Why I Became a Fee-Only Financial Planner

by Eve Kaplan, CFP(R) Professional

Why does someone become a financial planner? Why did I?  Decades ago I thought I was headed toward a career in academia but l made a conscious decision to build a career in investment management and financial advice-giving instead. And I’ve never regretted this decision.

Here’s a brief tour of what I’ve learned along the way to becoming a Certified Financial Planner® and opening Kaplan Financial Advisors in Berkeley Heights, NJ 11 years ago.

Growing up in Seattle, my parents fought constantly over money issues. They got divorced after years of conflict and misunderstanding. Could their marriage have been saved if there was such a thing as objective financial planning available at the time? I remember my parents seeking advice from a retired accountant and an insurance agent – decent people but not trained to sort through financial planning issues for couples in times or peace or war. The effect of my parents’ divorce got me thinking about the role money plays in people’s lives  – both good and bad.

I studied history in graduate school and I anticipated completing my PhD and settling down to obtain tenure at a liberal arts college or university. There was just one small problem:  too many other people with the same idea and virtually no teaching positions.  So I opted to use my years of Japanese language study to shift to the business world. 17 years later, I’d built a career as an investment professional with jobs  in Tokyo, NY, the Netherlands and Singapore.  These were exciting years – including a few market meltdowns  (one should only hope this type of “excitement” comes along as infrequently as possible! As the old Chinese curse goes: “may you live in interesting times.”)

The only thing I missed was the “personal touch” of working one-on-one with individuals in a holistic manner — looking at every aspecrt of their financial lives, including their investments. I provided financial advice on a pro bono basis for some years. I loved doing this so much that I became a Certified Financial Planner® when I returned to the States and I started Kaplan Financial Advisors in 2004.

Financial planning/investment management is a 2-way street – I’ve learned from my clients, too. We all live complex financial lives;  it’s hard (virtually impossible) to have all the tools to make sound financial decisions if you don’t delegate to professionals. My goal is to pull together the accountant, estate attorney and insurance agent so we’ll all pulling together on behalf of the client.  I’ve learned to be a better listener. Money is highly emotional and private. Every client is different, and so is the advice I give to each client. It’s important to take time to get to know my clients and understand their priorities. Couples often differ in their attitudes toward financial planning and investing;  there is no “best way” or “only way,” but there is compromise.

Why “Fee-Only” financial planning? Fee-only advisors don’t sell products or split commissions with other professionals. The Fee-Only model provides the most objective level of financial advice-giving for my clients. There is discussion everywhere these days about hiring a fiduciary advisor who puts your needs before his/her own — the Fee-Only model facilitates this.

I love helping people and providing clarity in their financial lives. Clarity and perspective can strengthen individuals and families. In the end, delegating financial matters to professionals helps my clients devote their time and energy to more pressing matters:  themselves and their families.

 

© Copyright, 2015. Eve Kaplan. All Rights Reserved