Thank you again for your interest, and thank you for looking in on this Services Overview FAQ.
This is the part of the site that goes into deeper detail about what I do and how I do it. Some folks like to uptake this detail by reading the written word, such as via this FAQ, while others like to do so by speaking with me.
Either way, you’ll find that I’m happy to provide information to you – as much or as little as you desire – to help you better understand how I might be of service to you, in helping you have a better financial life.
And now it’s on to the FAQ.
The Smartening-Up Phase
The Buttoning-Down Phase
The Staying-Healthy Phase
The Main Topics
The Other Topics
What is the focus of John’s services?
All of the services John provides focus on a single goal: helping people improve their overall financial health, wherever that task leads.
Everything John does ― everything ― ties in with that goal.
What services does John offer?
John offers financial planning, financial management and financial education services as follows:
These services are all inter-related. For example, since financial knowledge plays so central a role in a person’s financial health, John’s financial education services are interwoven throughout John’s financial planning and financial management offerings.
For a further example, since one of the best ways to improve one’s financial health is to figure out what needs to be done and to then go out and do it, clients using John’s financial planning services often continue on by using John’s financial management services.
What tools does John use?
The foundation upon which all of John’s services rest is a library of materials he’s created over the years, embodying much of the financial knowledge he’s acquired. By using this library of materials, people with whom I work are able to acquire this knowledge on their own terms and on their own timetable.
Included within John’s library of materials are readings and thought exercises, ranging from introductory materials that virtually all of John’s clients use to advanced materials that only especially voracious learners with particular needs use, and spreadsheets and numeric exercises, ranging from simple tabulations that most anyone with a computer can use without John’s help to more complex software tools that only a small portion of John’s clients are comfortable exploring on their own.
What are John’s materials like?
In terms of both style and approach, John’s materials are different from most anything you’ve seen before.
In terms of style, John’s materials are less formal than the standard financial fare out there and, according to a good many folks, they are also more entertaining, more creative and more engaging than that fare — more fun, even.
In terms of approach, John’s materials are different in that, rather than setting out bullet after bullet of details about the characteristics of some something-or-other or some other something-or-other ― information that tends to go in one ear and out the other for many people, and information that tends to go stale with the passing of time as tax laws change and financial products and services evolve ― most of John’s materials focus on overarching themes and on timeless, generalizable knowledge, all of which, once incorporated into a person’s way of thinking, can further that person’s capacity to be financially healthy regardless of what the latest and greatest financial products might be, and regardless of what Congress might have just done to the tax system.
So have you ever heard the line, “Give me a fish, and John’s hunger will be satisfied for a day, but teach me how to fish and I will be satisfied for all time?” Well, John’s materials are, figuratively speaking, designed to teach you how to fish — they are designed to help you build your financial wisdom and your financial intelligence, rather than simply turning you into a financial database (though, as needed, John does that too).
What does the standard process that John uses with most of his clients look like?
Just as people go to doctors for general checkups to make sure that they are taking care of their overall physical health, many people come to us seeking to make sure that they are taking care of their overall financial health.
Typically John serves people such as these via a three-step process, as follows:
So there is a smartening-up phase, a buttoning-down phase, and a staying-healthy phase, each of which is taken up in turn below.
The Smartening-Up Phase
The first work most clients do with John is financial planning work, during which both the client and John get smartened up about the client’s financial life — the whole shebang, if they are so inclined.
More specifically, during that time the client and John (a) gain a better understanding of what is and what is not working in the client’s financial life, through the use of various of John’s materials, through the collection and analysis of information, and through a series of meetings and conversations, (b) gain a better understanding of what actions the client might pursue in order to improve the client’s overall financial health, and (c) generate a to-do list of the steps the client is going to take to improve the client’s overall financial health, together with an explanation about why the decisions embedded within to-do’s are good decisions, i.e., a plan.
The Buttoning-Down Phase
A financial plan that is not put into effect is of much less use than one that is, so during the buttoning-down phase John helps the client get all the action items checked off the client’s list of action items.
Here, too, the work can take many different forms, as John is able to help the client in most any way the client wishes, in order to see to it that every item on the client’s list of action items becomes a part of the client’s financial world.
The manner in which John does this work varies in terms of both substance and process.
In terms of substance, this work can range from helping clients get wills and trusts written for the first time to helping clients design and implement complex estate plans, and from helping clients establish highly customizable private accounts with money managers to helping clients establish online dollar cost averaging investment accounts in passively managed index funds.
In terms of process, John’s involvement can be tangential or it can be right in the midst of things, as the client wishes. Here the work can range from helping clients be smart about selecting money managers, estate planning attorneys, CPAs, insurance agents, mortgage brokers, real estate agents, etc., to attending joint meetings with clients and their current financial services providers in order to assist the client in directing, and deriving optimal value from, those financial services providers.
A more complete description of the buttoning-down work I do, as well as the role it plays in differentiating John’s services from the services offered by most financial services providers, is beyond the scope of this FAQ (but you can read more about it in John’s Information Brochure, so please do ask for a copy if you’d like to know more).
The Staying-Healthy Phase
The staying-healthy phase can also take many forms, depending on how much continued involvement the client wishes us to have. For instance, some clients wish to have John involved on a regular basis, through quarterly or monthly meetings during which the client and John jointly assess, and respond accordingly to, the client’s financial health in all its many manifestations (by looking at, e.g., savings and investment results, tracking of objectives, etc.), while others wish to involve John only when a specific need arises.
What areas do John’s services cover?
Since virtually every element of a person’s life has a financial component to it, and since people’s lives are so varied, there are few areas into which John’s work does not go.
In general, though, the following topics arise in the work John does with nearly every client (listed in alphabetical order):
Less common, though still very much a part of John’s work with many clients, are the following areas (also listed in alphabetical order):
What Areas do John’s services not cover?
In general, there are few financial health areas into which John’s services do not go. And when clients have a need in one of those areas, John helps them find someone who can meet that need.
Does John ever just help people with a single facet of their financial lives?
John strives to meet all requests that people wishing to work with him make, and sometimes people wish to have John’s help only on a portion of their financial life.
For instance, John can help people smarten up and button down their approach to a single financial decision, such as whether to sell or launch a business, whether to switch jobs, or whether to buy a first or second home.
For another instance, John can help people smarten up and button down given portions of their balance sheet and not others — advising them on, say, a single asset of theirs, such as a stock or bond portfolio, or a business they own.
And John also helps businesspeople on a wide range of topics, ranging from negotiations to litigations, from co-owner structurings to employment matters, and from financings to divestitures.
Is John Friedman a CFP® Professional?
Yes. John passed the Certified Financial PlannerTM exam the first time he took it, and maintains his certification with CFP Board.
How does John help people manage their investments?
John has two primary offers in the investing arena. The first offer is for clients who want to use one or more investment managers, in the hope of growing their investments at a faster clip than the investment market as a whole grows — to beat the market, in the common parlance — and who are therefore also willing to incur the agony of defeat along with the thrill of victory, as invariably all investment managers fail, at least from time to time, to beat the market. Great investment managers fail to beat the market far less frequently than bad investment managers; the problem for many is that great investment managers usually only work with clients with at least $1 million to invest.
For clients seeking this type of investment manager, John’s offering is to (a) help them smarten up about how to be a smart consumer of investment management services, and (b) help them in any way they request in assessing prospective investment managers, and (c) once they hire an investment manager, help them in any way they want in assessing their investment manager’s performance on their behalf.
John’s other offer is for people who are content to simply grow their investments as fast as similar investments typically grow — to match the market, in the common parlance — and who are also willing to incur the relatively modest effort required in match-the-market sort of investing.
John’s offer for these clients is to (a) help them choose a match-the-market sort of investment strategy, and then (b) help them implement and manage the strategy.
How is John compensated?
John typically charges a flat fee for the initial work he does with clients. Subsequent to the initial work John does with clients, and for all transactional and other one-off services, John charges on an hourly-fee basis. You can find further information about this topic in his Compensation Guidelines and in his Menu of Service Offerings for New Clients.
Does John only work with people who meet a minimum net worth requirement?
No. John has purposefully designed his business in a way that makes John’s services available to most people. He has offerings costing as little as $325 and as much as $10k and more.
How do John’s services differ from the services offered by most financial service providers?
The main difference between the way John does his work and the way many other financial service providers do their work is that John works for clients, while many other financial services providers work for financial institutions (such as money management firms, insurance companies, banks and the like).
So, while John provides clients with advice on all things financial and is compensated directly and willfully by John’s clients for doing so (i.e. they write out a check with John’s name on it), financial services people typically specialize and are only rarely compensated directly and willfully by their clients. Many of these folks work either as distributors for financial institutions, earning their compensation directly from those financial institutions via commissions, while others manage money by having their client’s move their assets to accounts controlled by the money manager and are compensated passively, i.e. they pay themselves by withdrawing their compensation directly out of their clients’ assets, without any ongoing willfulness on the client’s part.
Each approach can be pursued with integrity; each can deliver good value. John chooses, however, to have the success of his business rest on his ability to create trusted relationships with clients, rather than on his ability to distribute products and services on behalf of financial institutions and/or to gather assets out of which he can pay himself.
What’s the Next Step / How Can I Learn More?
Working with John usually begins with a short – say, 20-minute – phone call. Please see the Contact page for information on reaching John by phone.
Following that first contact, many people want to also have a Getting-to-Know-You Meeting with John, during which they can truly take John’s measure and determine for themselves whether there’s a good fit between what they seek and what John provides.
John provides all exploratory conversations, including initial phone calls and Getting-to-Know-You Meetings, on a 100% gratis basis.
They’re often really fun meetings, so please do call and he will schedule a meeting with you.
What’s the core value that people derive from their relationship with John?
Over time, the thing that people most value from their relationship with John is knowing that John’s counsel is readily available to them — that John is on their team, as part of their financial brain trust. Because people truly value having someone in their lives who:
Because people rarely have that kind of resource in their lives and, once they do, they wonder how on earth they ever got along without it.
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To access more info about how to contact me, please do move on to the Contacts Page.
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and federally registered CFP (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.