Welcome to BWFA’s general questions and answers section. We hope you find it helpful and informative. If you don’t find the answer to your question below, please submit a new one at the bottom, send us a comment using the Contact Us form, or call our toll-free number at 1-888-461-3900.

FAQ

 

 

 

 

 

Who Does BWFA Help?

Our Clients


There is no typical BWFA client, each is an individual. We serve corporate and government executives, engineers and scientists, small business owners, medical professionals, retirees, and families. Our clients are well-educated and accomplished in their fields, and along the way most have accumulated significant wealth, many investing $1 million or more with us.

Clients come to us for expert advice and the confidence that comes from having a dedicated financial advisor. Most are busy in their careers or are enjoying hard-earned retirement and don’t want to spend so many hours managing day-to-day financial affairs. Our clients value high quality advice, planning, investment management and tax help and benefit from the coordination of these services at one firm.

How will BWFA make my life better?

Relax knowing that experienced professionals are looking after your investments every day so you can focus on things that are more important to you.

Have confidence that you have a customized retirement plan that is updated every year and adjusted for your changing circumstances.

Minimize unnecessary taxes and other expenses with the assistance of an integrated team of financial experts.

Get unbiased advice on major financial decisions.

Have the comfort of a secure plan for your estate to take care of your loved ones and causes that are important to you.

Benefit from clear, straightforward, friendly advice and explanations that make complicated financial matters simple.

What makes BWFA different?

Better Solutions and Better Service.


BWFA is an independent nationally recognized financial advisory firm. With a dozen professionals on your team, we are large enough to provide comprehensive service, yet small enough that you are important to us. We’re known for straightforward, complete, unbiased, and friendly advice from seasoned advisors.

  • We’re an independent Fee-Only firm and we accept compensation only from our clients for the services we provide. You always know we’re working for you.
  • We have served the Baltimore-Washington area since 1986. This is a firm with history, experience, and staying power.
  • Our principal advisors have prior corporate experience: banking, trust, finance, and institutional money management. You get access to top quality talent, not sales brokers.
  • We are a true wealth management firm. You will find investment management, high-level planning, and tax expertise all at one firm.
  • We always work from a plan. Whether you need a monthly “retirement paycheck” from your nest egg, a risk-managed investment strategy, a custom estate plan, or thoughtful tax analysis, BWFA will create a detailed plan to achieve your goals.

How do I begin?

Call and discuss your situation with us. One of our advisors will make an appointment for you to come to our office for a free initial consultation. This friendly exchange of information and ideas will help you get to know us. Together, we will discuss your questions and concerns, review the areas in which we can advise you, show you examples of our work, discuss fees, and recommend next steps.

How much time should I allow for my first meeting?

Typically, approximately an hour is sufficient for most people. Sometimes it takes more time.

Do I really need a financial advisor?

If you are considering the uncertainties of retirement, going through a difficult financial transition, uncertain about the practicality of your life plans, in need of expert advice, or have concerns about your investments, you should consider a comprehensive financial advisor. Professional advisors can provide you with expertise and technical knowledge, and help you feel confident in your financial future.

What is a fiduciary and why should I care?

As a Fee-Only registered investment advisor, BWFA is a fiduciary.  That means we are required to act in your best interest and give unbiased advice at all times, putting you before our firm’s profit incentives.  Furthermore we are obligated to disclose potential conflicts of interest.  This is the highest standard of care by law.

Most of the “Wall Street” firms you know are brokers, not fiduciaries.  They are required to make “suitable” recommendations only.

It’s like the difference between getting medication from a doctor who has a sworn oath to put patients first, versus relying on a pharmaceutical sales rep who might recommend something “suitable,”which may not be the most effective, lowest cost, or safest medication for you.

What does Fee-Only mean?

We accept compensation only from our clients for the services we provide. We never collect commissions or referral fees from anyone. This frees us to offer unbiased advice and to consistently act in a client’s best interest.

Why should I choose a Fee-Only advisor?

Choosing an advisor is a very personal decision that may come with some uncertainty. We offer financial advice about how to solve life issues, and our clients get peace of mind that comes from working with advisors they trust will put their needs first. As Fee-Only advisors, we do not sell or receive compensation from recommending specific investments or insurance. Our success depends on the quality of our advice and the satisfaction of our clients.

More on Fee-Only

What is the advantage of working with an integrated firm like BWFA?

We use a team approach at BWFA. Your BWFA advisor will coordinate and monitor the services we provide.  He or she will also head a service team which includes tax, investment and financial planning experts as needed.  This frees you from having to coordinate various advisors on your own.

What is financial planning and how is it different from investment management?

Financial planning is the process of uncovering your most important financial goals: enjoying a comfortable retirement, sending kids or grandkids to college, buying a second home, protecting you and your family, and making the most of your financial resources.

Investment management is one part of planning and focuses on investing in the market in a way to meet your long-term goals for growth and income. An investment strategy is part of a full financial plan.

At BWFA, you can hire us to manage your money, prepare a full plan, or both. It’s your choice.

What are BWFA’s fees?

As Fee-Only financial advisors we charge fees in several ways depending on what services you want us to provide. We charge a flat fee for planning and certain other projects, a per schedule fee for tax preparation, and a percentage fee for investment management.  At your initial session we’ll discuss your needs and our services, show you examples of the work we do, and quote you a fee.

more on our fees

Are BWFA fees tax deductible?

Yes, currently the IRS allows you to deduct investment advisory, tax preparation, and planning fees if they exceed 2% of your income.  Please contact us for specifics.

What is your minimum account size?

Good news—we don’t have one! We want professional investment management to be accessible to many clients, so we developed two ways of managing money. We have one approach for clients with up to $500,000 of investible assets and a different one for larger clients.  Contact us for more details.

Will you invest part of my assets only?

Some clients prefer to start by hiring us to manage a portion of their assets as they become comfortable with BWFA.

We believe that there is benefit to you in having all of your accounts working toward the same goals.  Thus, as you become comfortable with us, we would expect to manage the bulk of your accounts.

Some clients like to dabble in the market themselves, so keeping a small account to “play” with might work well for you.

Can you tell me about your performance?

We are proud of our performance, and in your initial consultation meeting at BWFA we would be happy to discuss how each of our investment models has performed.  Firm policy and regulatory guidelines prevent us from publishing specific numbers here.

If I become a client, do I have to move all of my accounts to BWFA?

We strongly recommend that you consolidate accounts as much as possible.  Simply put, you can’t manage what you can’t count.  Many new BWFA clients have various IRAs, 401(k)s, stock holdings, mutual funds, and annuities that they have purchased over time.  We have a dedicated person to help consolidate those accounts to TD Ameritrade, our clients’ custodian.

If you are working and contributing to a 401(k), 403(b), TSP, profit-sharing, or similar plan we may recommend that you continue contributing to that plan, and we can manage those accounts or give you advice on how to manage them yourself.

In any case, we will advise you regarding the most efficient and tax-friendly way to simplify your accounts and will oversee the process.

Why does BWFA use an independent custodian to hold client assets?

All client assets are held at an independent custodian to avoid the Bernie Madoff-type Ponzi schemes that have harmed so many investors. Our clients get regular statements from both the custodian and from BWFA. This dual confirmation of the value of a client’s assets provides an important protection against fraud.

I have an old 401(k), 403(b), or TSP retirement account. Should I roll it over to an IRA?

Perhaps.  Rolling over a former employer’s retirement plan to an IRA considerably increases your investment options, provides estate planning advantages, and may potentially reduce administrative fees. We can help you evaluate whether moving to an IRA makes sense for you and your circumstances.  If you decide to roll over to an IRA, we can help manage the process and ensure that tax-deferred contributions remain untaxed in the conversion to an IRA.

As an investment client do you consult with me before buying or selling?

From the start we work together to help you choose one of the eight BWFA investment models to follow for your account:

  • Aggressive Growth
  • Capital Appreciation
  • Conservative Growth
  • Growth and Income
  • Income and Growth
  • Income
  • Tax Exempt Income
  • Capital Preservation

Given how quickly markets change sometimes, we can’t confirm trades with you, but we are always ready to explain to you any changes in your accounts.

Our job is to follow the model that we agreed on together and to buy and sell in a timely manner.  We will take into account stocks or mutual funds you want us to keep or that may have tax issues attached to them.

You delegate day-to-day responsibility to us, but you always remain in control.

How long has BWFA been in business?

BWFA was founded in 1986 and took its current form in 1996 when the initial three partners came together.

Where are BWFA’s offices?

We are located in the community of Columbia, Maryland in the dynamic corridor between Baltimore, Maryland and Washington DC.  You’ll find our building near the Mall in Columbia, right behind Toby’s Dinner Theatre. Call or email and see our directions.

What are your office hours?

Our regular hours are from 8:30AM to 5:30PM EST each Monday through Friday. The offices are closed on New York Stock Exchange Holidays.  During the summer months, we’re available Monday through Friday 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM EST.

As part of our commitment to the families of our staff, we do not offer extended evening or weekend appointments

I was sold an annuity from a broker, what are my options?

Please contact us for a free initial consultation to review your current investments and make recomendations about the best way to manage them going forward.  We are knowledgable about stocks, bonds, annuities, mutual funds and fees, and retirement plan options.  It is our goal to give you unbiased advice about the best way to manage all of them.

Do you give advice on real estate?

Buying or selling real estate or a vacation home may impact your tax, investment, and retirement plans.  We can offer advice regarding any of those issues.  If you’re looking for advice on specific properties to buy or sell, then that’s outside of our expertise.

Can you work with clients in other states?

While our clients are naturally concentrated in Maryland, DC, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia, we have clients in over twenty-six states.  We work with clients by phone and have outfitted our office with state-of-the-art internet video conferencing to make it easy to reach clients anywhere.

Can I just start with one service?

Certainly.  Clients sometimes start with one service and add others over time.  It allows them to get to know us and become more comfortable with our advisors.

However, we can create the most value for clients by integrating all three services.

What happens if I want to leave BWFA as an investment client?

More than 95% of our investment clients stay with us every year, but some do choose to leave. If you leave, you’ll find no back end fees or surprises. To terminate BWFA’s management of your assets, simply call, email, or write to us with your instructions.