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SHOULD YOU WORK WITH FLOW?
It’s hard to know, right? Especially if you’ve never worked with a real financial planner before.
Our fees are most appropriate for people in any one of the following circumstances:
- Income: at least $200k total compensation (single), $250k (couple), and even more comfortable above $300k (single)/$400k (couple)
- Wealth: at least $500k in investable assets
- About to IPO: Even if you have less money than what’s listed above, if you are about to go through an IPO and could have significant wealth as a result, doing this work ahead of time is a worthwhile investment.
Nope! We want to work with you while you’re in your early to mid career, and we know you won’t necessarily have buckets of money lying around at that point.
There are too many other big life things going on: buying a new home, traveling, saving to your 401(k), having babies, buying life insurance, switching jobs, moving, changing careers.
As we explain in the previous FAQ, if you don’t have existing wealth, as long as your income can cover the fee, you’re golden. See the Details.
Maybe you shouldn’t! We won’t know until we both learn more about each other. You should interview several planners before you choose one. You need to understand their philosophy, process, and personality. And you need to like each one of those.
We have built our firm to address the challenges and opportunities in the tech industry, all along the IPO spectrum: if you’re still building wealth, working in a pre-IPO or IPO’ed company, and also once you have the wealth. So, if you work in the tech industry, we’re a good place to start.
We spend our time focused on issues that you face: equity compensation, career decisions, having children, taking time off of work, high home values, and many others.
We here at Flow welcome clients of all races, ethnicities, and sexual identities and orientations. If you can check the “I’m not a jerk” box, we’re good.
Flow is a fee-only firm.
Of course! Flow is a location-independent firm. We work primarily with clients in the Bay Area, NYC, and Seattle…because that’s where tech lives. If you have an internet connection and live in the US, we can work together.
We believe that there’s “the right planner” for everyone. It’s our (extremely lame) motto. We spend our time and effort regularly learning how to better serve women who in are their early-to-mid career in tech.
If you are not such a person, we probably won’t be a good fit for you. But we probably know a planner who is! We would be happy to refer you on to a few planners, one of whom might be Your Person.
At Flow, we respect and try to effectively serve all of our clients, whatever their needs and backgrounds. We hope to support people who have historically been underrepresented and underserved in tech (and financial services!).
That said, if you want to work with a planner of color or an LGBTQ planner (or a planner of any particular stripe), hit us up. We’ll connect you.
Intellectually speaking, there’s no question you can understand the technical bits. Chances are you’re organized, sharp, and detail-oriented. All qualities that make for good financial planning.
But let us ask you a few questions:
How good do you feel about your finances right now? And if you feel exactly the same way in another 12 months, would that be okay with you? If not, what needs to change so that you feel different next year?
Do you enjoy this stuff?
How confident are you that you will know what you need to know? At Flow, we (and many financial planners throughout the profession) spend years acquiring degrees, professional designations, and experience to learn what is necessary to serve you.
There’s another aspect to this work that we don’t believe most people can do by themselves: and that’s the work we do as your Thinking Partner. We get to know you, really know you, in this work. And that means we can help you make the sometimes hard or complex decisions that are necessary to live a life true to you.
Our clients feel obvious, and often immediate, relief when they finally start working with someone they can rely on to keep on top of All The Stuff in your financial life (you can stop uselessly fretting!) and someone who listens. Like, Actually Listens.
And, if you’re a couple, we listen to each of you. Oftentimes there’s a “money person” in the relationship. That’s totally cool. Division of labor and all that. In this work, each of you has equal importance
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO WORK WITH FLOW?
Flow Financial Planning is a fee-only firm, which means we get paid only by you, the client, not by selling any products or making any referrals to other providers.
We are also a fiduciary, which simply means we put your interests first. Investopedia explains it like this: “A fiduciary’s responsibilities are both ethical and legal. When a party knowingly accepts a fiduciary duty on behalf of another party, they are required to act in the best interest of the party whose assets they are managing.”
Put together, this means that if we recommend an insurance policy or a mutual fund to you or suggest you take some action, or connect you with a CPA or estate planning attorney or insurance broker, you know we’ve done so because we think it serves your needs the best, not because we am making money off of it. Because we aren’t.
Yes, of course. You can cancel the relationship at any time. Our clients pay their annual fee on a monthly or quarterly basis. If you cancel, we will refund you for whatever portion of the month or quarter remains.
That said, the value of this work only grows over time. While we can never predict the future, we want you come to this work with the hope of a beautiful, long-lasting relationship. And if you find yourself not getting what you need from this work, at any time, just tell us!
Financial planning sound good, but you’re not sure what it covers? Here’s a big list of topics we will talk about. In general, if it affects your finances, we want to look at it with you.
- Clarify your goals, possibilities, and vision of your ideal life
- Cash buffer needs
- Estate plannin
- Stock compensation
- Investments. Both the assets we manage for you and the ones outside of our management (ex., 401(k))
- Saving and spending strategies
- Financial independence
- Real estate
- Education funding
- Employee benefits
- Tax planning. We bring a tax-informed approach to our planning, and work closely with your CPA
Brava! Regardless of whether you work with a financial planner, we believe it’s imperative that you know at least the basics of how to manage your money. No one treasures it as much as you do, after all. Here are some resources we’ve gathered over the years:
- this free PDF from William Bernstein. The guy is a neurosurgeon, an investment advisor, and a finance theorist…yes, he’s crazy impressive. It’s a short read, targeted at “millennials” but applicable all up and down the age range, and covers a lot of ground.
- The One-Page Financial Plan Written by Carl Richards, best known for his Sharpie-on-napkins drawings in his New York Times column, this is a short, simple book whose title says it all. Really, anything by Richards is going to be entertaining, easy, and helpful.
- I Will Teach You to Be Rich An entertaining, snarky (at times, annoying, we must admit) book about personal finance, written by Ramit Sethi. Despite the title, it’s got tons of prudent advice.
- Personal Finance for Dummies Yes, really.
Finances as a Couple:
- Get Financially Naked: How to Talk Money with Your Honey Written by Manisha Thakor. Especially when you have very different financial backgrounds or current financial situations, it’s important to know how to communicate about money with your partner.
- Ramit Sethi’s podcast
- How a Second Grader Beats Wall Street By one of Meg’s favorite curmudgeons of the financial advice world
- The Little Book of Common Sense Investing By Jack Bogle, founder of Vanguard, creator of the first index fund, all around Dude To Be Reckoned With in the investment world.
Stock Compensation (Options, RSUs, etc.):
You mean, beyond our blog?
Although we are not a career coach or counselor, we recognize your career success is important to your financial success (in addition to being important to your ongoing happiness). Sometimes we can get a little stuck in our career and don’t really know where to go from here. We’ve assembled some resources over the years that might be helpful in un-sticking yourself:
- Designing Your Life. Written by the head of the design program at Stanford, it helps you find a new career path when you have little vision for what it could be.
- Working Identity Instead of being a how-to book, the book presents case studies of several people who made career changes and helps you understand what the process looks like. Here’s a short interview with the author, where she talks about why women have midlife crisis in their 30s.
- Living Forward The book helps you figure out what is important to you and how to build your life around it.
Our favorite suggestion: Seek out a career coach and ask specifically about how they’d help you through this stuck-ness. Books are great, but they rarely translate into action.
Meg is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and a Registered Life Planner™. She has a Masters in Financial Planning. And she’s been listening to people’s stories since 2010.
Janice is a Financial Paraplanner Qualified Professional™.
Yerim has passed all of the required courses for the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ exam.
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® and CFP®(with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.
Flow Financial Planning is, indeed, a small firm. We take seriously, however, our obligation to our clients to make sure they are taken care of at all times. As such, we have a Business Continuity Plan, which we review annually and update as necessary. Contact us to learn more about it.
Additionally, all your documents and investments are available to you at all times. You do not need us to access it.
We think regularly about how to protect your data. It helps that Meg’s time in the tech industry was spent in software security…so it’s top of mind for her!
All Flow employees and contractors avoid sending sensitive information in emails and encourage clients to similarly abstain. We do not rely on encryption in emails because we believe that using an online portal to transmit and receive sensitive information and documents is more secure.
We operate almost exclusively with web-based software. The data we do store locally is temporary. We use dual-factor authentication when available and select app-based over SMS-based when available. Our hardware is protected with strong passwords.
The vast majority of business and client data is held by the following providers (click the name to go to their security policies):
- RightCapital (financial planning)
- DocuSign (digital signature)
- Wealthbox (client relationship management)
- 1Password (password security)
- Google’ for work (email, calendar, document storage, File Stream, etc.)
- AdvicePay (monthly payment processing)
- ScheduleOnce (meeting scheduling)
- MailChimp (all-client and other group emails)
- TD Ameritrade (client investment management)
- Capitect and Orion Advisor Services (investment analysis and performance reporting)
- Quickbooks Online (bookkeeping)
- Holistiplan (tax-return analysis)
- First Ascent Asset Management (investment back-office support)
Flow is a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA). RIAs are regulated by either the SEC or by state-level regulatory departments. The SEC and many state regulatory departments permit RIAs to use “testimonials” (within certain limits) on their website and other marketing material. You know, those “client quotes” you see that give you a sense that real people use and appreciate the service.
Unfortunately, WA State regulators do not allow testimonials, and Flow is bound by WA State regulations.