Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
We are proud members of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA)
NAPFA recommends"Tough Questions to Ask Your Advisor." "Being armed with the right questions is vital in understanding an advisor’s motivations and whether or not they are going to work in your best interests."
Here are some questions to get you started!
Q: What is your educational background?
A: Every advisor at Sullivan Mermel, Inc has a different educational background.
All advisors have at least a bachelor’s degree. On the About Us page, we detail all of our degrees.
Q: What are your financial planning credentials/ designations and affiliations?
A: All advisors have slightly different designations, but here are Bridget’s:
NAPFA-Registered Financial Advisor
Certified Financial Planner (CFP®)
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
Illinois insurance producer’s license, which allows us to give insurance advice to clients. (We don’t sell insurance.)
Q: How long have you been offering financial planning services?
A: Since January 2008.
Q: Do you have clients who might be willing to speak with me about your services?
A: Due to confidentially concerns, we don’t give out client information.
Q: Will you provide me with references from other professionals?
A: Yes. We can also connect through LinkedIn to see if we have any mutual connections.
Q: Have you ever been cited by a professional or regulatory governing body for disciplinary reasons?
Q: How many clients do you work with?
A: As of 2020: 45
Q: Are you currently engaged in any other business, either as a sole proprietor, partner, officer, employee, trustee, agent or otherwise?
Q: Will you or an associate of yours work with me?
A: We work as a team.
Q: Will you sign a Fiduciary Oath?
Q: How is your firm compensated and how is your compensation calculated?
A: Fee-Only (as opposed to other types of compensation: Commissions Only, Fee and Commissions (Fee-Based). Compensation is calculated based on marketable net worth, income, and the complexity of your situation.
Q: Do you have an agreement describing your compensation and services that will be provided in advance of the engagement?
A: We typically provide this information when we meet so we can go over it together. If you prefer to get the information in advance of meeting, please just let us know and we will provide it.
Q: Do you have a minimum fee?
A: The fee for our Strategy Session is $1,495. The minimum fee for our Retainer is $5,500. The minimum is for basic situations. Most retainer fees are higher.
Q: Does any member of your firm act as a general partner, participate in, or receive compensation from investments you may recommend to me?
Q: Do you receive referral fees from attorney, accountants, insurance professionals, mortgage brokers, or others?
Q: Do you receive on-going income from any mutual funds that you recommend in the form of 12b(1) fees, trailing commissions, or other continuing payouts?
Q: Are there financial incentives for you to recommend certain financial products?
Q: Do you offer advice on:
Cash management and budgeting
Investment review and planning
A: All of the above.
Q: Do you provide a comprehensive written analysis of my financial situation and recommendations?
A: Our style is to go over our recommendations and give you handouts that you can refer to after you leave. We don’t create voluminous financial plans that sit on your shelf, unopened.
Q: Does your financial planning service include recommendations for specific investments or investment products?
Q: Do you offer assistance with implementation of the recommendations?
A: If you work with us on a retainer agreement, we help you implement the recommendations.
Q: Do you offer continuous, on-going advice regarding my financial affairs, including advice on non-investment related financial issues?
A: If you work with us on a retainer agreement, on-going advice is included at no additional fee.
Q: Do you take custody of, or have access to my assets? if you were to provide me on-going investment advisory services, do you require “discretionary” trading authority over my investment account?
A: We do not custody client assets, but do work with Charles Schwab & Co. If you have accounts at Schwab, with your permission, we can “see” your information. If you authorize us to place specific trades, we will. We want you to understand every decision, so we don’t offer “discretionary” trading authority.