Frequently Asked Questions – draft on one page

1. What is a “fee-only” advisor and why is it important to me?
2. What does “Fiduciary” mean?
3. What services are available to me?
4. What education, credentials and/or experience must financial advisors obtain?
5. Who is Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA)?

1. What is a “fee-only” advisor and why is it important to me?

A fee-only advisor is legally bound to advise and make recommendations that always put your best interests first. This is what is known as a fiduciary level of care.
Pillar Financial Advisors is a fee-only advisor, which means that 100% of our compensation comes directly from the fees paid by our clients. We do not receive or accept commissions from any of the financial vehicles we recommend. We do not accept compensation from any brokerage firm, mutual fund, or insurance company. Likewise, we do not accept referral fees from any professional we may recommend working with on other professional matters.

As a client of Pillar Financial Advisors, the fee you pay us covers all of the services we offer. We want you to receive the maximum benefit of working with us by taking advantage of the complete Pillar Process, which goes well beyond investment advice.

Our fee structure provides you with full transparency and no surprises. You always know what you are paying for our services.

2. What does “Fiduciary” mean?

A fiduciary standard of care is the highest degree of business responsibility a person or company can have to another. It means that a registered investment advisor must place their client’s interests ahead of their interests. Any conflicts that may cause the advisor to put their interest first must be eliminated or clearly explained to you, so you can decide whether they are acceptable.

A long-standing federal law, the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, requires Registered Investment Advisors to meet this fiduciary standard of care.

Be aware that many companies and their employees that call themselves advisors are not Registered Investment Advisors and are, therefore, not bound by a fiduciary standard.

Regardless of who you work with to provide financial and investment advice, we recommend making sure that they are either bound or agree, in writing, to work under a fiduciary standard of care 100% of the time.

3. What services are available to me?

Pillar’s approach provides you with a comprehensive way to plan for and achieve your goals. We will work with you to:

  • Create a long term financial plan that takes you from where you are now to where you want to be with a high level of confidence.
  • Protect and grow your wealth through a well-structured, disciplined investment philosophy that meets your plan’s needs.
  • Mitigate your tax burden through current and strategic decisions.
  • Evaluate whether your various insurance coverage(s) will protect your wealth against catastrophic losses and other vulnerabilities.
  • Assist you in fulfilling your charitable goals as efficiently as possible.
  • Access ongoing financial advice by working with us as your personal Chief Financial Officer.

Compare these services to working with advisors that only focus their efforts on managing your investments.

In addition, we work directly with your other advisors; CPA or tax preparer, estate planning attorney, insurance agents and other professionals where needed. You can rest assured that we’ll coordinate seamlessly with the rest of your advisory team to simplify your life and ensure that everyone stays in alignment with your goals and needs.

4. What education, credentials and/or experience must financial advisors obtain?

Unfortunately, there are no standardized requirements for someone to call himself or herself a financial advisor. You will find a huge disparity in the backgrounds and qualifications of people who provide financial advice. This can make choosing the right financial advisor for you confusing and challenging.

At Pillar, you will be working with professionals with college degreed, respected financial designations and significant experience in providing financial advice to a wide variety of individuals and institutions.
Here are some certification definitions that you may find useful in determining an advisor’s qualifications.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
The CPA credential is bestowed upon individuals with an appropriate bachelor’s degree, has passed the rigorous CPA exam and met the minimum experience requirement (generally 2 years). In addition, CPAs are required to uphold a code of ethics and complete a minimum amount of continuing professional education each year.

Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)
The PFS designation is granted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Applicants must first earn the CPA designation and demonstrate knowledge and experience in personal financial planning through examinations and/or certification.

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
The CFA is a professional credential offered through the CFA Institute to investment and financial professionals. It requires the passing of a rigorous 3 part examination and appropriate experience in the analysis of investments. CFA charter holders are required to uphold a code of ethics.

5. Who is Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA)?

Pillar Financial Advisors has had a strategic alliance with DFA since we opened our doors. For more than 30 years, DFA has been translating compelling research into practical investment solutions for investors.

DFA manages their mutual funds in a highly structured and efficient manner without making predictions about the direction of markets or stock prices. Their style results in very low costs and tax efficiency.

DFA does not offer their funds directly to individual investors. Instead, to help control turnover and trading costs, their funds are only available through qualified and approved financial advisors.

For more information on DFA, visit DFA’s website and read this brief introduction