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How Are Financial Coaches Different From Financial Planners, CPAs & Financial Advisors?

“What do financial planners do?” “What’s the difference between a financial planner and a financial advisor?” “Should I use a CPA?” “Percentage-based financial planner vs fee-based” If you’ve typed any of the above into your search bar, hello! Welcome! You are in the right place. My name is Kelley Long and I’ve been working in the financial services industry for over 20 years. Over those 20 years, I’ve worked as a licensed CPA, a certified financial planner, and now as a financial coach. And for at least the first half of my career, I struggled with this quandary that I saw out in the world and that was the lack of access to trustworthy, nuanced money guidance and advice for people who didn’t have a lot of money outside of a 401k or 403b account to invest. (Which is part of the reason I started my podcast!) When I was working as a licensed CPA, I didn’t even know that much about personal finance at that time in my life and I had friends and family coming to me for advice on their own decisions. I felt like a real boob for not knowing. So I took it upon myself to start learning and working to help the everyday person with their finances. This podcast is a bit of a culmination of those years of learning, helping and changing my own financial life. And, to be a little cheesy, finding my own financial bliss.

When I was starting out, I was pretty clueless about who did what when it came to helping people with financial planning and I didn’t know who to call about what or even who to refer friends and family to when they needed help with something. There are SO many people out there calling themselves financial advisors or planners or coaches or whatever, but unless you’ve been educated on the nuances of the industry, you wouldn’t know who is best to help you with what. Whole life insurance as financial planning?

So for example, you could be making $300k a year and even have over a million bucks in your retirement account at work, but even then, the best access you have to financial advice is likely to be from someone who can sell you a product, like life insurance.

I don’t mean to disparage life insurance salespeople – they provide a necessary and valuable service. But as I learned when I went through training to be a stockbroker and insurance salesperson back in 2008, the depth of knowledge of financial planning isn’t always there when you get paid by commission AND there’s naturally going to be a bias toward suggesting you buy life insurance or some other product. Otherwise, the person you’re working with doesn’t get paid. Percentage-based financial planners

On the other hand, for people with a minimum amount like at least $500,000 or more in an IRA or other non-employer based account, there are gazillions of really great financial planners out there. They can guide you to making the best possible decisions with your finances to help you achieve your goals, as long as you’re willing to open an account with them and transfer your money for them to manage. That’s because the way that those advisors get paid is by charging you a percentage of the money they invest on your behalf, usually somewhere around 1%. So if you have a million dollars that you let them invest for you, they get paid $10,000. They are more than willing to dig into your personal finance questions around other things like how much you should be saving or whether or not you can financially afford to retire.

Flat-fee financial planners

The other way that you can typically get access to great financial planning advice and guidance is by paying a financial planner a flat fee. This fee is usually somewhere upwards of $3,000 or more, depending on what your financial picture looks like. The problem I see here is that you usually get to the end of the plan and you’re given a binder or a list of things to do. And the help either stops there or you will need to pay to get help with implementing the suggestions. Now, again, this isn’t because financial planners suck, it’s just the way the industry works. Wealth management with a brokerage

As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, I’ve personally tried all of those ways of helping. I started out in a wealth management role where we managed money for a percentage – clients got great service and pretty much unlimited help with their financial decisions. I liked it, but I wanted to be able to help people who DIDN’T meet the minimums, which was most of my friends and family at the time. So I tried working for a brokerage firm, where you can work for commissions. But even there they had account minimums and in order to meet my sales goals I needed to push products like annuities, which was not what the clients I wanted to work with needed, nor was it something I knew much about. So then I went out on my own as a financial coach, which was great for a while, but I wasn’t financially prepared to start my own business (more on that in this episode), so I ended up going back to a job and eventually landing at a workplace financial wellness provider.

And that kind of nailed it for me – I was able to help people without any hidden agenda, without any bias, and my job was literally just to provide guidance and support to everyday people around their finances.

I loved it - as a senior financial planner, my job on a daily basis was to provide one-on-one coaching and group webcasts to employees of companies like Paramount, General Mills, CVS and even former NFL players. It was a great job and I was really good at it.

The only issue there? You had to work for a company that paid for my company’s services in order for me to help you. So in the summer of 2020, I resigned from that role after getting my own finances to a point where I could afford to take an indefinite step away from full-time employment. I wanted to take all that knowledge and all the tidbits I picked up on human behavior after working with over 2,500 individuals and use it to help people like you move from that place of confusion, guilt, shame or fear to a place of confidence and knowing, feeling great that you are optimizing your money.

Throughout the coming episodes, I’ll be sharing the exercises, revelations, and client experiences that brought me to this place. I’ll be sharing the nitty-gritty of personal finance (like how Roth 401ks don’t have income limits and how HSAs are the most powerful investment accounts out there) as well as mindset and lifestyle shifts. You can listen to all the episodes here! Make sure you subscribe so you don't miss a single episode!


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