When To Charge For a Financial Plan and When Not To Charge

I get this question a lot from financial advisors: Do you charge for your plan or do you give it away for free?

We've done both at our firm, Streamline Financial, and both options have brought on really great new client relationships. So, the short answer is, they both work. But I'll give you an answer as to whether or not I think you should be charging for a plan based on a few different scenarios. It’s actually pretty simple and it has to do with how many people are reaching out to you and how much work you are doing for them on the front end, at the beginning of the relationship. You should also consider what would be the most helpful for that prospective client.

We've realized there are three kinds of people who reach out to us to request a first meeting:

  • The Do-It-Yourself-er
    • just seeking a second opinion to make sure they're not missing anything
  • The Investor
    • looking for investment help only
  • The Teammate
    • someone who is looking for a comprehensive wealth manager or wealth management team to make sure all parts are working together

Based on which of these three types of people approach us determines whether we charge for a plan or not.

For the DIYer, it would be most beneficial for them to receive a comprehensive one-time plan and for us to charge for our time or however we charge for it. This could include a full plan from the planning software and a detailed analysis of things they could be doing that could improve what they're currently doing.

For the Investor, we'll spend some time thinking about how we could possibly improve what they're currently doing and how diversified they are. Often, if someone is seeking investment help only, we recommend our Betterment platform. We partnered with Betterment to help people just to make sure they could tax loss harvest and be globally diversified and have asset location and all those things that Betterment provides.

And for the Teammate, a person who's looking for an ongoing financial relationship, we tend to elongate the first few meetings. We have an important reason why we do that, but, basically, we want to build trust. And usually what we'll do is, rather than charge for a whole plan where they have to make a decision right away about committing to working together, we'll do a One-Page Plan for free. If you're familiar with the One-Page Plan, it usually doesn't take long to prepare it, but it's really valuable. That plan lays out the next steps of how we could start to work together and what we would do on an ongoing basis for them.

So, is it a good idea to charge for a plan or not? If you’re being approached by similar kinds of people, those three prospective clients I outlined above, then maybe think about how we at Streamline approach this question.

I think if you're doing a lot of work upfront, and if it's best for the prospective client, that yes, you should be charging for your plan that you create on a time basis or project basis.

And if you have a prospect who's looking for an ongoing relationship, then don't think too much about the comprehensive plan upfront; maybe you don't need to charge right away. 

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