July 7, 2009
To Whom It May Concern:
I am a fee-only CFP, CPA and registered investment advisor. I am a member of both the FPA and NAPFA. I have a Masters degree in Taxation.
I do the vital work of helping people nearing and in retirement, most of whom don’t have large portfolios, plan for retirement and try to protect their investments from large losses. It is very difficult for clients with only $100,000 to $200,000 in savings and investments to find someone that specializes in retirement planning and lower volatility portfolios and who is fee-only to work with them. Most of the experienced fee-only advisors in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area have higher minimums.
I am one of the “good guys”. I work with many small clients who are in horrible financial shape and do my best to help them for an agreed upon fixed fee.
I have only been practicing for three years so have a small, but growing firm. I do not have discretion and I do not have custody of client assets. However, I do debit my fees to client accounts after first sending them an invoice that outlines my fees. I believe that paying fees out of their investment account is the right thing to do because it allows them to see their performance after my fees.
If you pass the new proposed rule that would require me to have a surprise audit simply because I debit my fees to their account, this combined with the growing list of regulatory requirements, would probably cause me to close my doors and go to work for a larger firm. This is a second career for me. There is a point where regulations cost so much and take up so much time that smaller fee-only advisors like me can’t afford to practice independently anymore. My middle class clients would suffer as a result. They don’t want to work with a 20-something hourly financial planner who doesn’t specialize in retirement planning.
I support the SEC receiving more funds to help it audit more firms. I hope to be an SEC registered firm in the next five years and understand that we need to give the SEC the money it needs to catch the firms and advisors who are hurting investors, for everyone’s good. However, forcing registered investment advisors that do not have discretion or custody to pay for a surprise audit just because they debit their fees to a client’s account after giving them an invoice, is overkill. Most clients care very much about the fees they are charged and truly do check their broker statements to make sure the fee looks correct.