Prospective Client FAQ
At Alison Wealth Management, we believe in integrity, objectivity, competence, transparency, and professionalism.
Our personalized, dedicated wealth management approach is driven by our love for our clients and helping them live their best life by taking the stress of money management away.
As such, it is important to ensure we are truly the right fit for each other.
We feel this FAQ can help answer many of the questions that we have heard from prospective clients while evaluating our firm and determining if Alison Wealth Management is right for you.
What makes alison wealth management different from Other Investment Advisors?
At Alison Wealth, we provide you the convenience of one-stop to deliver coordinated investment management, tax management, financial planning, insurance & estate planning, retirement planning, and charitable giving strategies, ultimately providing you a household CFO to help maximize your wealth.
In addition to our financial, tax, & investment expertise, we have built a community of other successful, high net worth clients, providing us the benefit of sharing the experiences, issues, strategies, and opportunities they have faced to help bring customized solutions to you.
Chances are whatever you are going through in life, we have already helped clients navigate those same issues and can share the strategies and results.
In addition, Alison Wealth Management has a deep tax & investment expertise in company equity, helping our clients maximize their Restricted Stock Units, Incentive Stock Options, Non-qualified Stock Options, Restricted Stock Awards, as well as delivering advanced planning & strategies for business owners and founders, particularly in the tech sector.
Are you a fiduciary?
Yes, at Alison Wealth Management we uphold the fiduciary standard. Our advisors are CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and Investment Advisor Representatives, which bounds them to the Fiduciary standard through the CFP® Board Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct as well as the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. They are also Enrolled Agents admitted to practice before the IRS. As such, the National Association of Enrolled Agents adheres to a code of ethics to demonstrate honesty, integrity, and objectivity in all their professional actions and relationships.
What is a fiduciary and why is it important to work with a fiduciary?
A fiduciary is a person or organization that acts on behalf of another person or persons to manage assets. Essentially, a fiduciary owes to that other entity the duties of good faith and trust. The highest legal duty of one party to another, being a fiduciary requires being bound ethically to act in the other's best interests. Most advisors tailor their investment advice to individuals’ clients they work with, however, not all advisors are governed by the same standards. Fiduciary advisors work directly for clients and must place clients' interests ahead of their own, according to the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. For example, advisers cannot buy securities for their accounts prior to buying them for clients and are prohibited from making trades that may result in higher commissions for themselves or their investment firms. It also means advisers must do their best to make sure investment advice is made using accurate and complete information and that the analysis is thorough and as accurate as possible. Avoiding a conflict of interest is important when acting as a fiduciary, which means that advisers must disclose any potential conflicts. Advisors who are not a fiduciary, however, serve the broker-dealers they work for and must only believe that recommendations are suitable for clients. This suitability standard is set by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
What type of clients do you work with?
Our typical client has amassed 1st generation wealth ($3m+ net worth earned, not inherited) and they are looking for professional guidance to ensure they continue to maximize what they have accumulated, while avoiding costly mistakes along life's journey.
They are generally intelligent enough to manage their own financial affairs but lack the time or desire to truly integrate all areas of their financial, tax, and investment matters. They value having a holistic team of experts proactively working on their behalf to ensure opportunities are maximized and their goals are achieved, so they can spend their time enjoying the areas of life that bring them passion.
This community of other successful, high net worth clients provides us the benefit of sharing the experiences, issues, strategies, and opportunities they have faced to help bring customized solutions to you. Chances are whatever you are going through in life, we have already helped clients navigate those same issues and can share the strategies and results.
It also creates an incredible network of people we can tap into for specialized expertise needed to solve your issues.
By partnering together, we are dedicated to building meaningful relationships with our clients to better understand what they want and then bring expertise and strategies to implement for them. We don't try to be all things for all people, but rather all things for some people and it's all about right fit.
Client's generally being working with us because they experience a life event that creates challenges or opportunities to their financial situation, and they are looking for a professional to help guide them through the critical decisions they have before them. These events commonly include such things as starting a family, a new job or business opportunity, sudden wealth through company stock or options, feeling like you are paying too much in taxes, preparing for retirement, or a death in the family.
Some of the clients we meet with already have an investment professional, insurance agent, or tax professional, but they were looking for a holistic approach to the advice they are receiving to tie it all together into one holistic plan.
Explain your holistic approach?
With our holistic approach, we provide you the convenience of one-stop to deliver coordinated investment management, tax management, financial planning, insurance & estate planning, retirement planning, and charitable giving strategies, ultimately providing you a household CFO to help maximize your wealth.
For most individuals and families seeking advice on their financial, tax, insurance, investment, or legal needs, they are forced to meet with different professionals (investment advisor, CPA, attorney, insurance agent). Those professionals operate in silos and they don't all sit at the table collaborating on your behalf. In many cases each of those professionals are just trying to sell their individual products or services.
The end result is that you may have a lot of pieces of the puzzle (investment products, insurance policies, tax services, maybe even a will or a trust), but no picture on the front of the box to show how they all come together.
At Alison Wealth Management, we’re a little bit different from any other firm you’ve probably talked to in the past. Our holistic approach ensures all of these areas are coordinated and working together.
What is the minimum asset level for someone to become a client of Alison Wealth Management?
We work with clients that have a minimum of $1,000,000+ of investable assets and our typical client has a net worth of $5m - $100m+.
What are the typical costs I could expect to pay for an initial financial & tax Plan engagement?
Our financial & tax planning services starts at $995. Based on the complexity of the plan, that price could increase. As an example, a client with $5,000,000 in net worth could expect to pay between $2,995 - $4,995. 50% of the cost is due upon engagement with the remaining 50% due upon delivery of your plan. We generally begin each new client relationship under a financial & tax planning engagement.
This allows us to get to know each other, understand the resources you have accumulated, develop customized strategies and solutions we feel will enhance your situation, and show you the value in working with our firm for ongoing wealth management. If you decide you want to hire us to implement those solutions for you, the next step would be to become a wealth management client (which you can read about below).
What is included in the financial & tax planning?
Financial & tax planning is a dynamic process. From establishing an investment strategy, planning for retirement, strategizing how you fund your children's education, to optimizing your taxes, charitable giving, estate plan and insurance coverage, “finances” doesn’t mean just one thing for most people—and “financial & tax planning” means much more than just investing.
Bringing all the pieces of your financial life together is a challenging task. Although many professionals may call themselves “financial planners” or “tax advisors”, CFP® professionals and Enrolled Agents have completed extensive training and experience requirements and are held to rigorous ethical standards. Alison Wealth Management understands all the complexities of the changing financial & tax climate and we know how to make recommendations in your best interest.
Financial & tax planning takes the guesswork out of managing finances and helps you understand the implications of each decision you make. The average person faces an uncertain economy and more options for saving and investing than ever before. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or confused, unless you find a way to understand the big picture. Over the last 16 years, we have developed and refined a process that puts all the pieces of the financial puzzle together for clients as their life unfolds and needs evolve. As you go through our financial planning process, The Bucket Plan, you gain insight and education into what you own, how it aligns with your goals and objectives, and what you can do to improve your situation.
At the end of our process, you will receive a written plan of exactly how your assets should be positioned, our strategies and recommendations for investing, and financial modeling showing your progress towards achieving your goals.
Once we have documented your plan, we will discuss the implementation through our active wealth management services.
What is wealth management?
Wealth management is an investment advisory service that combines our holistic approach to financial services in order to best serve the needs of our affluent clients. It is a consultative process whereby we glean information about your wants and implement a strategy utilizing appropriate financial products and services. It is how we proactively implement tax, financial, investment, insurance, and estate planning strategies to addresses the ever-changing financial needs of you and your family.
Our wealth management service incorporates two parts: Conference Room Table Conversations and Kitchen Table Conversations.
We consider conference room table conversations all "business aspects" of the financially driven topics and tasks to maximizing investments, minimizing taxes, ensuring accounts are setup and titled properly, and any other financial matters that need to be considered.
The kitchen table conversations are those geared towards the purpose of your money and wealth. How your money aligns with your core values. The impact you want your money to have on future generations such as children and grandchildren, or on charity. These are less about implementation but rather about education, idea sharing, and strategic thinking.
As your wealth grows, the kitchen table conversations can be just as, if not more important than anything else. The truth is, around 70 percent of wealthy families lose their wealth by the second generation. Around 90 percent of families lose wealth by the third generation1. In addition, most parents talk little very little (or not at all) about their wealth to their children.
How do I work with Alison Wealth Management for wealth management services?
At Alison Wealth Management, we utilize the spectrum of financial disciplines available, such as financial and investment advice, estate planning, tax services, and retirement planning, to manage our affluent client's wealth for one set cost. That cost generally ranges between 0.30% - 1.0% of the assets we manage, depending on the amount invested. This fee is deducted right from your investment advisory account on a quarterly basis. For example, if the annual investment advisory fee is 1.0%, then 0.25% is billed quarterly.
We only assess our fee on the assets under management by our firm, but we do advise on all of our clients assets to help them achieve their goals and objectives. For example, if a client had $2,000,000 of assets under management with Alison Wealth Management, but also has $3,000,000 of company stock and 2 investment properties, we help advise on all their assets, liabilities, and opportunities even though we are only actively managing and billing on the $2,000,000 they have entrusted with us.
Do you offer tax preparation?
Yes! As Enrolled Agents admitted to practice before the IRS, our tax team has achieved the highest credential the IRS awards. Individuals who obtain this elite status must adhere to ethical standards and complete 72 hours of continuing education courses every three years.
Enrolled agents, like attorneys and certified public accountants (CPAs), have unlimited practice rights. This means they are unrestricted as to which taxpayers they can represent, what types of tax matters they can handle, and which IRS offices they can represent clients before. We offer tax preparation services to our wealth management clients at discounted rates.
For our wealth management clients over $1,000,000 of assets under management with our firm, we offer individual tax preparation at no additional cost.
What is the difference between tax preparation and tax planning?
Tax preparation is reactive, you are taking historical numbers and filing them into software correctly to determine how much you owe or receive back as a refund. Tax planning is proactive and is a year-round process. From ensuring a plan is in place to fund estimated tax liabilities, to monitoring investment transactions or stock options so they don’t cause the wrong type of tax, to managing proper investment types to maximize after tax returns, proper tax planning can add substantial wealth to you and your family over time. When clients engage with our wealth management offering, tax planning is included in our offering. We also offer tax planning a la carte at an hourly rate of $300/hour.
How often do we communicate?
We feel that communication is the cornerstone of a successful relationship. It is also a two-way street. We routinely meet with our clients at least twice per year, generally at the beginning of the year to map out the road ahead, as well as towards the end of the year to solidify any decisions that may have an impact on the tax year. In addition to our routine meetings, we pride ourselves on unlimited availability for our clients. We want to be a part of every major financial decision you face, as well as a trusted resource for things you just need a second opinion on. For this reason, we generally are speaking with most of our clients between 3 - 10 times per year.
In addition, we regularly communicate ideas, economic conditions, market trends, investment ideas, and other writings we feel will benefit our clients through our blog.
Lastly, we regularly conduct webinars for our clients on timely issues or opportunities we feel would be important to learn more about.
We are never more than a phone call, zoom meeting, or email way!
What is an Enrolled Agent?
Enrolled Agents (EAs) are federally-licensed tax practitioners who may represent taxpayers before the IRS when it comes to collections, audits and appeals. EAs are granted unlimited practice rights to represent taxpayers before IRS and are authorized to advise, represent, and prepare tax returns for individuals, partnerships, corporations, estates, trusts, and any entities with tax-reporting requirements. Enrolled agents are the only federally-licensed tax practitioners who specialize in taxation and have unlimited rights to represent taxpayers before the IRS.
What are the differences between Enrolled Agents and other tax professionals?
Only enrolled agents are required to demonstrate to the IRS their competence in all areas of taxation, representation and ethics before they are awarded unlimited representation rights to represent taxpayers before IRS. Unlike attorneys and CPAs, who are state-licensed and who may or may not choose to specialize in taxes, all enrolled agents specialize in taxation.
What is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™?
Although many professionals may call themselves “financial planners,” CFP® professionals have completed extensive training and experience requirements and are held to rigorous ethical standards. They understand the complexities of the changing financial climate and know how to make recommendations in your best interest. Unlike many financial advisors, CFP® professionals must develop their theoretical and practical knowledge by completing a comprehensive course of study at a college or university offering a financial planning curriculum approved by CFP Board.
CFP® professionals must pass the comprehensive CFP® Certification Exam, which tests their abilities to apply financial planning knowledge to real-life situations. CFP® professionals complete several years of experience related to delivering financial planning services to clients prior to earning the right to use the CFP® certification trademarks. When it comes to ethics and professional responsibility, CFP® professionals are held to the highest of standards, as outlined in CFP Board's Standards of Professional Conduct. They are obliged to uphold the principles of integrity, objectivity, competence, fairness, confidentiality, professionalism and diligence as outlined in CFP Board’s Code of Ethics. The Rules of Conduct require CFP® professionals to put your interests ahead of their own at all times and to provide their financial planning services as a “fiduciary”—acting in the best interest of their financial planning clients.
If you have any other questions, please feel free to submit them here:
1 The Williams Group, Preparing Heirs, 2003