How to search for a Financial Planner: Google search results

November 30, 2016  | By Kevin Smith

We conduct research on our competition in an effort to constantly improve our services and to make sure our fees are competitive (turns out they are VERY competitive). It occurred to us that it would be very difficult for someone to search for and find a financial planner who provides the type of help actually needed and for a reasonable price.

In case you live in the Austin area and happen to be looking for a financial planner, I thought I would share my notes and provide a few suggestions at the end.

Google Search Results 11/30/2016 for “Financial Planner Austin” (in order)

  1. Yelp
    • Lots of anecdotes from the 1% of Yelp users that writes Yelp reviews. I would not rely on Yelp to find a professional service provider, such as an attorney or CPA or financial advisor.
  2. Reap Financial
    • These are the folks you hear on KLBJ radio doing a show about personal finance
    • They appear to host many retirement seminars. I have never attended one of their seminars, but I advise caution to all seminar goers because the product offering is often insurance and annuity products laced with commissions and surrender fees. I know from years of experience in the business. My guess is that this is not one of those!
    • Great job on search engine optimization and marketing in general
  3. Advisory HQ
    • Internet marketing organization that gathers clicks.
    • They appear to have a sophisticated system of summarizing website content in a research format. I can’t imagine they could conduct actual useful analysis on such a scale, but perhaps I am wrong. There is some value in a condensed view of several competing company websites.
  4. Fee Only Network
    • This is a decent place to look. The advisors affiliated with NAPFA (National Association of Personal Financial Advisors) are listed here.
    • This tells you that they charge fees for their service, but not commissions. Hint: we don’t like commissions either, but we see plenty of advisors who charge more in fees than commissions would otherwise pay.
  5. Barnett Financial
    • The first fee-only RIA on the list!
    • Their website mentions they only take new clients by referral and their Form ADV Brochure Part 2A indicates they do not provide financial planning for new clients.
  6. Briaud Financial Advisors
    • They appear to specialize with professors and medical professionals.
    • Do you have $1M to invest? That is their minimum.
    • This looks like a good shop based on how they describe the work they do.
    • Good fee transparency
  7. Palermo Wealth Management
    • Not much info. Emphasis on being a fee only operation with no minimum. Nothing wrong with it, but this website makes me realize that I really have no idea how to get a high Google search ranking.
    • No mention of fees
  8. Pauley Financial
    • Their philosophy appears very sensible.
    • More detail than you typically find regarding services provided, which is good, but the bronze/silver/gold/platinum schedule is a bit overwhelming. Even so, the transparency is appreciated.
  9. Angie’s List
    • Need a subscription to access their reviews.
  10. Worth Pointe Invest
    • Appears to be a classic group of CFP advisors operating for fees, not commissions.
    • Fee options are a bit difficult to understand, but all looks good at the surface.

If I were looking to hire a financial planner, it would be difficult to make a determination using these search results. A few thoughts:

  1. Websites matter… a little
    1. There are plenty of great financial planners with terrible websites. Don’t judge the website too harshly!
    2. There are plenty of bad financial planners with great websites. Don’t be wooed too easily!
  2. Fees matter
    1. You do not have to settle for the old 1% fee at $1M rule. Fees are coming down.
    2. If you pay the lowest fee possible, you will not likely get much attention from your professional advisor. He or she simply cannot afford to.
  3. Philosophy, transparency and intellectual honesty matter a lot, probably more than anything. There are extremes and then something more measured and rational, which is preferable.
    1. Gloom and doomers – constantly predicting the next ‘big one’ and usually selling insurance products for a commission or elaborate market timing schemes
    2. Know-it-alls – by definition are not intellectually honest. Be very wary of any claims at a superbly unique investment idea that consistently outperforms. Such a thing does not exist, except to fools.
    3. Rose colored glasses – preferred to gloom and doomers, but often not willing to deal with the more difficult issues of personal finance that require addressing uncomfortable topics
    4. Balanced – someone who is willing to deal with reality on reality’s terms. Someone willing to ask tough questions and consistently make recommendations without regard to how his or her personal income will be effected. Someone who adjusts their views based on the most compelling evidence. [If you find this person, let me know, I might want to extend him or her a job offer!]
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Kevin X. Smith, CFA
  |  [email protected]

Kevin is responsible for advising clients for whom he is the lead financial advisor. He also manages the operations and development of the firm, and oversees all of the investments of Austin Wealth Management clients. Kevin is on a mission…Read More

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