Frequently Asked Questions
A fiduciary is someone legally required to put their client’s best interests ahead of their own. They must disclose any and all conflicts of interest, and act with care and skill. Our clients enter into a consulting agreement with us that includes our commitment as fiduciaries when managing your assets or doing hourly consulting.
We serve a wide variety of clients. Common themes for our clients include:
- Dedicated savers with significant amounts of money saved for retirement (many of our clients invest $500,000+ with us)
- Younger clients with high income, many making $250,000+/year, who are busy but want to organize their finances and make smart money decisions
- Business owners who need full-scale wealth management spanning both business and personal financial planning
- Someone with a major life event that inspires them to reach out to us;
- Career changes (new job, retiring, termination, promotion, stock awards)
- Family changes (children, divorce/remarriage, spouse passes away)
- Coming into wealth (inheritance, settlement from a lawsuit, selling a business, winning the lottery, etc.)
Simplified, ask these questions:
- Are they not just a fiduciary, but also a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™? You want a knowledgeable, experienced, dedicated advisor who is held to the highest possible standard.
- Are they compensated in a reasonable, flexible, transparent way? Many advisors can only be compensated by managing your assets. We are completely flexible here.
- Are they an independent company? The largest firms tend to have upper-level management telling advisors what to recommend, even if it may not be best for the client. You want the only parties to be the client and the advisor. We deliberately founded Conestoga with this in mind.
- Will you make better decisions together?
For in-depth guidance on selecting a financial advisor and firm, The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors published an excellent resource available here.
A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional is someone who has demonstrated the commitment and obtained the experience to use the CFP® mark. A CFP® professional has demonstrated academic coverage of more than 100 integrated financial planning topics, passed rigorous examination requirements, satisfied work experience requirements, and agreed to the CFP Board’s Standards of Conduct and Code of Ethics. In addition, a CFP® professional must obtain at least 30 hours of continuing education every two years.
We love this question. More than 75% of our clients have worked with another advisor or firm prior to finding us, and more than 95% of our ongoing clients stay with us each year. We have a few ideas why:
- Our service is high touch, relevant, and personal. Everyone says that, however—thus, we would rather prove it than talk about it.
- Concentrated professionalism —few firms can say their advisors average over twenty years of experience with some of the best credentials in the industry. We often collaborate together for clients.
- We have all spent time either educating in a university setting or on a professional level training other financial advisors.
- We believe in being a community partner, donating, and volunteering for great causes and our local community.
- Each of us lives and breathes financial planning. We are driven by the opportunity to demonstrate value, developing meaningful relationships in the process. As a result, many of our clients are multi-generational—a tremendous source of pride for us at Conestoga.
- Our concierge, personal service is backed by the incredible scale and resources of Commonwealth Financial Network. More on them here.
- How we as a company are built: the advisors at Conestoga Wealth Partners partner with Commonwealth and are also able to provide financial planning services through Conestoga Wealth Partners as its own RIA. Translated, we are able to offer a wider range of services than most wealth management companies.
This might be our specialty. Whether you have an unusual family dynamic, large capital gains in investments, concentrated stock positions, a large business, significant real estate investments, unusual wishes for your money, or some other extenuating circumstance; we are flexible and experienced enough to provide guidance across your financial life. This is why many of our clients come to us having already worked with an advisor—they are often ready for a higher level of advice.
Our investment philosophy is based on the financial planning process. Your situation determines how you should be invested. We focus on maximizing after-tax returns while minimizing volatility, which often means a creative approach to investing. We also recognize that there is more than one way to reach your goals. To that end, we have several different strategies. For clients who want low-cost, passive investment strategies, we can help. For clients interested in socially and environmentally conscious investing, we can help. For clients in high tax brackets, we have tax-efficient investment strategies. For clients with concentrated positions in a single company, we will work with you to develop a strategy around the position(s). For those who have no idea and would lean on us as the experts, that is perfectly fine.
Clients initially experience our in-depth planning process, but it does not end there. We strive for timely, proactive communication. We do not call to simply tell you how your account is doing--we call with the intention of hearing how you are, checking on your progress with some of our recommendations, and sharing new planning opportunities that might be of value to you. If something new arrives in your life, we want to know. If you are thinking about anything in the financial arena, we are happy to discuss it. Seemingly small financial events often find their way into our conversations and lead to planning opportunities.
We will communicate however is best for you—email, phone calls, in-person meetings, and virtual meetings. We have even considered smoke signals and messenger pigeons.
When clients partner with us for advice and investment management, the cost is based on the value of investments we directly manage. Generally, annual costs are between 0.75%–1.5% each year. Costs are split into quarterly payments, and the percentage decreases as the amount we manage increases.
For example, a client partnering with us for financial planning and investment management of $600,000 could expect total costs to be $1,875 each quarter (1.25% each year). A client investing $1,600,000 could expect costs to be $3,600 a quarter (0.9% each year). We reserve the right to make changes to overall costs should someone’s situation be particularly complex or simple.
For clients working with us on an advice basis only, it is an hourly arrangement or flat fee. Our advisors cost $350 an hour, and the first meeting is generally complimentary. We often decide to offer financial plans for a flat fee to simplify the process and ensure clients can take their time through the planning process. Thorough financial plans frequently cost $3,000–$8,000, and complex situations may be more. After the initial meeting, we will provide a cost estimate to you.
We will not work with you unless everyone believes the value provided far outweighs any costs. It often makes sense to work on an ongoing basis as you implement our advice and your situation changes. We generally conduct reviews periodically after the initial planning is complete, depending on what the client prefers.
There are limited situations where it is in the best interest of the client to engage with us on a non-fee basis. This can take the form of commissions. Many financial planners disdain commission-style products, but there are occasionally tax and cost-conscious reasons to use them. There are also some things (for example, life insurance or long-term care policies) that tend to be offered via commission. No matter what, whatever we recommend is in the best interest of the client. You will always know how much you are paying.
- Objective, professional investment selection
- Distribution planning and asset movements
- Ongoing tax planning/tax-loss harvesting
- Risk and time horizon analysis
- Ongoing investment monitoring and performance reporting
- Rebalancing of accounts when appropriate
- Coordination between tax preparers, attorneys, mortgage lenders, bankers, etc.
RIA stands for Registered Investment Adviser. An RIA is a financial firm that advises others about investments and related topics, is paid for advice, and is subject to oversight by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or their equivalent regulator at the state level. The RIA has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the client when providing investment advice. Not all sources of investment advice are required to live up to this high fiduciary standard of care.
Conestoga Wealth Partners is its own RIA.
Because the securities and investment advisory industry is heavily regulated, we choose to partner with Commonwealth Financial Network, a Registered Investment Advisor-broker dealer. By operating as Investment Advisor Representatives under Commonwealth's umbrella, we can offer clients a full range of investment offerings--not just proprietary products. They also provide resources for advisors to remain compliant with the many regulations of the financial industry. They provide resources around technology, access to specialists on planning and investment-related topics, and assistance with speeding along paperwork and various other processes.