What is financial planning?

Financial planning can be broad based and integrated, where all elements of your financial affairs (like retirement planning, investments, insurance and college funding) are brought together into a coordinated, cohesive plan. Or it can be very specific, focusing just on a single issue of importance or concern to you. In either case, financial planning is a multi-step process that provides you with two important deliverables. First, an in-depth review of your current situation (either comprehensive or specific, depending on your planning objective) and secondly, a roadmap that provides clear direction on how to achieve your planning goal(s). It is important to remember that financial planning is a dynamic process, not a single, one-time event. The economy, your planning objectives, and earned income can all change, necessitating a revisit of the roadmap.

Isn't financial planning just for people who have lots of money?

Any individual, couple or family seeking financial advice can benefit from our services. As a member of the Garrett planning network, we have taken a pledge to offer our services to all people, regardless of income or assets. We welcome clients who simply want a one-time financial review or who are interested in a second opinion before making a major financial decision. Equally welcome are those who seek ongoing financial coaching and plan monitoring over a longer period of time.

Do you offer your services to businesses that would like to provide objective investment advice to their employees?

Any organization (profit or nonprofit) wanting to provide unbiased conflict-free advice and financial education to their employees can benefit from our services. We can also provide financial advice and coaching to rank and file employees and/or senior executives on a retainer basis. Your employees will appreciate the fact that you have engaged an independent, fee-only firm, thus eliminating the possibility of sales pressure related to product sales or bundled services. Call us for details at (413) 565-2839.

What is "financial planning" and why should it be important to me?

Fee-only financial planners are paid only by their clients. They never receive any commissions, sales incentives, bonuses or special perks paid by insurance companies or other financial service entities for selling their products. Kulig Financial Advisors is a true fee-only financial advisory firm. Knowing this, you can approach us with the full knowledge that we will only make recommendations that are in your best interest. You do not have to worry that we will need to "sell you something" in order to be paid for providing you advice.

Do I need to be in your immediate area to use your services?

Thanks to modern technology, it is generally not essential to have in-person meetings. Frequently, work may be accomplished for distance assignments through the use of video conferences, online data collection and other tools. The choice of a distance assignment is really determined by a client's comfort level with working with someone who is not in the immediate area. Even for those who live and/or work in western Massachusetts or other nearby areas, it has been a major convenience to use these tools due to busy work/family schedules, commuting demands, etc.

How do I implement the recommendations you make for investments or other financial products?

We will advise you on financial products such as investments and insurance, but we do not sell them or receive any benefit from their sale. We can recommend ethical and competent insurance agents to assist you in addressing an insurance need, or we can help you to secure coverage for the service of a no or low load internet-based insurance company.

For investments, we have three levels of implementation service. These are listed here from the least expensive, least amount of assistance to the most expensive, highest service level. However, even with the highest service level, fees for managing your portfolio are highly competitive (please see 'How do you price your services?' below):

1. Investment plan assistance only - This choice is the best fit for those who have a simple portfolio or who are experienced investors comfortable doing most implementation on their own. When Kulig Financial Advisors is hired to create an investment plan, we are available for 30 days following the completion and delivery of that plan for implementation at no additional charge. Once the investment plan has been implemented, Kulig Financial Advisors will contact you in the future for annual portfolio reviews. However, we do not rebalance the portfolio or provide ongoing monitoring of investments between reviews. Because the vast majority of the investments we use are index funds (please see 'What is your investment philosophy?' below), this approach can work for many clients.

2. Portfolio review retainer - Kulig Financial can provide an ongoing review of your portfolio, but you do the implementation. Following the creation of an investment plan, Kulig Financial will assist with implementation. Then on a quarterly basis, we will review your portfolio to determine whether any rebalancing is necessary, as well as whether any funds need to be replaced. We issue a set of transactions that are needed and the client implements those on his or her own. Major changes to the investment plan (for example, as someone nears retirement) would require another investment planning session. These relationships cost less than portfolio management services since clients do the implementation. The exact price is based on Kulig Financial's prevailing hourly rate (see FAQ #7) and the complexity of the portfolio.

3. Money management - This is the highest level of service, which is a good fit for those who do not have the time or expertise to manage a portfolio independently. Kulig Financial provides the portfolio design and full implementation. You do not need to be highly involved other than in setting objectives and investment policy, and periodic meetings on how your portfolio is doing.

How do you price your financial planning and investment services?

Planning fees are based on an hourly rate of $240, but we provide you a quote on a project basis so that you know the most that you would be expected to pay. The quote itself is based on the time we spend meeting with you, either in person, on the phone or video chat; researching and analyzing your situation; and formulating recommendations that are specific to your situation. Before you hire us, we will always provide you with a written quote of the full cost of the engagement. Because clients may hire us for a very focused task or more complex financial plans, the fee quote can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

For full money management, our fee schedule is as follows:

Account SizeAnnualized Asset-Based Fee Range
$0 - $500,0001.00% (100 basis points)
$500,001 - $1,000,0000.75% (75 basis points)
$1,000,001 - $2,000,0000.50% (50 basis points)
$2,000,001 and aboveNegotiable

We do not have account minimums for portfolio management, but as a practical matter, for smaller accounts, an investment plan may do the job and be the most economical for you.

What types of planning services do you offer?

For a listing of services offered by Kulig Financial Advisors please review our services.

What is your investment philosophy?

The following principles and convictions will inform the investment recommendations that we present to our clients:

A. Asset allocation is the most significant factor in determining your long-term investment performance. Asset allocation refers to the way you divide your investments between stocks, bonds, cash and other investments.

B. We believe that investing in stocks requires a time horizon of five years or longer. Investors who will need access to their funds within five years should not be in the stock market. As we experienced from 2000 to 2010, stocks are capable of delivering little or nothing in terms of returns for an entire decade.

C. We do not believe in market timing, which is a strategy that seeks to move in and out of the market in anticipation of either upward or downward market movements. Few (if any) investment professionals have over a long period of time demonstrated their ability to consistently add value beyond a buy and hold strategy. We believe in controlling risk through prudent asset allocation strategy, not by attempting to time the market.

D. We believe that there is a role for both active and passive investing strategies. To clarify, "active" management is an investment approach where fund managers choose securities based on research, judgment, and financial analysis. "Passive" management is a buy and hold strategy that seeks to provide broad market exposure and typically tries to replicate the returns of the designated index (like the S&P 500). Passive investors make no attempt to exclude or include stocks in their portfolios based on criteria used by active managers. For many investors, we recommend a core plus satellite investing model. Conventional wisdom holds that the purpose of core portfolio holdings has been to harness the long-term appreciation potential of traditional assets such as large-company stocks and high quality bonds. The goal of asset allocation has been to strike a balance between these two low correlation asset classes that optimizes their risk-adjusted returns. However, following the economic crisis of 2008 and early 2009, we believe that there are three key factors that need to be considered in constructing the core portion of investors' portfolios. These factors are: historically high volatility, historically low interest rates, and renewed awareness of the potential for historical correlations to break down. In this environment, traditional holdings -- especially long only stocks -- may be too volatile for many investors, especially those nearing or in retirement. We believe that post-crisis core portfolios may benefit from some revisions to traditional asset allocation, and believe that hedged equity, global fixed income and risk managed alternative investments may be appropriate for many investors.

E. We believe that fees and expenses have a very negative impact on a client's wealth over a long period of time. For example, if two investors with $100,000 are able to earn an average of 9% per year over a 20 year time period, but one investor chooses a higher cost investment that assesses an extra 1% per year in fees, the investor with the higher costs will have $94,345 less at the end of the 20 year period. Expenses and fees must be carefully managed.

Can you describer your "7 Steps to Financial Success" process?

The seven steps approach was designed to clearly communicate the way that we work with our clients and to clarify the roles and responsibility of the financial planner and the client. For a full description, please go to our process page.

How can I get started?

Call us at (413) 565-2839 or e-mail us at to schedule an introductory meeting. We offer a no fee, no obligation get acquainted meeting, either by phone, by teleconference, or in person.

Does your firm offer money management?

Yes, as described in "How do I implement recommendations?" Kulig Financial offers different service levels to meet varying client needs when it comes to portfolio oversight. The highest level of service is full implementation and monitoring of your portfolio. Please read the question "What is your investment philosophy?" and well as the question on pricing of our services to see if this is right for you.

What if I don't want to implement recommendations entirley on my own?

Kulig Financial Advisors offers varying levels of service and/or professional oversight to assist you in implementing portfolio recommendations. Each service level represents a considerable savings over charges typical in the industry (which can range from close to 3% for smaller account to 1% for larger ones). While these percentages sound small, they add up considerably when compounded over many years. Our goal is to serve you; while we asked to be compensated for our time, effort and expertise, our objective is to keep money in your pocket to meet your financial goals. Please call us with questions at (413) 565-2839.