Putting your best interests first.

frequently asked questions

How do I know if your services are right for me?
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We will be happy to schedule a time to listen to you and answer any questions you may have, so we can both decide if we are right for each other. Request a convenient Free Consultation through the contact page.

What does a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional do?
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A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional helps clients achieve their financial and personal goals. Here, our CFP® Professionals are part coach, part advocate, all partner. We are in this with you. We take a holistic approach with an emphasis on your entire financial life – not just investments. Ultimately, our goal is to create a path towards financial prosperity and peace of mind so you can focus on your family, career, that trip of a lifetime or rewarding retirement.

What does an ACCREDITED INVESTMENT FIDUCIARY® Professional do?
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The purpose of the Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF®) designation is to assure that those responsible for managing or advising on investor assets have a fundamental understanding of the principles of fiduciary duty, the standards of conduct for acting as a fiduciary, and a process for carrying out fiduciary responsibility.

What is a fiduciary?
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A fiduciary is a person who holds a legal and ethical relationship of trust with clients. We wouldn't have it any other way. 

What services do you provide?
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We provide all the relevant financial planning services that you would expect from a major financial organization, however, we are independent, life-centered and have developed a much more personal and objective approach. 

For a flat annual fee we offer three meeting per year  which are designed to get and keep your entire financial house in order and make meaningful progress.

The fee includes myself and our financial planning team, who create a comprehensive plan of action for you.

The outcomes for you are:

- You will know exactly what you need to do in order to have the highest probability of achieving your goals and mitigating all the risks that could prevent you from achieving your goals.

- All of the advice will always be aligned with your most important goals and your most deeply held values.

- You will know exactly how much cash reserves you should have, why, and how to make that happen.

- You will know, specifically, the best way to manage, reduce, or eliminate your debt in a time-frame that works for you.

- You will have the right amount of every type of insurance that you need to protect your plan.

- Your assets will be allocated in a way that gives you the highest probability of achieving your goals within the risk parameters that you tell us work for you.

- Having us coordinate with your lawyers, all of your legal documents will finally be in place so that, in the event that you either of you are unable to speak for yourselves, your wishes will be carried out. I’m referring to wills, trusts, health care directives, POAs, etc.

- Coordinating with your accountant, this will all be done in the most tax-efficient manner possible.

- Perhaps, most importantly, we will hold you accountable to do what needs to be done so you achieve what you want to achieve.

- In a nutshell, you will have a very high level of confidence that no matter what happens in the market, the economy, politics, or word events… you will achieve your goals.

Do your planning services cover retirement income funding?
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Yes. Details matter and managing them correctly means more income for you in retirement. Balancing the best practices of wealth management, tax logic, asset location, and Social Security optimization can be challenging when doing it alone. These real life challenges are one area where we add value to you. When faced with these tradeoffs having a trusted advisor who is not compensated by investment or insurance commissions can create more clarity for you as we are not burdened with the conflicts of interest many advisors face when offering solutions which pay them differently.

Do your planning services cover tax strategy?
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Yes. In fact, in each meeting we provide an annual tax projection visual as one of our key reports we turn to to help you understand what you are currently paying and what we expect you will pay in the future. Tax law is constantly changing and we believe tax planning is a year round exercise, not just at the end of the year or when tax filings are due. We have found those who are more proactive with their taxes have better outcomes.

Can a Real Life-Centered Financial Plan help balance my cash-flow and spending?
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Yes. Cashflow planning is a core part of our planning process, we offer a simple and effective way to manage expenditures, reduce debt, increase savings, and fund important life goals.

Can your planning services help me decide if a Roth conversion is right for me?
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Yes. We consider Roth conversions and related Roth strategies a part of tax planning which can improve lifetime cashflow when executed correctly.

Do your planning services cover education funding?
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Do your planning services cover estate planning?
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Yes. Whether or not you are currently exposed to estate taxes, estate planning is a critical component of financial planning. Tax & estate law is constantly changing and it is important to understand what will happen should something happen to you in the event of death or disability to empower you to make changes as you see necessary. Like each element of financial planning reviewing your estate plan and your current beneficiaries will provide greater intentionality in your life.

You say your process is fun, what is fun about financial planning?
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Great question, and the answer is a key factor that motivated me to create an independent, fee-only financial planning firm in Montecito, CA. I firmly believe and understand that your life, dreams, hobbies, family, friendships and career endeavors are what matter most, and helping you have more relaxed time to enjoy them is what our process delivers all along the way. That is fun.

Do you provide guidance for getting better yields on my bank savings and money market funds?
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Yes. We provide advice on how to allocate all of your liquid assets, from your bank accounts to your investment accounts. We have found in recent years that often clients are leaving money on the table due to a lack of awareness of the marketplace for cash management and investment management.

What is the difference between a 'fee-only' advisor & a 'fee-based' advisor?
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Big difference! We are 'fee-only' advisors and financial planners. Simply stated, a fee-only advisor is compensated directly and only by their clients, and that is their total compensation; while  'fee-based' advisors charge both Fees AND Sales Commissions, and may also receive sales commissions from third-party products they sell. Specifically, we do not receive or take  sales commissions, trading commissions, mutual fund commissions, or product sales incentives of any sort. The extremely different, 'fee-based' advisors not only charge a fee, they also may sell investment products for additional offering concessions and/or sales commissions, along with receiving ongoing distribution sales commission trailers based upon client assets invested in certain mutual fund investment/insurance and/or other products they have advised/sold to their clients.

Are you compensated for referrals, investment management fees or commissions from third-parties?
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No. We are fee-only. Our only source of compensation is the fee you pay.  All these other ‘fees’ create expensive and awkward conflicts of interest, which are the antithesis of our model. The essence of designing Plains Coastal was to have zero conflicts of interest and to provide empowering advice that helps you come to a decisions that you are happy with.

How is Plains Coastal different from robo advisors, stockbrokers or other ‘wealth managers’?
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We do Real Life-Centered Financial Planning versus solely managing money, specifically your investments alone. We believe clients should have human beings planning their prosperous financial lives. Human insight, understanding and common experiences make for a better-informed Life-Centered Financial Plan.

Our greatest dreams are not merely financial. We want closeness in our  relationships, meaning in our lives happiness for those we love. We want to see causes championed, lives and communities transformed and yet the plans we tend to rely on to help us accomplish life's goals are primarily financial in nature. 

Financial planning is wise and financial resources are often necessary to help our dreams along, but just as buying a gym membership will not bring you vitality of life. Financial and estate plans will not bring you the desires of your heart, not by themselves.  

Getting from here to there will take more than time and money. 

In my work with families we pursue great dreams we explore the tension between competing priorities such as family harmony, business continuity and individual well-being. 

We tackle the challenges of relationships, communication and trust. 

We build skills and habits.

We resolve conflict.

We move from avoidance to action. 

From intentions to intentional pursuit 

Greater things are possible for you and your family than you realize. 

The future you hope for need not be just a wish. 

My hope for you is that you will allow yourselves to pursue great dreams and be purposeful and your planning at Plains Coastal we can help.

How does Plains Coastal charge for its services?
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We charge a flat fee driven purely by the services relevant to each client. Our service agreements typically range from $6,000 a year to $30,000 per year. Our average client pays a flat annual fee of $12,000. 

By what means do I pay you?
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Credit card or bank draft. It’s a seamless transaction through our billing system.

Will you manage my portfolio?
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No. We work as your advocate to seek out, find, and oversee managers that best fit you. This “unbundled” approach lowers your overall cost.

Why doesn’t Plains Coastal charge based on assets under management (AUM)?
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We believe you should pay for service rather than pay based on how much money you have. 

We know from experience that it does not cost a firm more to manage a portfolio of $1,000,000 than a portfolio of $500,000; it does not cost more to manage $5,000,000 than $1,000,000. Why, then, should clients pay more to receive the same services?

Furthermore, our flat fee model breaks down some of the barriers that keep some people from financial planning in the first place. And we want everyone to be able to plan for a fun, prosperous and purposeful financial life.

Who is your IDEAL Client?
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If you see yourself in these, you are probably a good fit.

Our ideal client is an individual or couple seeking a long-term personal financial planning and asset management relationship. The individual or couple is ready, willing and able to take control over their financial lives and recognizes the need to outsource to qualified professionals so that he, she or they can focus on what they enjoy and do best.

Our Ideal Client recognizes that it is easier to stay healthy than to get healthy and as such realizes getting financially organized takes a good deal of time up front, but in the long run saves time, reduces costs, avoids hassles, reduces risks, integrates and connects the many moving parts of money and life (taxes, insurance, wills, trusts, investments, etc.), reduces anxiety, promotes wellness and frees up the client’s time and energy for more important things in life, such as family, friends and personal fulfillment.

Our Ideal Client is a delegator and desires to use their time for other endeavors in life that are more rewarding than managing their portfolio, voting proxies, reading annual stock or fund reports, researching market conditions, determining appropriate investment allocations, harvesting losses, determining when to take gains, building out tax-efficient strategies to take distributions in retirement, and determining on an ongoing basis whether the current spending and future spending will put the client at risk of running out of money before they run out of life.

Our Ideal Clients value the benefits of personal financial planning and appreciate the integration of advice and guidance as it relates to their own personal and financial life goals. Studies have shown that those who continuously collaborate with a Certified Financial Planner™ professional experience less stress and anxiety (personal, professional and financial), enjoy better health and well-being and accumulate at least 3 times more capital than those who call themselves “do-it-yourselfers.”

Our Ideal Client is someone who values professional advice, counsel and guidance. Our Ideal Client recognizes his or her own weaknesses and realizes they are not experts in everything. They value having a back office support system in the form of a personal financial planning and investment advisory firm to assist with managing all the intricacies of account maintenance and management. They value the regular progress meetings and the ability to reach and promptly receive assistance. They value the ability to call and actually speak to a human being and not a robotic teleprompt system.

Our Ideal Clients don’t have a mega-rich attitude. Our Ideal Client worked hard in their pre-retirement years and over the years established strong working relationships with their advisors (CFP®, CPA, JD and insurance specialists, etc.). In pre-retirement, they consistently spend less than they earn, save more than they need, and strive for balance in their lives.

Ideal Clients seeking our care, skill and judgement are wanting and needing a roadmap and help creating a financially healthy balance in life. Some require a form of financial therapy and clarity regarding their relationship with money, family members, spending and differences in money styles between spouses. Still others want to make sure that their spouse and/or children will be taken care of when they die. For many clients, we serve as part of their financial life succession plan.

Our Ideal Client is someone who cares that the advisory team actually cares about them and is their advocate to help them succeed in attaining their personal and professional goals in life.

Our Ideal Client is someone who is ready, willing and able to be proactively engaged with their advisory team and recognizes that open and frequent communication is the key to ensuring the advisory team knows and understands their specific needs, goals and concerns.

Our Ideal Client wants a collaborative approach and values the idea of a lay advisory board. A lay advisory board is similar to a board of directors:

  • Clients have the makings of a lay advisory board. The board includes their property and casualty insurance agent, health, disability, long-term care and life insurance specialists, tax preparer, attorney, mortgage specialist, business advisors/consultants, personal financial planner, and investment advisors and/or brokers.

Our Ideal Clients recognize the value of being informed and want to know what they need to know, and come to us because they have grown tired of the advisor who tells them what s/he thinks they want to hear so s/he can make a sale.

Our Ideal Client seeks personal and/or professional growth and recognizes the need for contemplative reflection on what is most important in their lives and to explore different approaches to achieve their goals. In other words, they value “measuring twice or thrice” and cutting once.

Our Ideal Clients agree with the statement: “Anything truly worthwhile requires time, authenticity, a sustained effort, and there is nothing the planner can do which will overcome what the client will not do for themselves.”

Our Ideal Clients value relationships and are not interested in wasting their time and energy chasing the absolute “best deal” of the day, week, month or year. Rather, they recognize the benefits of patience and consistency. They recognize that true wealth requires realistic financial life goals and rarely do these goals require high risk in return for the potential of market beating returns. In fact, our Ideal Clients don’t want to beat the market. What they want is to achieve their goals in life and not feel stressed out about the markets or their money. Our Ideal Client appreciates the concept that true wealth is a great deal more than money.

Our Ideal Clients seek more than just “the numbers” in a plan or portfolio. They value a holistic approach and often times seek counsel on careers, major purchases or expenses, raising financially responsible children, dealing with unexpected health events, changes in tax laws, and issues of death and dying.

Our Ideal Clients recognize the dynamic and growing needs resulting from an ever more complex world and value and want assistance in getting things done. Our Ideal Clients recognize they have neither the time nor talent to do it all themselves and that without help, many of the most important things that need to be done get pushed to the back burner and never get done, until it is either too late or a crisis occurs.

Our Ideal Clients appreciate the idea that the “devil is in the details” and value the benefits of having a trusted advisory team to ensure their financial house is truly in order.

Our Ideal Clients value transparency and a fiduciary standard of care. They recognize that a fair fee is one that is willingly paid and accepted with neither party losing gratitude. They also recognize that “TRUST and Peace of Mind” has a value and they can sleep well at night knowing that as a trusted fiduciary we hold their interests above our own. Our Ideal Clients will always have our best efforts on their behalf.

We believe that life is too short to work with people you do not enjoy. Hence, our Ideal Clients are generally nice people who see themselves as nice people and also prefer to work with those they enjoy.

If these descriptions do not resonate with you we hope you can find an advisor that meets your needs. In 2020 our recommendation is that you find one who will sign a fiduciary oath to you, is a CFP®, and is 'fee-only'. We would point you to one of the financial advisors who is a member of NAPFA a professional organization, which we feel holds the highest standard-of-care of it's members and requires all three of the previously mentioned requirements.

Do you review assets I have in 401(k) plans, company retirement plans, and other savings?
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Yes. It’s important that we take a universal look at all your investments and financial life before making recommendations.

How does the service agreement work?
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The service agreement for our ongoing financial planning services continues until it is canceled by either party at any time and for any reason without any penalty.

What is the signup process like?
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It is quick and easy, we just need a bit of information to get started. We typically meet 2 times before taking on any new client to make sure we are on the same page and we can fulfill your needs. Once we decide to work together, we will send you our financial planning services agreement, which you can complete online. After that, we review what we have discussed and confirm an outline of the next steps.  We will generate a personalized calendar for you as a reminder for future meetings and any homework which may be completed between meetings. 

If I like where I have my accounts, will I have to change custodians?
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No. You can retain your existing accounts. We will tell you if there is a disadvantage to doing that.

Are there cancellation fees?
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No cancellation fees. Our relationship is “at will,” which means that either of us can quit at any time. It’s a month-to-month arrangement.

Where is Plains Coastal located?
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We are located in Montecito, CA.

Our office is conveniently located in the Upper Village by appointment only.

William T. Toner, CFP®, AIF®

William T. Toner
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