WHAT IS FIDUCIARY, FEE-ONLY, AND EVIDENCE-BASED?
- Is your advisor a fiduciary?
Fiduciary advisors are required by law to act only in your best interest, even above their own. This is in stark contrast to the standards of most broker/advisors, who only need to meet a “suitability” threshold, which basically means anything goes.
- Is your advisor fee-only?
Fee-only advisors are compensated only by you, the client. If your advisor is also compensated by third parties, you have to wonder if they truly are committed to your best interest. For example, could your advisor be recommending certain products because it nets them a commission, sales charge (load), or another form of kick-back? If they are fee-only fiduciaries, then they are only compensated directly by you, minimizing potential conflicts of interest. However, some advisor are registered dually, both as brokers and as fiduciaries, which makes it a little more complicated to know which hat they are wearing as you advisor. Make sure to always ask.
- Is your advisor’s approach to investing evidence based?
We know from decades of research, Nobel Prize-winning ideas, and real-world observations that trying to forecast or beat the markets is futile. The best approach to investing is proven to be with discipline using low-cost, globally diversified portfolios. Does your advisor use low-cost funds that track a broadly diversified benchmark? If not, then why not? Are they really providing additional value by using more expensive, actively-managed etfs/mutual funds or by stock-picking/market-timing?
DO I NEED AN ADVISOR?
If you have the emotional strength to implement and maintain an intelligent portfolio, to remain disciplined, and to rebalance when necessary, then you may not need an advisor. Educated, disciplined, and do-it-yourself investors can construct efficient portfolios and improve the probability of success using a low-cost, diversified, risk-appropriate portfolio allocation of Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund, Vanguard Total International Stock Market Index Fund, and Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund. Many investors don’t need anything else. The majority of investors who don’t have enough knowledge, discipline, or the emotional stamina to invest on their own should consider a Dimensional-approved advisor. Dimensional advisors don’t simply provide access to Dimensional funds. Dimensional clients typically capture higher returns than conventional and index investors because DFA advisors encourage smart behavior and discipline. If interested in learning more, we can chat about this or any other topic. Our goal is to spread the word about rational, evidence-based investing, even if that leads to you investing on your own or finding someone else who may be a better fit.
HOW DO I KNOW IF YOU ARE THE RIGHT ADVISOR FOR ME?
The first question really is whether you need an investment management advisor at all. Then, it may turn out that we are not the right fit. We are not the typical advisor that uses a conventional approach to investing. We don’t look for mispricing in individual securities or mutual funds, nor do we try to time the market. Based on decades of evidence, we believe that these are cost-generating gimmicks. Instead we use an evidence-based approach to investing, which means that we focus only on actions that add value to help improve your odds of success in the long term. If you are looking for someone to help you speculate, we are not the right advisor for you.
WHAT CRITERIA DO YOU USE TO PICK STOCKS?
We don’t believe that stock picking or market timing is a winning strategy. We only advise clients to use an evidence-based approach to investing. We offer highly-efficient, low-cost, globally diversified portfolios of Dimensional Fund Advisors mutual funds.
CAN YOU STILL HOLD INDIVIDUAL STOCKS IN YOUR INVESTMENT PORTFOLIO?
Stock picking is speculation, not investing. However, you can still choose to hold individual stocks in a separate account that is not included as part of our management services.
WHAT ARE YOUR SERVICES?
We provide fiduciary, fee-only financial advisory and tax planning services. We don’t believe that any one firm can provide enough value in all services. We therefore advise clients to also rely on estate planners, fee-only insurance advisors, and tax accountants in collaboration with our services. If you need help seeking out reputable service providers, we collaborate with highly knowledgeable and experienced professionals.
WHAT ARE YOUR WEALTH MANAGEMENT FEES?
Our comprehensive wealth advisory fee is based on percentage of client’s assets that SCM Investment Services manages and is calculated and charged in accordance with the following fee schedule:
- 1.00% for $0 to $500,000
- 0.85% for $500,000 to $1,000,000
- 0.70% for $1,000,000 to $2,000,000
- 0.55% for $2,000,000 to $5,000,000
- 0.40% for $5,000,000 to $10,000,000
- 0.25% above $10,000,000
To see how our fees align with industry averages, read our post “Are You Paying Too Much in Fees?”.
Our initial account minimum investment is $100,000. We treat each client independently and may in some cases waive the initial minimum investment requirement. Solely at our discretion, in some cases the fees may be negotiable.
DO YOU CHARGE ANY FEES BASED ON PERFORMANCE?
No. SCM Investment Services charges a fee based on assets under management only.
DOES SCM INVESTMENT SERVICES HAVE ANY CONFLICTS OF INTEREST?
As a fiduciary, fee-only investment management advisor, we charge a management fee based upon the assets that we manage. We do not get paid by any third parties, including by brokers, by custodians, or by mutual fund companies for using or promoting their products (this includes Vanguard and Dimensional Fund Advisors), nor do we get paid commissions or get a cut from any transaction. We also don’t sell any financial products. Our firm is structured to align our interests as closely as possible with the interests of our clients. Our loyalty is only to our clients, whose best interest we guard vigorously. Although we try to minimize conflicts, it’s impossible for advisors to eliminate them entirely. For example, the aum model itself (although not commission-based) exposes advisors to conflicts. The best way that we ensure trust is by being completely transparent about our fees and operations.
WHEN DO YOU REBALANCE?
At minimum, we consider each quarter whether your account qualified for rebalancing. However, there is nothing special about a quarterly time frame; indeed it’s just an arbitrary frequency. We monitor your portfolio continuously and weigh the market dynamics against the transaction costs generated by rebalancing.
WHAT HAPPENS AS YOU REACH AND ENTER RETIREMENT?
As a client gets older, his or her time frame changes. Since time frame is a dimension of risk, the client’s risk tolerance will also adjust. As your risk tolerance adjusts, so should your asset allocation, in most cases gradually moving away from equities and into bonds. Keep in mind that even in retirement, clients should have exposure to equities.