Industry Jargon

+ What is a fiduciary?

A fiduciary is the highest standard because the financial advisor must legally put their client's best interests above their own. Furthermore, all conflicts of interest must be disclosed. The fee you pay is just that, a transparent way of doing business since there are no hidden costs. It is truly a more straigtforward way of doing business with your financial planner.

+ What is fee-only and why does it matter?

Common fee structures include: hourly, monthly retainers, as a percentage of assets, or a flat fee.

Fee-only advisors are directly compensated by their clients for their advice, planning, and ongoing management of assets. This means Mellen Money Management will never "sell" you a product to hit a monthly quota.

Whereas, commission and fee-based advisors work under a lower suitablability standard and are not considered a pure fiduciary because they are compensated based on the products they sell. What's worse is that their commissions are not level and vary by product or 3rd party vendor.

The bottom line is the way your advisor is compensated makes all the difference and will greatly influence the advice you receive.

+ What is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP)?

Unfortunately, too many professionals call themselves financial planners, even when they are not. However, advisors who have successfully satisfied the CFP Board's certification requirements are permitted to use the CFP® designation marks. Doing so represents a high degree of compentancy, professionalism, and ethics. A much better way of verifying if your financial planner truly is one. Learn more at the CFP Board's website.

+ What is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC)?

A professional designation awarded by the College for Financial Planning to individuals who complete a study program and pass a final examination. Those who pass gain in-depth knowledge of individuals' needs both before and during retirement. A designee will demonstrate expertise in the following areas:

  • Entire retirement planning process
  • Meeting multiple financial objectives
  • Sources of retirement income
  • Personal savings
  • Employer-sponsored retirement plans
  • Income taxes
  • Retirement cash flow
  • Asset management
  • Estate planning

What's In It For Me (The Client)

+ When should someone "DIY" and not use an advisor?

As a general rule, someone may not need a financial planner when that person has both enough time to coordinate and manage all of the moving parts with their household finances, as well as possess the necessary expertise to ensure assets and liabilities are being positioned in the most efficient manner.

For more complex planning, a second set of eyes is always recommended.

+ What kind of value does a client get from working with a financial planner?

According to Vanguard, about 3% per year more with your investments (after fees). According to Mellen Money Management, there is even more hidden value in the planning that we do. Especially the longer we work together.

Why? Because we continuously grow more familiar with your needs, are always there as your financial coach, help you evaluate important decisions whenever your plan requires course corrections, provide an objective point of view, hold you accountable with consistent reinforcement, and nudge you along so that you actually follow through on your plan and reach your goals.

To learn more, read, The Value of Financial Advice: Quantified & Explained.

Who We Serve

+ Who is your typical client?

Generally: Many of the clients that we serve need help with everday questions like:

  • Can I afford this house?

  • Which investment funds should I pick inside my 401(k)?

  • How much should I save for retirement?

  • Can we afford to send our kid to this college?

  • How do I best pay back my student debt?

  • Am I on track to retire when I want to? If not, what should I do?

  • Do I have too little or too much life insurance to protect my family?

Specialized Expertise: Professionals with significant student debt. Mid-career parents with kids nearing college (junior year or younger preferred). Helping entreprenuers start their business, and established business owners grow their companies.

+ What makes Mellen Money Management different from other advisors?

Helping clients balance their priorities between paying for college and saving for retirement. We see a lot of financial advisory firms miss the mark with this part of the planning process. They don't take it to the level of detail that we do. Therefore, money is being left on the table.

Ulimately, Scott and Ian's specialized knowledge in the college space is especially important to young professionals who have a signficant amount of student debt, as well as the family's who are about to send their children off to college. $100,000 in student debt is scary, but is too often a reality... And financial aid is too often confusing for the average parent.

Additionally, Scott's 6+ years in banking has enabled him to help coach his clients through the mortgage process, shop other lenders, connect them with the trustworthy experts in town, and be in the right position to get approved for a business loan.

+ How did you come up with the name Mellen Money Management?

The firm was named after the founding partner's (Scott Snider) grandparents, who helped pave his way to an affordable college education. Without their generosity, Scott would have been stuck climbing out of student debt, much like so many young professionals are today.

Doing Business Together

+ What do you charge for the 1st meeting?

The first meeting is complimentary. After that an agreement must be signed to move to meeting #2 - when we begin making recommendations.

+ What is your investment minimum for working with clients?

$0.

We don't believe an asset minimum should be a hurdle for us to work together. Financial planning shouldn't just be accessible to the wealthy anymore. In fact, we enjoy teaching our clients how to become wealthy.

+ Why do you charge a minimum of $175/month AND an initial plan implementation fee ($500-$1,500) for your comprehensive planning services?

We are confident that our value will offset what you pay us. Furthermore, fees can be deducted from investment account(s) at a rate of 1%. Any difference is paid out-of-pocket.

Another reason is that our time is worth something -- we average between 15 to 20 hours per year on each client. Considering our hourly rate is $250, our starting monthly rate is a bargain.

Last but not least, our upfront fee of $500-$1,500 is only assessed one-time. It is based on the complexity and needs of the client. We charge this because our clients can cancel their engagements within a 30-day notice, so this ensures we don't give away our services for free. Furthermore, the initial stages typically require the largest time commitment.

+ Why 3 types of service? How do I choose the right one?

We believe our clients like having choices and that offering multiple options ensures your needs are met in the most appropriate fashion.

Our comprehensive planning and investment advisory services are for consumers with multiple needs who require help integrating things like their investments, debt, retirement, college planning, and budgeting into one cohesive plan.

Hourly engagements are for short-term projects that involve comprehensive planning, and for prospective clients who prefer to test the waters before committing.

Lastly, our student loan planning service is a one-time project-based engagement that is focused around getting your debt under control and minimizing the overall cost.

If you are still not sure where to start, contact us and we can help you figure it out.

How We Operate

+ Can I work with you if I live in another state?

Yes, we have clients who live all over the country. We offer video conferencing as a convenient way to do business regardless of location.

+ What is your investment philosophy?

We believe it is important to minimize your investment costs through low expense index mutual funds and ETFs. Whenever it makes sense we utilize "no transaction fee" (NTF) funds as a way to reduce trading costs. Other core principles include: diversification, asset allocation, tax efficiency, tactical rebalancing, and risk management.

It is also prudent to let your financial plan influence the level of risk you take with your investments. If your plan doesn't need as much growth, why take on more risk than is necessary? On the other hand, if your plan is falling short, you may need to take on more risk than you want, unless you can afford to save more.

Bottom line... Instead of solely letting your risk tolerance drive the investment mix, we colaborate together to determine the most effective way to get you from where you are today (Point A) to where you want to be (Point B).

+ Where does my money go if I invest it with you? Is it safe?

Your money is held with our custodian, TD Ameritrade. They are the account trustee, and the platform used to place trades and manage your funds. TD Ameritrade is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation ("SIPC"), which protects securities customers of its members up to $500,000. Note, this does not cover normal market declines.

+ How often do we meet when we become a client?

Typically ongoing comprehensive financial planning clients meet with us 1-4 times per year, depending on their needs. We also communicate regularly via email, phone, and newsletter. Often times things get done ad hoc with our more busy clients. At the end of the day, we are flexible to the needs of our clients.

Whereas, Hourly and Student Loan clients are project based. So 1-2 meetings and then you are done. Unless you decide to upgrade to our ongoig service. At which point the fees paid from these services get credited towards our ongoing financial services.

+ How do I get started?

Schedule your 5-minute complimentary intro call by clicking here or emailing us at ssnider@mellenmoney.com.