Get A Free Financial Consultation With Personal Capital

Personal Capital Financial Advisor Over the years, a number of you have asked me to write a review about what exactly goes on with a free financial consultation with Personal Capital. Common questions include: Is the consultation really free? Is the consultation a high pressured sales call in disguise? Will I get something out of it even if I don’t sign up? Is it worth it?

The short answers to the questions are: Yes, the consultation really is free. There’s no high pressured sales tactics, just an understanding they’d like to work with you if you’ve found them helpful. You can continue to use their free Financial Dashboard if you don’t hire them. Yes, you will definitely get some good tailored advice and the opportunity to pick someone’s brain who sees and advises on multiple different types of financial situations for multiple different types of people. And yes, spending time getting a review of your finances for free is worth it since it gets you to review your financial situation at the very least.

I sat down with Patrick Dinan CFP®, a Personal Capital Financial Advisor over the course of 1.5 hours and two sessions, which I’ll now share with you in this post I spent about four hours putting together. The post shall provide transparency on the advisory service process as an insider.

My goals for the meeting were three fold: 1) To understand what a prospective client goes through during the call to advise on a better experience, 2) to understand Personal Capital’s value proposition for the 75-95 bps under management a year they charge and 3) learn what specific advice they could give me, a personal finance enthusiast who has been in the business for 15 years.

I’m sitting in a unique position given I’m very familiar with Personal Capital’s free financial tools as a DIY user for two years before I joined as a consultant to help build out their online content six months ago. I’ve gotten to know some of Personal Capital’s financial advisors and I’ve also sat in on various important meetings with the CEO, CPO, COO, and CMO to get a better understanding of the products and their desired messaging.

An important takeaway I’ve gotten from working more intimately with Personal Capital is that Personal Capital is a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) who has a fiduciary duty to do what’s in your best interest. They are registered with the SEC, and are not a broker dealer. Broker deals only have a “suitability standard” for their clients, not a fiduciary standard, whereas RIAs have a much stricter fiduciary standard. For example, if you want to invest your entire $500,000 retirement portfolio in Apple after you dreamt Steve Jobs reincarnates, Personal Capital won’t let you because that violates your risk parameters and is not in your best interest.

A broker dealer, on the other hand, would probably also advise against such an aggressive move, but if push comes to shove, they could execute the transaction. The more a broker churns your portfolio and puts you into higher fee mutual funds, the more s/he gets paid so long as you don’t leave. But no matter how much your portfolio turns over with an RIA, the firm gets paid a fixed percentage of assets under management. The main way a RIA gets paid more is if you’re happy and your assets continue to grow. Interests are better aligned. 

Proof Banks Caused The Financial Crash: The Cancer Of MORE

Room With A ViewApplying for a mortgage in 2014 has truly been one of the most eye-opening financial experiences ever. I now know why many consumers had absolutely NO CHANCE in making sound financial choices when it came time to borrowing money from banks before the crisis. Consumers are still being led astray today.

Roughly 25% of homes nationwide are purchased for cash, probably due to the difficulty of getting a mortgage, institutional investors, and a rise in cash rich baby boomers looking to downsize. In San Francisco, the cash buying figure is closer to 35%. I told myself many times during the mortgage qualification process that I would just pay cash. But I soldiered on and swallowed my pride because a 2.5% rate for a 5/1 Jumbo ARM was just too enticing to pass up.

The Three Jar System Of Money To Discuss Our Financial Insecurities

Three Money Jars by Colleen Kong

Three Money Jars by Colleen Kong-Savage

Greetings from London! I’ll be away until July 1. In the meantime, please enjoy the following guest post from illustrator and writer Colleen on her insecurities with money. Perhaps you have some financial insecurities as well you’d like to share in the comments section. 

I was going to write a post about kids allowances. How much do people give their kids these days? Do they tie allowances to doing household chores? Are kids allowed to spend their cash on whatever they want? That’s what I was going to write about, except I was bored before I even began typing.

When I surveyed some friends on Facebook, nobody would say what the going rate for allowance was in their household. People just ignored that first question and moved on to tell me that they don’t tie allowance to chores because they want to teach their kids the intrinsic value of pitching in to take care of the home together (a few found payment for chores more effective—you gotta admit picking up dog poo IS a nasty job worth at least 50 cents).

I wanted to know how much people paid their kids. Surely that’s not a touchy subject like asking individual ADULTS how much they make at their jobs. But the ten people who responded to my survey either did not or would not say. I figured I’d start asking my son’s friends, feeling a little sneaky about getting the answer from the horses’ mouths, but the first friend deftly dodged the question (I asked her twice), so I figured maybe it wasn’t such a great idea being a nosy body, especially when I wasn’t all that interested. I did learn about a three-jar system some folks use to teach their kids money management: a jar to keep cash for Saving, a jar of cash for Spending, and a jar of cash for Giving. I never heard of that before, so I did find THAT interesting.

Cash, dough, bread, greenbacks, cabbage, moola. All these names, but talking money is a big fat taboo. Why? I’m curious about the salaries of friends and acquaintances, but I will never ask the specific number. The question is not meant to be asked. But if we can agree that money does not define who we are, and a salary figure is only one factoid among many that describe us, then why is the subject of personal finance so loaded? Wait, let me take off these rose-colored glasses… Despite the niceties, we know society is still judgmental, and we are insecure about our self-worth. We don’t want to be judged. Not only that, we don’t want to be taken advantage of.

How do we judge thee by thy money? Let me count the ways. In fact let’s use the three-jar system for fun. I’m going to fill each jar with common hangups, neuroses, and prejudices that surround the the topics of Savings, Spending, and Giving.

Stock Options Are For Suckers Who Accept Below Market Rate Pay

Stock Options Are For SuckersThere’s a good saying in the poker-playing community, “If you don’t know who the sucker is at the table, it’s you.” Given work compensation (cash or stock) is likely the #1 source of wealth for the vast majority of people, I think it’s important we have a thorough discussion on stock options so you don’t get ripped off.

To provide some background as to why I think stock options are mostly for suckers: 1) I am currently the CEO of a privately held online media company who has the ability to grant options. 2) I’m a consultant for a startup where I’ve accepted getting paid in options in lieu of cash for three months worth of work. 3) I’ve been an employee of a couple large financial firms and received stock (not options) as part of bonus compensation from 1999 – today (deferred compensation until 2015 due to severance negotiation). 4) I’ve worked crappy jobs growing up that not only paid me a poor hourly wage of $4 an hour, but also gave me no options or stock.

For those who haven’t been following this site since 2009, my modus operandi is to thoroughly write something against what I plan on doing in order to make sure I’m not missing the obvious. For example, “The Dark Side Of Early Retirement” was written in May, 2010, almost two years before I actually pulled the plug on Corporate America. I still think all the negatives to retiring early in the post are valid. But I’ve learned there are some great positives too about breaking free early.

Working for startups vs. traditional companies will likely make you poorer than richer because most startups fail, and most startups pay you below market rate compensation. Cash is way more valuable to an unprofitable startup than to a company with tremendous cash flow. No cash, and the startup will die due to unmet financial liabilities. Options, on the other hand, aren’t really worth anything until there is some liquidity event.

The CEO could say that each share is worth $100, but nobody really knows. Her job is to sell you the vision with tantalizing options that aren’t currently worth much to get you to work for cheaper. Your job is to make an informed decision on the likelihood of the CEO’s vision turning into reality.

Some startup CEOs make mistakes by not only paying below market compensation, but also hoarding their equity so much that they aren’t able to recruit the right people to help build their company into something extremely valuable. After all, 10% of $1 billion is worth much more than 90% of $0.

Before you accept options as compensation please ask the following simple questions:

* What is the current fully-diluted total shares outstanding?
* What is the exercise price of each option?
* What is my vesting schedule?
* Is there a cliff? If so, what is it?
* Is the company currently raising funds, and at what price?
* Do the venture capitalists have a minimum take if the company is bought?
* Will my unvested options become fully vested if the company is bought out?

The CFO, CEO, or person in charge of granting compensation should be able to answer these questions in a relatively straightforward manner. Getting 100,000 options sounds fantastic, but not so much if the exercise price is at $10 and the company recently raised outside investment at $2 a share. The stock has to go up 500% before you break even! Furthermore, if there are 1 billion shares outstanding, you only have ownership of 0.01% of the company.

Don’t be a sucker by not at least understanding the exercise price, the number of shares outstanding, and your vesting schedule. 

The Average Credit Score For Approved Mortgages Is Declining

average-fico-approved-mort

Before the recession, average FICO scores for approved mortgages averaged around 720. 720 is actually the cut-off point between “Good” and “Excellent” credit. Given the housing market collapsed nationwide anyway, one shouldn’t be too impressed with a 720 credit score. A 720 credit score should be viewed as average, at least from this loan officer’s perspective.

After the housing bubble burst, the average score for approved mortgage applicants shot up to 769 from 2009 until the end of 2012. A 769 credit score beats out 80% of all other credit scores out of 850. In other words, banks weren’t lending to hardly anybody. The upside is that the probability of a similar type of housing crash in the future has declined.

The “good news” for borrowers is that according to Fannie Mae the average credit score of an approved mortgage applicant is now down to 741 as of the first quarter of 2014. I say “good news” because it’s brutal for even good income earners to get a mortgage nowadays. Many renters I know have been shut out of the housing market simply because they can’t get a loan.

Although credit standards are loosening, a credit score of 741 is still a pretty high hurdle to overcome given you still need a good income and a healthy balance sheet to cover borrowing ratios. But at the margin, a lower credit score hurdle should allow more people to borrow money to further support the housing market recovery. I still see little signs of sub-prime mortgages or negative amortization mortgages returning. But one thing we should be concerned with is the latest Federal Housing Administration initiative to get Boomerang Buyers back in.