Whether you’re new to investing, or just new to Financial Symmetry, we’ve provided a list of “frequently asked questions” about our industry and our firm. We hope you find them helpful and informative. If you want to ask us a specific question, fill out the Contact Form at the bottom of the page.

What’s the difference between fee-only and fee-based financial planning?

Fee-only financial planners are paid solely and only by our clients, without receiving any commissions as well as not selling products.  Fee-based financial planners may receive commissions on some products they sell, but are also paid directly by their clients.

“Fee-only financial planning” means we neither sell products nor receive commissions. Working as fee only financial advisors allows us to offer our clients the impartial advice necessary to make effective financial decisions. Taking care to identify individual needs and values, we offer confidential, trustworthy and attentive service to clients to help them accomplish their personal and financial goals. Our investment advisory philosophy is built on maintaining long term relationships – not only between us and our clients, but also between our clients and the financial markets. To most effectively represent your interests, we believe in being paid by you rather than through commissions on sales.
At Financial Symmetry, we only charge asset-based or financial planning fees for our services, never a commission on the sale of a product.

Should I be using my Roth 401k?

It’s very possible that you could be saving more money tax-free. If your company offers a Roth 401k option, then this could be your ticket.  In recent weeks, the question we’ve heard most from clients is “should I be taking advantage of a Roth 401k?”  To help you make a decision we’ve answered the most common questions that people consider when weighing the benefits of using a Roth 401k.  Check out our recent blog entry that answers the most common questions about Roth 401ks in detail, here… Should I be using my Roth 401k?

Can you help me roll over my old 401(k)?

Many of our newer clients have come to us with old 401(k), 403(b), 457 and Simple IRA accounts from previous employers.  Some even have multiple IRA accounts, often from past rollover situations.  It’s important to have qualified professionals to help you decide on what to do with your inactive qualified plan and multiple IRA accounts.  Whether you are changing jobs, entering retirement or simply wanting to consolidate your accounts, we can help you with each step of the rollover process. There are a few options for dealing with an inactive qualified plan including:

      • Rollover the account into a self-directed IRA account, such as a traditional IRA.
      • Rollover the account into a new employer-sponsored plan, if allowed under your current plan’s rules.
      • Rollover the account into a self-directed IRA account, then convert all or a portion of the funds to a Roth IRA account (after careful tax analysis).
      • Leave the account at the current custodian and bring your investment options in line with a comprehensive portfolio strategy.

Despite popular belief, it is not always best to rollover an old employer plan.  Certain custodians offer favorable investment options or have special tax provisions (the North Carolina employees’ Bailey provision, for example), meaning  it could benefit you to leave your account at the current institution rather than combining the funds into another account. We have experience in dealing with many different custodians when it comes to the rollover process.  For our investment management clients, part of our service is to request and complete paperwork while monitoring the rollover process.  If you are interested in combining inactive qualified accounts, please feel free to contact us.  Your advisor will research the best approach for your individual situation and determine if a rollover is the best choice for you.  If it is, we’ll get the process started as soon as possible. Not yet a client and unsure if a rollover is right for you? Contact us to schedule an appointment to review your financial picture and develop a plan that will help provide the answer.

Do you sell insurance products?

No, we do not. While we don’t actually sell insurance, through the planning process we can help you determine what risks you have and what type and amount of coverage is appropriate. It is not uncommon for us to recommend canceling or reducing the coverage if the associated risk is either no longer there or has decreased since the policy was purchased. We make recommendations based on the client’s need not a desire to generate a commission.  Once a course of action is determined, we will work with your preferred insurance agent or assist you in finding a suitable policy through other reputable sources.

What is the difference between active and passive investing?

Active investment management is the use of analytic research, forecasting, experience and expertise to decide what securities to buy or sell and when.  This process aims to achieve a greater rate of return than the market by identifying mispriced assets. In contrast, passive investing subscribes to the Efficient Market Hypothesis and promotes index investing based on the premise that it is not possible to beat the market.  These are the two main schools of thought in investment management and attract significant debate and contention within the industry and academia.

Which do you use?

We employ an active investment strategy as we feel greater returns can be achieved with this method.  While the majority of investors don’t beat the market, our results have shown that it is not impossible. Our process can be referred to as ‘tactical asset allocation’ in which we make changes to our recommended allocations to client’s core holdings of stocks, bonds, and cash based on our current market outlook. With these adjustments we aim to add value for our clients by anticipating broad market and economic themes. We also utilize active mutual fund managers, who we entrust to make the decisions of which specific companies are best poised to profit from these themes.  While many tout index funds because of lower expense ratios, our experience has shown that there are fund managers who are worth the higher cost and we spend a lot of our research time trying to identify those managers and make sure the costs are appropriate for the value provided.

Why do I need an investment strategy?

Many investors use the “bucket” approach to saving for their life goals. For tax efficiency, it makes sense to use different accounts for retirement, college funding, travel, etc.  After all, you wouldn’t want to take an early withdrawal from your IRA to go to the Caribbean if you have the funds available in your savings account.  However, using a different investment strategy for each account may wind up negating any tax efficiencies and therefore, tax savings. Loss of a job, injury, and divorce are just a few examples of unplanned events that can override the tax reason why you chose a certain type of account.  Additional factors such as limited investment options in an employer-sponsored plan put even more emphasis on coordinating a single investment strategy across all of your accounts.  This approach provides the optimum flexibility when real life doesn’t match up with even the most carefully planned goals.

Why do I need a financial planner?

A Financial Planner can help you stay on track towards meeting your goals, and help identify cost savings and strategies to improve your financial picture. An investment manager can also improve your long term investment performance by applying a personalized strategy and avoiding short term market-driven decisions that can hinder results.

Do you have an investment minimum?

No, we do not have a strict minimum for portfolio size. But we do have a minimum fee for our Continuous Service of $2,400 per year.

If I become a client, who will I work with?

Financial Symmetry uses a team approach in our client relationships to utilize areas of expertise and efficiencies throughout our firm. Our Continuous Service clients have at least one primary and one assisting advisor. Our Financial Planning clients have at least one primary advisor, who consults with our other CFP® advisors depending on the areas of expertise needed. All of our clients benefit from our CPA, Will Holt, CFP®, who helps our clients realize tax and cost savings strategies.

What types of accounts do you manage?

We manage a wide range of investment accounts such as:

      • Taxable Brokerage (Joint, Individual)
      • IRAs (Traditional, Roth, Beneficiary, SIMPLE, SEP, Educational Savings)
      • 403(b)s
      • 457(a)s
      • 401(k)s
      • UTMAs, 529 College Savings Plans
      • Trusts (Revocable, Irrevocable, Charitable, Family)

Please feel free to contact us to see if we can assist you in a account type that is not listed.

If I invest with you, where will my money be held?

Financial Symmetry does not hold or have custody over any of our clients’ investments. We use an independent, preferred brokerage clearing house to hold many of our clients investment accounts. Employer sponsored retirement accounts are held with your employer’s preferred custodian.

Does FSI Have a Privacy Policy? What is it?

Our Promise to You

As a client of FSI, you share both personal and financial information with us. Your privacy is important to us, and we are dedicated to safeguarding your personal and financial information.

Information Provided by Clients

In the normal course of doing business, we typically obtain the following non-public personal information about our clients:

  • Personal information regarding our clients’ identity such as name, address and social security number;
  • Information regarding securities transactions effected by us; and
  • Client financial information such as net-worth, assets, income, bank account information and account balances.

How We Manage and Protect Your Personal Information

We do not sell information about current or former clients to third parties, nor is it our practice to disclose such information to third parties unless requested to do so by a client or client representative or, if necessary, in order to process a transaction, service an account or as permitted by law. Additionally, we may share information with outside companies that perform administrative services for us. However, our contractual arrangements with these service providers require them to treat your information as confidential. In order to protect your personal information, we maintain physical, electronic and procedural safeguards to protect your personal information. Our Privacy Policy restricts the use of client information and requires that it be held in strict confidence.

Client Notifications

We are required by law to annually provide a notice describing our privacy policy. In addition, we will inform you promptly if there are changes to our policy. Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions about this notice.

What licenses are available in this industry and which ones does FSI have?

There are many, many licenses required to trade in the security markets. Each license covers fairly specific types of trading. Financial Symmetry, Inc. is a Registered Investment Advisor Company. Bill Ramsay is a Certified Financial Planner® and has the Series 7, Series 65, Series 63, and Series 26 licenses. Chad Smith is a Certified Financial Planner® and has the Series 65 license. Allison Berger is a Cerftified Fianancial Planner® and has the Series 65 license. Will Holt is a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Financial Planner®. He does not hold any licenses. Heather Gudac does not hold any licenses. Cameron Hendricks does not hold any licenses. Grace Rooth does not hold any licenses. The following is a complete list of all the licenses regulated by the NASD:

License Number Brief Description
Series 3 Commodities and options on futures
Series 4 principals involved in option trading
Series 6 buy & sale of mutual funds, variable annuity products, and variable life insurance products
Series 7 allows you to buy/sell everything but commodities
Series 9 & 10 for those in management/supervisory roles over series 6 people
Series 11 assistants who take orders and give quotes
Series 22 buy/sell flow through tax consequences
Series 24 for general securities principals
Series 26 an individual who will function as a principal for the solicitation, purchase and/or sale of mutual funds, variable annuities, variable life contracts and insurance premium funding programs, and other contracts issued by an insurance company
Series 27 rules and record keeping
Series 28 individuals responsible for the record-keeping requirements of introducing Broker/Dealers which do not carry customer accounts or hold customer funds
Series 31 involvement in the futures industry will be to market interests in commodity pools
Series 39 an individual who will function as a principal for the solicitation, purchase and/or sale of programs providing for flow-through tax consequences such as oil and gas programs, real estate programs and S corporation offerings
Series 42 qualifies a candidate to sell a broad range of options and must have Series 62 in addition
Series 52 individuals selling municipal bonds who do not have a Series 7 license
Series 53 a municipal securities broker or dealer and to the supervision of the activities of municipal securities representatives
Series 55 individuals acting in the capacity of an equity trader of NASDAQ and over-the-counter equity or convertible debt securities as a market maker, proprietary or agency trader
Series 62 qualifies an individual for the sale of corporate stocks, corporate bonds, rights, warrants, real estate investment trusts, collateralized mortgage obligations and securities of closed-end companies registered pursuant to the Investment Company Act of 1940
Series 63 Uniform Securities Agent State Law Examination
Series 65 required by many states for investment advisers and financial planners
Series 66 encompasses 63 and 65 and allows you to buy and sale mutual funds, variable annuities, and variable life products

How is this Industry Regulated? Who Oversees Regulation?

There is not a single regulatory structure that covers financial planning and investment services. The structures that do exist for individuals providing such services are largely based upon methods of compensation.

Commission Sales:

Insurance:  State Insurance Departments regulate insurance agents. An agent who conducts insurance business in a particular state must be licensed by that state. Agents are considered to have two masters to serve: the insurance company(s) they represent and the customer. Click here to go the NC Insurance Commissioners site Investments: Brokers who sell registered securities are regulated primarily by the NASD, which stands for the National Association of Securities Dealers. These brokers must be registered as representatives of an NASD registered broker/dealer. Click here to go to the NASD site

Fees-Based Planners:

Investment advisors are covered both by the SEC at the federal level and various state regulations. In general individuals providing investment advice must by registered as investment advisory representatives in their state. Click here to go to the SEC site Click here to go to the NC Securities Division site

Financial Planning

For planning services other than investment advice, there are no specific regulations at the state or federal level

The Certified Financial Planners Board of Standards

While not a regulatory body, individuals who have chosen to license the Certified Financial Planner designation must follow the high standards and guidelines established by the Board. Click here to go the CFP Board site

Why should I choose Financial Symmetry Inc. over another company?

We understand that seeking out financial advice can be overwhelming.  Privacy, trust and expertise are all areas that you should consider when contacting a financial advisor. At Financial Symmetry Inc., we put our client’s interests first and foremost by providing fee-only advice. Recently, there seems to be a crisis of confidence among the general public toward the financial industry. We believe that confidence is built from four main sources: Structures, Systems, Culture, and Training. We have built our company around these sources, and continue to improve the way we conduct our business every day.

How much money should I expect to spend on these services?

We believe that what clients really need is a financial advocate and feel this type of relationship can only happen with an independent fiduciary financial planner. This removes any influence of a bank, brokerage house or insurance company whose interests may not be in line with the client interests. It also allows the planner to be open and unbiased about when it’s appropriate to use or not use certain products — without regard for commissions. In our relationships, we have two different types of compensation depending on the type of relationship you desire.

  • Hourly — Our hourly rates range from $40 to $200, depending on the task. This method is most appropriate if you like to do most things on your own or you would just like some occasional help or recommendations on specific issues.
  • Continuous Service — We charge a percent of your portfolio assets with a minimum annual fee of $2,400. Click here to see our Form ADV for more info. We do this on a non-discretionary basis; meaning we work together.

Our fee model allows us to be as objective as possible on your overall financial picture, while also allowing us to spend the appropriate amount of resources and energy on investment management.

How might a financial advisor help me?

  • How do I know if I am saving enough for retirement?
  • My wife and I are thinking about starting a family.  Can we afford her staying home with our new baby?
  • Do I need a will?
  • Am I saving money in the right accounts for my situation?
  • When should I start saving for my children’s college education?
  • I just inherited a large sum of money. What do I do?
  • One of my parents just passed away. How do I handle their investment assets?
  • I am hearing rumors that my company is going to start offering early retirement packages in lieu of laying off employees. How do I know if early retirement is something that I can entertain?
  • Am I utilizing tax strategies wisely?

These types of topical or situational questions can be the motivations for you to pursue financial planning services, and with good reason. A thorough financial planning analysis will explore issues like this, as well as some which you may not have considered. Each individual has their own set of circumstances to consider. Through working together to establish goals while collecting and analyzing data, you can be armed with the information to make sound decisions for your future.

In many ways a financial planner is like a personal trainer for your financial health.

Achieving financial fitness -just like physical fitness- requires a good plan and regular attention. To accomplish this task, we can help you develop a comprehensive financial plan tailored to the needs of your particular situation, including a detailed breakdown of how your financial picture may develop in the future.

Can you help me with my 401(k)?

Whether you are just starting a new job, changing jobs, facing retirement or inheriting a 401(k) from a spouse or family member, we can help. We can take a look at your investment choices, the rate you can contribute, options for a possible rollover into an IRA, as well as helping you decide on naming beneficiaries. We can help you with many different types of retirement plans other than the typical 401(k) as well, such as 457(b), 403(b), SIMPLE IRA, SEP and SAR/SEP IRA plans. Feel free to contact us with more specific questions, as we look at each individual situation on a personalized basis.

How are you paid?

We are paid only by our clients and provide the following two services.

Financial Planning

Our financial planning service is charged on an hourly rate, with complete servicing normally ranging from $500 to $1,000, depending on the complexity of your situation.  We typically complete a Net Worth and Cash Flow Projection that helps to answer whether you can accomplish your goals.  This process also yields increased efficiencies which save you money by “tuning up” your financial strategy.  We also evaluate your future cash flows which helps to determine an appropriate risk capacity for your portfolio.  We are more than happy to provide you with a quote based on the information you provide us.

Continuous Service

Continuous Service is charged as a percent of your portfolio assets with a minimum annual fee of $2,400. You can see the current fee matrix on our Form ADV. This service enables you to have ongoing monitoring of your progress relative to the targets set forth in your financial plan.  You can see if you are staying on course and if you are not, we help you make adjustments to your targets or your goals. We will also review your income tax and estate picture.  This provides opportunities for tax savings, and piece of mind that your estate will be distributed the way you want.

What is Fee-Only Financial Planning?

“Fee-only financial planning” means we neither sell products nor receive commissions. Working as “fee only financial advisors” means we are a fiduciary and allows us to offer our clients the impartial advice necessary to make effective financial decisions. Taking care to identify individual needs and values, we offer confidential, trustworthy and attentive service to clients to help them accomplish their personal and financial goals. Our investment advisory philosophy is built on maintaining long term relationships – not only between us and our clients, but also between our clients and the financial markets. To most effectively represent your interests, we believe in being paid by you rather than through commissions on sales.

What is an ADV?

The ADV is the registration form for Investment Advisors. Form ADV contains information about an investment advisor and its business operations. Form ADV also contains disclosure about certain disciplinary events involving the advisor and its key personnel. Investment Advisors are required to register either with the State(s) in which they conduct business, or with the SEC. Those registered with the SEC are also generally required to file with their State as well, though the SEC retains primary regulatory authority for their registered advisors. The difference in who is registered with the SEC or State is dependent not only on their size, but also their primary business emphasis. The SEC is primarily responsible for large money management only firms, while the States are primarily responsible for smaller money managers and firms that are primarily comprehensive advisors. There is some overlap, and there will likely be more changes that clarify jurisdiction over the next several years. For an excellent article about choosing an advisor, see Investment Advisers: What You Need to Know Before Choosing One on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission web site. Click here to view our ADV. To view our ADV online, go to the Investment Advisor Public Disclosure web site and type in Financial Symmetry.”

What is a CFP?

Our financial planners include Certified Financial Planners and NAPFA advisors. Those advisors include:

CFP® is the highest standard in the industry for financial planning credentials. CFP® certification requires meeting rigorous professional standards including:

  • completion of a CFP® Board Certified education program
  • passing a comprehensive examination
  • fulfilling three years of full-time industry relevant work experience
  • complying with the CFP® Board Code of Ethics
  • ongoing, yearly continuing education.