The other day, I was talking with an acquaintance. He is working on his Management in Engineering Degree amongst other things. After talking with him briefly about the mobile oil change business, it occurred to me that maybe someone needs to create an Oil Change Robot system to change oil in car fleets such as rent-a-cars, truck fleets, GSA car lots, and US Military vehicles to save money on training, logistical costs, and Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force mechanics. Okay so, let’s talk, I mean is this even possible?
Why sure it is, in fact one oil company has already designed a robotic re-fueling system, so you can just pull up to the pump, and the system opens the little door, unscrews the gas cap, aligns it’s arm, puts in the nozzle and then pumps. When completed, it removes the nozzle, screws back on the gas cap, and gently closes the door, and you are done. Today, you would just hold up your iPhone and wave it over the payment system, and you are paid, fueled, and basically good to go right? Sure, why not.
Indeed, out think tank was discussing this the other day, as such a system could be used to refuel robotic drones, meaning no people would be needed for the flight-line in some foreign country to refuel, or tie down the aircraft, robotic systems would do all the work. Too far-fetched you say, baloney, even Google has a self-driving robotic car now. Yes, it did get into an accident, but guess what? It was the other cars fault – the one driven by a human!
You may think this is silly for a mobile oil change rig, but I think it’s beautiful and having been in the car washing business, I can tell you that it’s mostly robotic using robotic sensors such as sonar, electronic eyes, optical flow sensors, and infrared systems in a few cases. In the case of a fleet of vehicles, it’s simple, all the vehicles are unlocked, and everything is in the same place, the oil change robot can just drive along and do the vehicles without human labor, no more worries about health-care costs, pensions, workmen’s comp, training, scheduling, human resources, work place injuries, strikes, or shortages of qualified technicians you see?
The original systems might be costly at first, but the number of companies, agencies, militaries, and fleet owners that would buy them could generate significant advantages in economies of scale to mass produce these systems. So, why not I ask? Please consider all this.
There are several different types of financial advisers in the UK and, if you are currently looking for financial advice, it is important to you that you understand the main differences between them. Just as not all medical professionals are the same – there are paramedics, auxiliary nurses, nurses, GPs, registrars and consultants, for example – neither are all financial advisers the same!
Types of Financial Advisers
There are three main categories:
Tied advisers, who usually work for a bank or an insurance company. They are only authorised to advise you on their own company’s products;
Multi-tied advisers, who are able to offer advice from a limited set panel of companies;
Independent financial advisers (IFAs) who will offer you unbiased advice from the whole of the market.
The Importance of Independent Financial Advice
IFAs differ from tied and multi-tied advisers, not only because they offer whole of market advice, but also because they do not represent a company – they act as the representative of their client, and it is their primary responsibility to act in the best interest of their client at all times. IFAs must also offer clients the option to pay by fee, rather than commission from the product provider.
Once an IFA has carried out a detailed fact find with you, so that he (or she) can fully understand your current financial situation, as well as your financial needs and objectives, he will go away and do some research to find the most suitable financial products for you. He will then present his recommendations to you at a follow-up meeting.
Minimum qualifications: All advisers giving investment advice must have the minimum qualifications of the Certificate in Financial Planning (CertPFS) or its predecessor the Financial Planning Certificate (FPC) from the Chartered Institute of Insurance (CII), or the Certificate for Financial Advisers (CeFA) from the IFS School of Finance.
Higher qualifications: By the end of 2012 advisers who wish to continue to give investment advice must have achieved higher qualifications – either the Diploma in Financial Planning (DipPFS) from the CII, or the Diploma for Financial Advisers (DipFA) from the IFS. Roughly one third of all financial advisers in the UK are currently qualified to this level already. The others are studying hard!
Certified Financial Planner: This is an internationally recognised qualification for financial advisers all over the world. In the UK it is awarded by the Institute of Financial Planning (IFP). To become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) a financial adviser must first hold the DipPFS, or equivalent qualification, must have at least three years’ relevant financial services experience and must have worked on a case study to produce a detailed financial plan of a sufficiently high standard to be passed by the IFP examining board. They must be members of the IFP, abide by a strict code of ethics, and commit to continuing professional development (CPD).
Chartered Financial Planner: To become a Chartered Financial Planner – the pinnacle of the financial planning profession – an adviser must be a member of the Personal Finance Society (PFS), have a minimum of five years’ relevant experience and commit to continuing professional development. He or she also has to gain the CII Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning, which is the highest qualification currently awarded by the CII to financial advisers. The CII operates a points system for its Financial Services exams. For example you must achieve 70 points to be awarded the Certificate in Financial Planning and a further 70 points to be awarded the Diploma in Financial Planning, making a total of 140 points. However, to be awarded the Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning the candidate has to gain 290 points – more than four times the minimum requirement for financial advisers!
CFPs and Chartered Financial Planners are the elite of the financial planning profession. They have demonstrated, not only advanced technical knowledge and financial planning expertise, but also an exceptionally high level of commitment to their clients by the time and money they have spent in attaining their qualifications to enable them to give the highest level of advice.
Do financial advisers’ qualifications matter? Certainly there are many excellent advisers who do not have higher qualifications (yet). However, if you had a serious illness, you would expect your doctor to refer you to a highly qualified and experienced consultant would you not? CFPs and Chartered Financial Planners are like the consultants of the financial planning profession and the good news is that, unlike in the medical profession, you can consult them directly.
When I started working as a financial planner in 1994, I came across a man called Nick Murray. Murray wrote a few books aimed at financial planners and spoke at a number of industry events. One of the concepts he talked about was the ‘Five Great Goals of Life’.
Murray has similar philosophies to me when it comes to investing – the money is simply a means to an ends. The important part of my job, and in developing a good financial plan, is understanding what you want your money to do.
He suggests there are five things that people are trying to do with their money. Some people have only one or two of these goals, others may have three or four and some clients can identify with all five. You may not feel strongly about all of them, but I’m sure you can identify with some of these.
The Five Great Goals of Life
The endowment of a long, comfortable, and totally worry-free retirement, with no compromise in lifestyle, and no real concern about ever running out of money.
The need / desire to intervene meaningfully in the financial lives of one’s children, during one’s lifetime and / or in the form of legacies.
The ability to fund, in whole or large part, the education of one’s grandchildren.
The capability to provide quality care to one’s parents in their later years.
The ability to make a meaningful legacy to a much-loved school, church, charity or other institution.
(Source: Nick Murray: ‘The Excellent Investment Adviser)
Have a think about these five goals.
Which ones do you feel strongly about? How will you feel when you achieve them? What if you couldn’t achieve them – how would that affect you?
Planning for the Five Great Goals of Life
From a financial planning perspective, none of these goals will happen by accident. They each require careful planning, and time to come to fruition. In most cases, you may find that you need to save more today – and begin living on less – in order to have the capital to do the things you want in your future.
Take some time to think about what these goals mean to you. Don’t impose any limits on your thinking, but think about what you’d like to be able to do if money were no object.
When it comes to retirement planning and financial planning in general, it’s important to think about how important these goals may be to you.
Hiring someone to work for you is almost never an easy task, especially when it comes to your money, insurance and other personal finances. It goes without saying that there are many people out there that only care about making money, making it very important for you to always be cautious with whom you work with. You always must make sure that the people you are hiring are on your side and want to do a responsible, high quality job while always putting your best interests above all else. I could write this and illustrate all of the fantastic traits I believe a Financial Advisor should possess, but the truth is everyone is looking for something different and I am not going to pretend I know exactly what you want. I would rather provide you a guide with 7 tips that I strongly believe can help you in preparation for hiring a Financial Advisor.
What is great about this approach is that it works if you are hiring someone for the first time, or looking to make a change to someone who better suits your personality, goals and objectives. When you purchase a new car, you usually have an idea of what is important to you such as fuel efficiency, color, size and price. Well the same should hold true with your search for a Financial Advisor. These tips are going to help you find what is important to you, thus narrowing down the possibilities and making your search more efficient. Efficiency is going to help you move forward towards your goals, no matter what they are. Please review the tips I have outlined below, as I believe you will find them helpful:
1. Prepare yourself!
Take the time to really know what you are looking for. Write down your goals and objectives in advance, along with your reasons for seeking a Financial Advisor rather than waiting for him or her to ask. Also, remember to have a list of questions ready for your advisor interviews. Experience has showed me that most people forget their questions until after the initial meeting, postponing the search process, decision process and the beginning of working towards accomplishing your goals.
2. Do not confuse a salesperson with a Financial Advisor.
A salesperson is one who will “sell” you something and most likely make a large commission from doing so. In many instances they are directly employed by large investment or insurance companies and are hired with the sole intention to “sell” that particular company’s product alone. In addition, they may even have minimum “sales” goals they must meet, prompting them to have that goal in their mind effecting the suggestions presented to you. You should be looking for an advisor whose only intention is to lay out a plan that can potentially help accomplish the goals you have discussed with him or her, whether it is retiring to a beach house watching the sunset over the ocean or having a stockpile of cash available for the inevitable day your child steps out the front door to college. He or she should also have the ability to utilize any investment or insurance option that is appropriate for you and your objectives, not what they are supposed to “sell” to you or what they are “allowed” to provide to you that will enable them to meet any imposed “sales” goals they are working with.
3. Know what fee structure you are comfortable with.
There are many ways financial advisors can be compensated and it is important to know which you are comfortable with. The two primary methods are commissions or fees. Some advisors receive a commission every time he or she buys or sells something for you, getting paid regardless of performance. This can become quite expensive if your advisor is not completely working with your best interest at heart, but rather trying to generate income for their firms. Other advisors receive an annual fee based on how much money you allow them to handle for you. This is typically more fiscally friendly, but make sure you agree on the terms in advance because an some advisors do charge excessive fees. In this case, there is incentive for them to try and make your portfolio grow. For example, an advisor charging 1% per year, which is very reasonable, on a $75,000 IRA would earn $750 and if over time this advisor helps your portfolio grow to $100,000, he or she would now be earning $1,000 per year, or 1% of $100,000. The incentive is always there to put your best interests first, as declining values for you mean declining fees to them and I do not know of any mortgage company that will take a smaller mortgage payment from your advisor because your balance may decline.
4. Decide how local your advisor should be?
Your financial advisor does not have to live in your town, or even your state for that matter. With today’s advancement in technology, it is easy to work with an advisor who is 10 miles away or 1,000 miles away and not realize the difference. Cell phones, email, teleconferences, internet meetings and internet cameras are just a few of the pieces of technology which allow for that feeling of personal contact at any time and from any location. I suggest you determine your comfort level and establish a distance you are comfortable with prior to your search.
5. Do not solely rely on the advice of friends and family.
It is always great to hear an advisor has treated your loved ones in a professional, responsible and caring manner, but do not use this as your sole decision making point. Everyone has a different financial situation and a different personality, so an advisor who excels with your parents, may not work as well with you. Take the time to ask your friend or family member questions about the advisor prior to meeting him or her in order to determine if the fit is right for you, your family and your goals. For example, some advisors may take an ultra conservative approach to investing which works well for your parents, but you may be seeking an advisor who specializes in aggressive alternative investments.
6. Research first.
Keep the following website readily available: www.FINRA.org. After deciding on a few advisors to interview, visit www.FINRA.org and look for the FINRA BrokerCheck hyperlink which usually shows up on the right side of the website under “Most Viewed”. This will allow you to do a search for the advisors and see if there are any formal complaints and/or past disciplinary actions against him or her. This step could help you to eliminate wasted time and help you know that the person you are considering has not had any behavioral and/or legal problems. Remember, there are many non-trustworthy people in all businesses, do you really want to have one work with your finances?
7. Decide on your investment philosophy and risk tolerance.
Prior to speaking with a potential Financial Advisor, determine how you and your family feel about investing. Are you comfortable with major volatility or do you prefer minimal to no fluctuation? For example, how will you feel if your IRA was worth $200,000 last month and you experience a temporary decline to $180,000 this month? Would a situation like this cause you major emotional distress or do you feel this is normal market fluctuation? If you do not have an opinion beforehand, many advisors may try to “sell” their philosophies to you. A simple way to convey your feelings to an advisor is on a sliding scale of 1-10, with 10 being aggressive and 1 being extremely conservative.
Although there are many other tips I can offer, I feel the seven illustrated above are among the most important to consider prior to interviewing advisors. Choosing the right Financial Advisor is an important process and should not be taken for granted. We all have our own goals to accomplish in life and the right Financial Advisor can play a critical role in your pursuit of happiness and financial security. Whether you are looking to retire to that beach house watching the sunset over the ocean or traveling a path to live a stress and debt free life, working as a team with a qualified Financial Advisor has the potential to help accomplish this. I hope these tips help you meet your goals and wish you a prosperous life!
Whether you’re a business owner or an individual taxpayer, having an experienced, knowledgeable accountant available for tax return help or dealing with IRS tax problems is vitally important. It can mean the difference between avoiding major tax problems and getting buried by them. However, it’s critical to make sure you know who you’re turning to for tax help, as not all accountants are created equal. There are major differences between CPA firms and accounting firms, so read on to learn more.
Although there are many capable accounting firms that can help you with everything from small business bookkeeping services to filing tax returns, it’s often advisable to seek out tax help from CPA firms. Depending on the complexity of your tax and financial situation, there may be some solid advantages to choosing CPA services instead of ordinary tax and accounting services. When you need an experienced tax advocate, representation at IRS audits, or help with complex tax issues, the additional training and expertise that a CPA offers can make all the difference in the resolution of your tax problems.
Surprisingly, in many states, anyone can refer to themselves as an “accountant” without having any special education, certification, or experience. That’s why it can be somewhat risky to hire an accounting company or tax accountant who has not taken and passed the rigorous Uniform CPA Examination. In order to be granted a CPA license by a state board of accountancy, a CPA candidate also needs to earn a college degree in accounting, gain professional work experience in public accounting, and demonstrate high ethical standards. Unlike many accounting firms, CPA firms are qualified to negotiate an IRS tax settlement, help clients obtain tax debt relief, and prepare effective offers in compromise.
With expertise in everything from business valuations and financial reporting to negotiating the release of wage garnishments and IRS tax liens, CPA firms are usually the type of tax consultants you can place the most confidence in. In addition to meticulous tax return preparation and financial planning guidance, many CPA firms can provide valuable help in securing IRS installment agreements, penalty abatement, innocent spouse relief claims, and IRS tax settlements. While there’s no blanket guarantee that all CPAs are beyond reproach, CPA certification is usually an indication that you’re receiving tax advice from a meticulous and knowledgeable professional.
If you’re among the minority of taxpayers who do not own real estate, claim tax deductions, have investment income, or ever encounter tax issues of any kind, then it might not be necessary to hire a CPA. For example, a young, single professional who does not have any dependents, assets, or deductible expenses may be able to handle his or her own income tax preparation and planning without too much difficulty. As his or her career, business, or financial situation moves forward, however, the services of a competent accounting company or tax accountant often become an essential part of financial management.
When it comes to accounting professionals, understanding the difference between a CPA firm and an accounting firm can make sure you get the services you need for your specific situation.