Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bonnie Hughes, American Capital, Financial Planning Association Board of Directors

Hello, I’m Bonnie Hughes, Principal at American Capital and a member of the Financial Planning Association Board of Directors. I’ve been asked to share some insights with my colleagues as we look out into the next year and I think the main point I’d like to focus on is how planners might serve markets other than the high net worth market. Planning is a sharing profession. I have been fortunate to get to know many planners through conferences, industry events, and visits to their offices. I’ve had time to dig deep into what works for them and where challenges lie in serving those that planners may assume cannot or will not pay for financial planning services. During my own career I have consistently straddled the world of serving high net worth clients and everybody else.

Planners can help change the public’s perception of financial planning by engaging the press and local employers. Rules of thumb seen in the press can be useful as a starting point but rarely serve as a solution on an individual basis. Share case studies with reporters while still protecting your client’s privacy. We know from good research that employers benefit from having the full attention of their workers and if they are distracted by their money problems, they will be less productive at work.

Developing a business model to serve folks starting out who do not have a complex situation could be done on a renewable flat fee basis. We know that 70 to 140 people can be served by a planner during a given year. Charging $1,500 for an initial plan brings revenue of $105k - $210k. In the first year and thereafter, a monthly charge of $99 brings another $83k - $166k. A four person office working this way sharing resources is a workable model. Offerings for the monthly charge might include exclusive access to a quality newsletter, private blog, webcasts and webinars and 4 hours of your time with each client.

But building it and hoping they come won’t work. We all need to work together to change the idea that planning is only for the wealthy. Planning is for anyone who wants to make informed financial decisions for themselves with the guidance of an experienced, ethical, and educated planner.

You can learn more about me and my firm at

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