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Frequently Asked Questions

Please click the questions below to discover the answers.

Who are you and how can you help me?

Align Wealth Management (Align) is a federally registered investment advisory firm headquartered in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma with a satellite office in St. Petersburg, Florida. Our advisors are Certified Financial Planners™ who can help you manage your investments, plan your retirement, reduce your taxes, minimize your risks, and leave a legacy to your loved ones. Recognized six years running as one of America's best by Wealth Manager Magazine, Align has developed a solid reputation for its strong client-focused culture.

Our sole mission is to help you make the most of your one financial life. We believe in straight talk, good old-fashioned common sense, intense research, hard work on your behalf, and complete transparency. Importantly, we serve one master – our valued clients. We don't work for (nor do we accept compensation from) any brokerage firm, insurance company, or financial company. We are a "fee-only" firm, and we never accept commissions for the sale of financial or insurance products.  Every ounce of our allegiance flows directly to our clients and every penny of our compensation flows directly from our clients via fully disclosed fees.   And, speaking of fees, you'll find the total cost of our service offering to be among the most competitive in the industry.

We are backed up with a deep bench of wealth management professionals through our strategic alliance with Forum Financial Management.  Forum is an independent registered investment advisor firm of 30 investment professionals (including CFPs, CPAs, and attorneys). Forum provides Align and it's clients with a deep multi-disciplinary bench of high caliber professionals. Each Forum principal brings over 25 years experience in one or more aspects of financial management including: investment portfolio design, retirement, estate, insurance, and tax planning. Importantly, like Align, Forum is engaged in delivering wealth management services in the real world to real clients. Throughout the years, our ability to freely share ideas with other successful wealth management firms has proven extremely valuable to our family of clients. Together, Align and Forum manage over $1.5 billion.

Who are your clients?

Our business model is designed for people who are serious about making smart choices about their money. Align clients enjoy the benefits of our ongoing efforts to implement the financial industry's best practices in an open and trustworthy environment. Our work is best suited for investors who are intelligent, with a conservative-to-moderate risk tolerance, desiring a fiduciary and conflict-free advisory relationship. Our clients tend to be delegators, leading busy lives, with investment assets of $500,000 to $50 million.

Why don’t you display reviews or testimonials?

As a SEC-registered financial advisor, Align is prohibited from posting on its website marketing material that includes any statement by a former or present client that endorses Align’s advisory services or refers to the client’s favorable investment experience with Align. This also applies to linking to such a testimonial if one of our clients posts such an endorsement on another site. We’re careful to comply with the regulations regarding this restriction, which is why you won’t find a public section on our website asking for client feedback. You’re always free to email us privately at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with questions.

How long have you been in business?

Our firm was established in 1993. Throughout our twenty plus year history, we have strived to help clients navigate a multitude of economic, political, and tax environments.  The firm has enjoyed an average annual client retention rate exceeding 95%.

What steps do you take to ensure the safekeeping of my assets?

The safekeeping of your assets is of utmost importance to us. Accordingly, we have created a robust system of checks and balances to ensure the highest levels of security. First, we never take custody of your money. All accounts are maintained in your name with leading financial service firms, such as Schwab and TD Ameritrade.  Second, monthly account statements are delivered directly to you from Schwab or TD Ameritrade and you receive a confirmation statement anytime activity occurs in your account. Third, you enjoy access to your accounts through Schwab and TD Ameritrade websites and storefronts. Finally, all accounts are independently verified and valued, on a daily basis, by an independent third-party reconciliation agent, Tamarac.

Do you offer a satisfaction guarantee?

Yes. Unlike most other financial advisors, we stand behind the value of our work with a no-questions-asked satisfaction guarantee. If you are not happy with our services, for any reason, you may request a full refund of all fees paid to us within one year of becoming a client.  We require no long-term commitments or contracts.

Is my money liquid and accessible?

Yes. After all, it is your money. When you need it, you should be able to get it. We do not utilize or recommend investments that contain any surrender fees or exit penalties of any kind. All of our recommended investments are always 100% liquid and accessible.

Do you invest in the same investments that you recommend to me?

Of course.  To do otherwise would be both unprofessional and incongruent (in our opinion).  Besides, we think we run some of the best diversified portfolios in the world.  So, ethics aside, our enlightened self-interest leads us to invest our own money right alongside yours.  

Think about it ... does it really make sense for a financial advisor to recommend one thing to you and then invest his/her own money in something different?  Without exception, the elite financial advisors that we've met invest right alongside their clients.  When their clients prosper, the advisor prospers, and when their clients suffer, the advisor suffers.  As it should be.

If this makes sense to you, when interviewing potential advisers ask them if they invest in the same investments that they recommend to you and ask to see their personal investment statements to confirm.  To be clear, the personal wealth (excluding our homes) of all Align partners is invested in the same portfolios as our clients, as is our company's retirement plan.  Of course, we gladly produce our statements to anyone becoming a client.

If you are comparison shopping among advisers, it is important to ask each of them the same questions. Request a financial planner interview questionnaire that will help you choose the financial advisor that is best suited for you and your family.

If you don't accept commissions, then how do you make money?

Align Wealth Management is a fee-only wealth management firm.  We don't sell financial, investment or insurance products for commissions.  Our revenues are derived solely from fully-disclosed professional fees paid to us by our valued clients.  And speaking of fees, you'll find that the total cost of our wealth management services is among the most competitive anywhere.  We are committed to ensuring that our value far outweighs our cost.

What are your fees?

All of our services are provided on a fee-only basis, and services are inclusive of all periodic client conferences, client meetings, performance reviews, portfolio reporting, tax reports, and cash flow projections. Our fees are billed on a quarterly basis, in arrears, and are calculated on the total portfolio value of the assets under management. Fees are calculated in accordance with the tiered schedule below:

Account Size Annual Fee
$500,000 — $1,000,000 1.00%
Next $2,000,000 0.90%
Next $2,000,000 0.75%
Next $5,000,000 0.60%
Over $10,000,000 0.40%

Are there exit fees due if I choose to close my Align account?

No.  There are no exit fees associated with Align accounts.

How does this compare to industry averages?

Industry Average

Align

Advisory Fee for $2,000,000 Account 1.00% 0.95%
Third Party Portfolio Management Fee¹ Varies None
Mutual Fund Expense Ratio 1.25%  ² 0.26% ³ 
Mutual Fund Trading Charges 1.44% 4  0.09% 5 
TOTAL 3.69%      1.30%
 
Many firms outsource their investment management to a third party asset manager and/or separately managed account, which charge an additional fee that is passed on to the client. 
2 Mutual Fund Expense Ratio Trends, Morningstar - June 2014, Russell Kinnel, Director of Manager Research
3 Average expense ratio of Align Wealth Management's portfolios.  Portfolio expenses range from 0.23% to 0.32%, depending upon the asset allocation. 
4 Shedding Light on "Invisible" Costs: Trading Costs and Mutual Fund Performance. Roger Edelen, Richard Evans, and Gregory Kadlec - Financial Analysts Journal Vol. 69 #1, 2013
5 Average trading costs of all funds held within Align Wealth Management portfolios. Trading costs data for each fund received from personalfund.com, a third party fund expense calculator. 

How much does it cost to hold initial planning meetings with your firm?

There is no cost for our initial discovery meeting.  We feel it's time well spent to first get to know one another — before we establish a formal business relationship.

How often do you meet with your clients?

We typically meet in-person 2 - 4 times annually with our clients who live in the Oklahoma City and Tampa Bay areas, based upon each client's preference. For our clients who live outside of these areas, we suggest regular updates via email, phone, web-conferencing and in-person meetings as appropriate.

How will you minimize the taxes on my portfolio?

Because not all income is taxed the same, we utilize a process called Asset Location.  The goal of Asset Location is to minimize taxes on your portfolio as a whole by holding the right assets in the right accounts.  It involves carefully determining which assets to hold in your taxable accounts (joint accounts and revocable trusts), which assets to hold in your tax-deferred accounts (IRAs and 401Ks), and which assets to hold in your tax-free accounts (Roths).  For example, we would hold municipal bonds in a taxable account and we would hold a high yielding REIT in a tax-deferred and/or tax free account. 

In addition to utilizing Asset Location, we take a number of additional steps to maximize your after-tax returns:

  • During our investment screening process, we assess the tax efficiency of each potential holding. Our objective is to identify investments that will deliver solid after-tax returns.
  • We consider carefully whether it makes sense to continue to hold investments that we might otherwise sell once they have built up large capital gains. Using our own proprietary portfolio trading software, we assess the opportunity cost of holding an existing position with a significant unrealized gain vs. selling and generating capital gain taxes. We review a variety of scenarios before making a final sell decision.
  • When the markets are volatile on the downside, we look for opportunities to harvest capital losses by selling investments, or specific tax lots, that have unrealized losses that could be used to offset gains on a client's tax return.
  • If we are planning on selling an investment position with a gain, we will first consider the holding period and if we are close to creating a long-term capital gain, (after a one year holding period), then we may consider holding the position for a few more days or weeks in order to allow the client to take advantage of lower tax rates on long-term capital gains.
  • For our taxable accounts that include fixed income, municipal tax-free bonds are often used in lieu of taxable bonds.

What happens to my current holdings if I become a client?

Before any changes are made, we first analyze your existing portfolio and discuss our recommendations with you. Our overall goal is for your portfolio to make sense for you and your lifetime objectives, in the most cost effective manner. Ways we achieve this goal are to:

  • Develop a firm understanding of your unique willingness, ability, and need to engage market risk via appropriate diversification
  • Understand how all your assets will be used to meet your goals
  • Minimize your investment expenses
  • Manage for appropriate asset location between taxable and tax-sheltered accounts
  • Eliminate any unnecessary complexity within your portfolio
  • Minimize your taxes
We will accept securities into your managed account. However, most of them will not be retained unless they are the same securities currently being utilized in the target portfolio set forth in your investment policy statement. It is our professional and ethical duty to manage your portfolio to the best of our ability. This includes selecting and monitoring all securities held in your account. Of course, we will work with you to ensure that any transitions occur as smoothly and cost-effectively as possible.

What if I have mutual funds or other securities that I want to keep?

Any investment that you currently own and desire to retain should be placed in a separate self-managed account. We can help you set-up a non-managed Schwab or TD Ameritrade account. However, because of our fiduciary obligation to our clients, we cannot take responsibility for this type of self-directed account.

I am contacting you because I understand you are an advisor with approved access to Dimensional Fund Advisor (DFA) funds. How can I learn more?

Align Wealth Management is pleased to be among a select group of financial advisory firms with direct access to DFA funds. We often utilize DFA funds as components of our managed portfolios. We have no affiliation with DFA and we receive no commissions, kickbacks, or compensation from DFA. DFA is not our exclusive fund sponsor, and whenever we feel there is a better investment option for your particular needs, we use it.

As you may know, DFA seeks to protect the reliability of its funds, and to keep shareholder expenses low by requiring investors to access DFA funds via a select group of financial advisory firms. You can learn more about DFA by visiting www.dfaus.com.

What do you mean by portfolio rebalancing?

We believe two keys to achieving your long-term financial goals are: (1) building a portfolio of holdings mixed to reflect your unique goals and risk tolerance; and, (2) sticking with that planned mix over time. To achieve that second goal, you don't just buy and hold. You also have to periodically rebalance. Even as you stay firm with your investments, the market around you is always changing. For example, say you build a portfolio of half bonds and half stocks, balancing safety and expected wealth growth. After a while, if stocks outperform bonds, that "half" becomes more than half of your overall portfolio, and that's not what you planned. So we sell some of your stocks (selling high) and purchase enough bonds (buying low) until your mix is rebalanced to its intended 50/50 mix. Or sometimes we can use available cash flow to rebalance your portfolio by simply buying more of the underweighted asset.

When do you rebalance portfolios?

Although we consider rebalancing to be an essential part of professional asset management, most investors rarely rebalance their investments on their own, and many advisors merely rebalance annually, without much regard to what's happening in between. We take a different approach. To be on the lookout for any opportunities, we monitor our model portfolios daily. We then rebalance your portfolio whenever we determine that the amount of cash in your account is too high or too low, or whenever any of the mix within your portfolio has drifted too far off from your stated goals. Because rebalancing incurs transaction costs and can generate taxable gains within taxable accounts, we monitor regularly for rebalancing opportunities, but we are judicious about acting only when we feel it will truly add value to your long-term investment experience.

We rebalance based on the unique investment objectives described in your Investment Policy Statement (IPS), so we also strongly encourage clients to let us know whenever their objectives change, in case we need to adjust their allocations, their IPS, and thus their rebalancing activities.

Do you have to call me before you rebalance my portfolio?

The short answer is no. We conduct your rebalancing automatically as part of our overall client-focused services. We feel this approach ensures that important rebalancing opportunities are not postponed or lost by requiring you to fit an approval process into your already busy life. Instead, you give us advance permission to rebalance on your behalf. This permission is very limited, permitting us only to conduct periodic rebalancing or to replace an investment with one we deem is superior, all in accordance with our written, customized, Investment Policy Statement to which we mutually agree.

Will I be notified when you rebalance or make other portfolio changes?

Yes. Your custodian (Schwab or TD Ameritrade) will notify you by mail or email each time we make a change in your portfolio. These confirmations will give you complete details of each trade in your account. All trades are conducted in accordance with your written Investment Policy Statement, but we encourage clients to be in contact with us whenever any questions arise. We feel this creates a good balance between keeping you informed and involved, while minimizing unnecessary interruptions to your busy life.

What is the past performance of your investment strategy?

Via our third-party performance reporting system, we do have performance data on our model portfolio strategies. Please keep in mind that past performance is no indication of future results. It is important to understand that Align builds and manages portfolios for clients on a case-by-case basis and that our model performance is an aggregate of all of our managed accounts net of all fees and expenses. 

Important Disclosures:  Performance results are presented net-of-fees and reflect the reinvestment of dividends and capital gains.  Portfolio returns are composite returns of all clients invested within the respective portfolios. Individual results may vary as each client’s portfolio is customized to their particular circumstances. In addition, returns will likely vary based on the timing of deposits and withdrawals, as well as the use of asset classes and investments that are not part of our current portfolio allocations. Returns are time-weighted returns. No current or prospective client should assume that the future performance of any specific investment or strategy will be profitable or equal to past performance levels. All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss and past perfomance is no indication of future performance.  Changes in investment strategies, contributions or withdrawals, and economic conditions may materially alter the performance of your portfolio.  Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that any specific investment or strategy will either be suitable or profitable for a client's investment portfolio. Historical performance results for investment indexes and/or categories generally do not reflect the deduction of transaction and/or custodial charges or the deduction of an investment management fee, the incurrence of which would have the effect of decreasing historical performance results.  There are no assurances that a portfolio will match or outperform any particular benchmark.

Account Operations &  Reports

Is Align Wealth Management affiliated with Schwab or TD Ameritrade?

No. Align Wealth Management is not affiliated with Schwab or TD Ameritrade, nor are we compensated by any of those companies in any manner. We receive no fees, commissions, or incentives from Schwab, TD Ameritrade, or any other financial institution.

Do I have to go to a Schwab or TD Ameritrade office to open an account?

No. There is no reason to visit a Schwab or TD Ameritrade office to open accounts yourself. When you are ready to become an Align client, we will send you the necessary paperwork for your signature.  We know your time is valuable and we like to keep things simple and easy for you.

How often do I receive statements and reports?

Schwab and TD Ameritrade send monthly statements to all clients for all accounts. These statements show account balances, trades, cash flows, and unrealized gains. Statements are available in paper as well as through email. In addition, Align will send you a detailed performance report each quarter that compares your portfolio's performance to a series of relevant benchmarks.

Will I receive reports to help with tax preparation?

Yes. At the end of each year, Schwab and TD Ameritrade will send 1099s to you for each taxable account. In addition, a realized gain/loss statement is available on-line from Schwab and TD Ameritrade, as well as from www.alignmywealth.com. Align also provides a detailed tax report to you (and to your CPA if desired) detailing interest, dividends, short-term capital gains, long-term capital gains, and a pro-forma 1040 Schedule D.

Is there a cost to terminate my relationship with Align?

No, you can terminate the advisor/client relationship at any time for any reason (or for no reason at all). There are no termination charges or surrender fees. A final management fee will be drafted based on the number of days during the current quarter that your account was under our management.

Insurance &; Other Matters

Does anyone at Align Wealth Management have access to my money?

Your assets are held in custody in your name at Schwab or TD Ameritrade.  Align Wealth Management is never in custody of any of your assets. Instead, we are granted limited power of attorney to do three things in your account: (1) trade securities, with discretion, in accordance with your Investment Policy Statement; (2) request that Fidelity/TD Ameritrade send a check to a client directly or to a client's bank; and, (3) be paid a quarterly management fee from the account based on our Investment Advisory Agreement. We have no other access or authority.

Are my accounts insured from theft, fraud, errors, omissions and insolvency?

Yes. All accounts are insured on multiple levels. The coverage extended to you at Schwab and TD Ameritrade is extensive. For details on each custodian's coverage, please visit each custodian's website.  Align Wealth Management also carries extensive Errors and Omissions insurance and a separate Fidelity Bond for retirement accounts and pension funds.

How is my privacy protected?

Your privacy is of utmost importance to us. Align Wealth Management complies with all privacy laws affecting financial institutions. Each year, our clients receive our Privacy Statement that outlines this responsibility in detail. Those standards are reviewed regularly to ensure they cover all forms of communication. Briefly, we will not release any information to any person who is not directly named on your account unless we have your permission to do so, with the exception of legal and regulatory authorities.

What ethical standards does Align Wealth Management adhere to?

All personnel, including management personnel, are required to sign an Annual Ethics Statement that outlines our ethical standards. Everyone at Align Wealth Management adheres to that strict ethical code as part of our daily operations. In addition, our daily operations are governed by our policy and procedures manual, as well as by the Align Employee Handbook.

Getting Started

How do I get an information package?

Simply fill out the form on the contact us page, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or call our toll-free number at
800-401-6477.

Does Align Wealth Management charge if I receive a proposal but do not open an account?

No.

What is the minimum portfolio size needed to get started?

We have no minimum portfolio size.

How do I get started?

Simply contact us to schedule a complimentary consultation. The first step of our wealth management process is an initial one hour Discovery Meeting. This complimentary Discovery Meeting provides an opportunity for you to learn more about our firm and how we may be able to assist you.

If appropriate, we then take your information and create a draft investment plan to align your money with your goals and objectives. In our second meeting (the Investment Plan Meeting), we review your draft investment plan with you. During this Investment Plan Meeting, we walk you through your plan and highlight the investment strategies that we recommend to help you maximize the probability of achieving your goals.

At this point, we find that many people want to immediately move ahead. Instead, we typically ask that you set a time for a Mutual Commitment Meeting. This allows you to take your plan home so that you have plenty of time to review it. We do this because we are looking for lifelong relationships, not short-term transactions. At the Mutual Commitment Meeting, we answer any questions you have about your investment plan and discuss any fine-tuning adjustments. If we mutually agree that we have a strong basis for a continued working relationship, we then assist you in completing the documents needed to get your plan started.

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Why fee-only?

With fee-only compensation, you, our client, pays us a fair and transparent fee for the services we provide you. Refusing commissions or other compensation from outside parties removes the conflicts and temptations that come along with them, and helps ensure we're focused on your interests.

Do you have minimum standards for your advisor representatives?

Yes. Within six months of hire, Align Wealth Management advisors must have at least five years of industry experience and hold the CFP® professional financial planning designation or the CFA (chartered financial analyst) designation. In addition, each advisor is supported and supervised by Align's senior management team. Each advisor is required to comply with all of Align's practices and procedures.

What is a Fiduciary?

A good video explaining this topic is found here.

A Fiduciary is a person who is responsible for managing the assets of another person and who stands in a special relationship of trust, confidence, and/or legal responsibility. As a Fiduciary, we have the legal responsibility to follow prudent investment practices, as well as to serve the client's best interests. The Align Wealth Management Client Agreement specifically identifies Align Wealth Management as your investment fiduciary. We also have designed our operations to reflect prudent practices and procedures.

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Aren't all brokers fiduciaries?

No. Commission-based brokers are not generally required to be fiduciaries. They are transaction-based and are not held to a fiduciary standard. Some brokers/advisors try to wear two hats, suggesting that some activities should be held to a fiduciary standard and some should not. This creates confusion and a lack of clarity in the client/advisor relationship.

What if I need life insurance, disability insurance, long-term care insurance, or other insurance products?

If we identify a need for insurance products or suggest that you shop for quotes to increase the value of existing insurance plans, you have options. You can go to the open market for competitive quotes, or we can refer you to our partner firm, Forum Financial, and their team of insurance specialists.  Of course, you can also do both. Align does not sell insurance products.  However, we understand their importance in an overall financial plan and we incorporate them into your overall customized strategy as appropriate.

Can I use your services even if Align Wealth Management does not have an office in my area?

Yes. Align serves clients across the United States. If you do not live near one of our offices, we can utilize technology such as the telephone, email, and web conferencing to accommodate you.

What if I am a client and move out of the area?

As an established client, you can continue with our services and we can continue to service your needs remotely via telephone, email, and web conferencing.

I have another question that you haven't answered on your web site.

Please feel free to email questions or comments to us at info@alignmywealth.com.