Differences If you’re reading this, you might well be considering whether I’d be a good fit for you and your family. And you might be looking at another broker or planner or advisor. If so, know this: there are many similarities, especially when it comes to product. In fact, we all have the same stuff: mutual funds, ETF’s, individual securities, stock options, SMA’s, UMA’s, alternative investments, etc. We all have at least decent planning tools. So, what are the differences? I’ve spent years trying to develop a significantly different mousetrap. There are many differences between how I do business and how others do it. Here are the most meaningful ones: Less is more.Fee over commission.Fiduciary over suitability.Simplicity over complexity.Independence.Less Is MoreThis might be the biggest difference.According to a study released by Barron’s in March 2016, the top 1200 advisors in the country serve 521 “households” (or families). And that’s just the average. Many of them serve more.Think about that. 521. Subtracting weekends and national holidays, there’s only 251 working days per year. How do they have time for good counsel and developing deep relationships required for that counsel? Obviously, they don’t. Their business is more like Walmart: high volume, limited service.To me, less is more. That is, working with fewer families allows me more time to deliver high-quality service. My business is more like Nordstrom’s: limited volume, high service. I currently serve 18 families.No one wants to feel like they’re just a number. My families do not. Fee over CommissionA brilliant friend of mine taught me that you can determine how sales people will behave by how you pay them. He learned it the hard way.He used to pay commissions based on the purchase order. He thought – benevolently and innocently so – that this would make his sales people happy. Well, you know what happened. People abused it and got paid on products that never got delivered.Pay drives behavior.And here we still have an industry (mine) that still pays most of its people a transaction-based commission where the broker only gets paid when the customer buys something. No wonder people often tell me, “I feel like he’s always trying to sell me something.” To be fair and transparent, I sometimes help my clients buy insurance (life, long-term care, etc.) and receive commissions when I do. But that’s a very small portion of my company’s revenue every year and normally a one-time event for my client.I get paid like those in the other professions: fees for services rendered.Fiduciary over SuitabilityIn my business, there are two standards of care: suitability or fiduciary.The Suitability Standard requires a broker (or “register representative”) to make recommendations that are suitable based on a client’s personal situation. It does not, however, require the advice to be in the client’s best interest. Enforcement for these folks comes from a self-regulatory organization called the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).The Fiduciary Standard is much higher. It requires that an adviser put the client’s interest first, even if it conflicts with his/her interest. That is, a fiduciary can only recommend what’s in a client best interest. No self-regulation here. It’s the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).Simplicity over Complexity“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” - Leonardo da VinciThis is, no doubt, one of my favorite quotes – for I know it to be true. We live in a world of complexity which breeds confusion which breeds either poor decision-making or, more commonly, no decision-making. Simplifying the life of my clients is a driving principle for me.I’ll never forget when a prospective client gave me an 86-page quarterly report from his big-company broker. I asked, “what’s that?” His reply: “I was hoping you could tell me that.” Growing and protecting wealth need not be that complicated.IndependenceMy first job after college was working as an agent for the giant insurer, Prudential. I had an employment contract with them that dictated what I could sell and what companies I could represent (mostly Pru). We held ourselves out as planners, but nearly everyone we met got pitched a permanent life insurance policy. That’s what we were paid to do – sell permanent life insurance. Bottom line – I worked for a big company, not my customers. Could I be kind and honest and professional? Of course. But I could not shop the market for the best product and I could not give unbiased advice.As I’m sure you know, most in my industry work for – or are otherwise financially backed by – a big company. That company provides office space, admin support, copiers, scanners, etc. And that company dictates how the broker behaves.I’m an independent advisor and small business owner. I pay for my own computers and office equipment and determine how I do things.I work for my clients, not some big company.