there. Financial planning increases the chances of reaching your goals, can reduce stress over money issues, and provides a feeling of financial security.
For people looking to get organized, optimized, and headed in the right direction. $200/hr. Typical Fees: Married couples $3,000. Singles and young married couples with less complex situations, $2,000.
Hourly Planning, Specific Topics
For people who don't need a full plan, and only want help with specific questions or elements of a plan. Typical requests are to run retirement scenarios or review portfolios and recommend changes. $200/hr.
What is Financial Planning?
Cash Flow & Net Worth
Determine if you are saving enough to meet your goals, help manage and structure your debt, and prioritize cash flow among many competing uses.
Evaluate life, disability, health, property, liability and other insurance coverages to see that you have adequate, cost effective protection of your assets and income.
Evaluate your options for reducing and deferring taxes
Determine how much to save for college, and the best way to invest the savings for the type of education you would like to provide for your children
Your goals, current situation, and many other factors will be analyzed and a realistic projection will be developed. You will learn what adjustments may be needed to become financially independent.
Create a personalized asset allocation plan that encompasses all of your accounts (Brokerage, Bank, IRAs, 401K/403B’s, Annuities, etc.) and is designed to minimize expenses, find a balance between risk and return, and simplify your finances.
Ensure that your wishes will be carried out while minimizing estate taxes, costs, and court intervention
Starting a Business, Handling Employee Stock Options, Small Business issues, Refinancing Home, etc.
Here are examples of some issues I have helped clients address
Wouldn’t it be great to have enough money to fully fund 401k/403bs, Roth IRAs, college savings plans, paydown all your debt, and do after tax investments? For many people, they don’t have enough to do all this and need help allocating limited cash flow.
Create a cash flow prioritization list including 401k/403b contributions, after tax investments, Roth IRAs, college savings, and debt paydown. This can be especially effective for people with variable pay, as they can go as far down in the list as their cash flow allows each year.Retirement
People need retirement projections not just to show when they can retire -- but also along the way to see the impacts of changing jobs or careers, relocating, changing to part time work, making spending changes, and choosing between public and private college funding for children.
Often I will run several retirement scenarios and list the results in a color-coded green/yellow/red table so people can quickly understand which options are feasible. This helps them understand the tradeoffs involved so they can make more informed decisions. The record so far is a table with 18 scenarios!Investments
The most common areas for improvement are: Reducing fund expenses and eliminating commissions so that your money works harder for you, consolidating accounts and investments so they are more efficient and easier to track, diversifying your portfolio to limit risk, and finding alternatives for excess cash which is earning close to zero percent.
I start with a color-coded account map that lists all of your accounts by type (joint/his/hers taxable, his/hers tax deferred, his/hers Roth), and then shows how to consolidate into the minimum number of accounts and funds needed to build a properly diversified portfolio with minimal expenses. This provides people with an easy to understand visual overview, in addition to the detailed account by account implementation instructions.
I have served in various corporate finance, planning, operations, engineering, and management positions prior to working as a financial planner. My fee-only financial planning practice was started in 1999. Working for clients with a wide variety of ages, incomes, net worths, and family situations has helped me build an extensive knowledge base.
Registered Investment Advisor, NC
MBA & BS Degrees in Finance
• Planning should be available to suit a wide variety of clients, not only high-income clients.
• The value added of planning is the process of integrating all of the different areas of your finances in order to help you understand where you are now, clarify where you want to go in the future, and make changes to get there. The value added is not in a financial product.
• Avoid financial arrangements and products which are too complicated to understand.
• Many investment and insurance products are too expensive, and take too big a bite out of your finances. This is especially true of cash value life insurance and annuities.
• Plans should be as straightforward and streamlined as possible.
• Many financial service companies use scare tactics, try to “confuse them with facts”, or try to appeal to people’s gambling instincts. This may be good marketing, but it’s a poor way to treat people.
• Asset allocation (diversification among several categories of U.S. Stocks, Bonds, Cash, International Stocks, Real Estate) is the most important investment decision you will make.
• Successful investing is not exciting. It’s the result of a having a plan that will support your goals and following a disciplined, systematic process over the long run. Attempts to “beat the market” by market timing, picking “hot” stocks/funds, chasing the latest trends, etc. have a much greater potential for underperforming the market than beating it.
FAQ - Frequently Asked QuestionsQ: Do you have net worth minimums?
A: There is no minimum net worth requirement for Financial Plans or Hourly Planning.Q: Do you offer a free initial meeting?
A: YesQ: Will I be working with you or an associate?
A: You will always be working directly with me.Q: What does "Fee-Only" mean?
A: Fee-Only means I do not receive compensation from a brokerage firm, mutual fund company, bank, insurance company, or any other source than you. I represent you and your interests when giving you advice. As a Registered Investment Advisor, I have a legal fiduciary duty to my clients. People working on a commissioned basis are agents for a financial institution, and their fiduciary duty is to that institution, not the client. Misleading marketing terms such as "fee-based," "fee-offset," "fee and commission" mean that an advisor is not always obligated to be acting in your best interest.Q: Can you describe how the financial planning process works?
A: The process typically starts with an initial meeting of around 1 ½ hours where we focus on your overall situation, goals, and needs. At the end of the first meeting, you will be given questionnaires to gather all of the detailed information needed to complete the plan. After completing the data forms, I will contact you to gather any additional data and get any clarifications needed to complete the plan. Typically, in 2-3 weeks there will be another 1 ½-2 hour meeting to review the final plan with you. Then, I will provide 30 days of unlimited assistance to help clients with implementation and follow up.Q: What should I bring to the initial meeting?
A: Just yourselves. The meeting time is best spent discussing the "big picture" issues such as your family situation, work, and overall goals. At the end of the initial meeting you will get a questionnaire that will gather all of the relevant financial details that are needed.Q: How often should I come back for updates/revised planning?
A: Clients come back when they feel the need to update, or when there is a substantial change in their financial situation.
Contact InformationPhone: 919-272-5054
Mailing AddressCraig Schmith, CFP®, MBA
2400 N.Lumina Ave., #1306
Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480
Meeting LocationsRaleigh: 5540 Centerview Drive, Suite 200. New Clients by Skype/FaceTime only
Wilmington: 1213 Culbreth Drive
As part of the planning process, personal and financial information about you will be collected. This information will be treated on a strictly confidential basis and will not be disclosed to any third parties except when: Authorized by you (i.e. you ask me to talk to your Attorney, Broker, CPA, etc.), As required by law (i.e. State Securities Commission), or In order to defend against charges of wrongdoing. Information is kept in physically secure locations, and computer files are encrypted as an additional security measure.
Craig Schmith is a Registered Investment Advisor licensed by the State of North Carolina. His firm will not solicit or accept business in any state in which it is not properly registered or otherwise qualified to conduct business by virtue of a state "de minimus" exemption. This World Wide Web Site does not provide investment advice, nor does it constitute an offer to provide investment advice, to any individual or any other entity in any state or other jurisdiction.