Fee-only planner for federal employees?

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Woodthrush
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Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by Woodthrush » Tue Oct 08, 2019 3:55 pm

My husband and I live in Maryland (in the DC metro area) and are looking for a fee-only financial planner with training and extensive experience in helping federal employees plan for retirement. We are about 8 years from retirement and have some big decisions to make, so we really need to find someone quickly who is very knowledgeable. The NAPFA website doesn't have a filter for planners with expertise in federal employees and if you call any planner in the DC area they will all say they have experience in this area or that they work with federal employees. However, most of them are not very knowledgeable about federal benefits and retirement. We went to a fee-only planner in this area 7 years ago who proclaimed to be an expert on these issues and clearly wasn't, but we didn't discover that until we were well into the process and it was too late.

Does anyone know of a certification that a planner can go through to achieve expertise in federal retirement planning? Any other suggestions on how we can find the kind of fee-only planner we need?

If anyone knows of an excellent fee-only fed-focused planner, could you please send me a private message with their info.?

Thank you!

fabdog
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Location: Williamsburg VA

Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by fabdog » Tue Oct 08, 2019 4:04 pm

One place would be folks you know who have used a planner they were happy with who had extensive knowledge of the federal retirement benefits/systems.

Mike

Topic Author
Woodthrush
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by Woodthrush » Tue Oct 08, 2019 4:32 pm

My husband asked his colleagues at work but found no one who was using a fee-only planner, only money managers or just doing it themselves.

gtd98765
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by gtd98765 » Tue Oct 08, 2019 7:51 pm

I used this company in 2012. I thought it was good then. Don't even know if it's still in business, but here's their info:

Schaeffer Financial LLC
One Church Street, Suite 901
Rockville, MD 20850
301.933.5550
301.949.7034 Fax
www.SchaefferFinancial.com

We (two feds, one retiring at that time) saw Rick Schaeffer, who knew a lot about federal benefits and rules. He really helped us make some tough decisions, that turned out to be good ones. I recommend him.

Topic Author
Woodthrush
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by Woodthrush » Tue Oct 08, 2019 8:20 pm

gtd98765 wrote:
Tue Oct 08, 2019 7:51 pm
I used this company in 2012. I thought it was good then. Don't even know if it's still in business, but here's their info:

Schaeffer Financial LLC
One Church Street, Suite 901
Rockville, MD 20850
301.933.5550
301.949.7034 Fax
www.SchaefferFinancial.com

We (two feds, one retiring at that time) saw Rick Schaeffer, who knew a lot about federal benefits and rules. He really helped us make some tough decisions, that turned out to be good ones. I recommend him.
Thanks for the recommendation. I looked on their website and got the impression that they sell financial instruments and insurance, but they refer to themselves as "fee-based." So it sounds like they may not be fee-only planners. Do you happen to remember how they charged you for their services? Did they sell you investments or insurance or did they just provide advice?

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Woodthrush
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by Woodthrush » Tue Oct 08, 2019 8:29 pm

There are a lot of money managers who charge a percentage fee on your total portfolio to manage your account and many of them advertise themselves as "fee-only" or "fee-based" planners so it's very difficult to find one that just charges by the hour (or by the job, like doing a retirement plan). We don't want a planner who will charge a fee every year on our portfolio to manage it because it's all in index funds and the TSP.

stan1
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by stan1 » Tue Oct 08, 2019 8:32 pm

Have you read through the OPM FERS pages including their lengthly FAQs?

https://www.opm.gov/retirement-services ... formation/
https://www.opm.gov/retirement-services ... ment-faqs/

I've found answers to questions there in the past.

6Pack
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by 6Pack » Tue Oct 08, 2019 8:39 pm

Depends where in MD you are. I work closely with a few-only planner near Baltimore. They also have an office in Frederick.

OSUBucks4Evr
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by OSUBucks4Evr » Tue Oct 08, 2019 8:54 pm

Have you heard of Edward A. Zurndorfer? He's a certified financial planner out of Silver Springs, Maryland. His area of expertise is federal employee benefits, but I don't know if he works on a fee basis. He retired from federal civil service around the 2005 timeframe, and in addition to his work as a CFP, he travels the country giving federal employee retirement seminars. From 2014-2017, I attended his seminar at my base each year. He would hand out a thick binder to all attendees, full of info on everything you ever wanted/needed to know about federal employee retirement benefits. He's definitely an expert in the field.

gtd98765
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by gtd98765 » Tue Oct 08, 2019 10:08 pm

Thanks for the recommendation. I looked on their website and got the impression that they sell financial instruments and insurance, but they refer to themselves as "fee-based." So it sounds like they may not be fee-only planners. Do you happen to remember how they charged you for their services? Did they sell you investments or insurance or did they just provide advice?
Just advice, he did not try to sell us anything. I paid them around $600 for an hour of consultation time; clearly they had done some prep time before because they already understood our situation when we walked in. I brought my mutual fund list; he said he thought that was a little risky for our age, but overall reasonable. He suggested my wife needed more life insurance, but did not even try to sell it to us himself. We had specific questions about federal pensions that we spent the most time on. I don't remember whether he brought up the portfolio management issue, but we were not interested in that and would have dismissed it out of hand. Even before I found Bogleheads years later, I was already a buy and hold mutual funder with Vanguard.

So we took his advice on the federal pensions questions and the life insurance (which we bought elsewhere). We definitely thought the money was well spent for the advice we got, and still do. Otherwise, I would not have suggested them to you.

tormund
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by tormund » Tue Oct 08, 2019 10:28 pm

I think Harris Federal Law Firm also has expertise in financial planning and is branching off just beginning to offer services. I am currently using them for Federal Disability Retirement and have been very pleased with them, but I can't attest to financial planning. I intend to meet with them to discuss my financial needs eventually. They are Chartered Federal Employee Benefit Consultants. You can lookup consultants in a directory who went through whatever the requirements were to get certified.

DCChak
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by DCChak » Wed Oct 09, 2019 11:00 am

OSUBucks4Evr wrote:
Tue Oct 08, 2019 8:54 pm
Have you heard of Edward A. Zurndorfer? He's a certified financial planner out of Silver Springs, Maryland. His area of expertise is federal employee benefits, but I don't know if he works on a fee basis. He retired from federal civil service around the 2005 timeframe, and in addition to his work as a CFP, he travels the country giving federal employee retirement seminars. From 2014-2017, I attended his seminar at my base each year. He would hand out a thick binder to all attendees, full of info on everything you ever wanted/needed to know about federal employee retirement benefits. He's definitely an expert in the field.
Zurndorfer regularly posts pretty detailed articles on My Federal Retirement - https://www.myfederalretirement.com/author/edz/.

Stephen Zelcer is a young, fairly knowledgeable advisor who touts himself as a Federal employee specialist. He has spoken at our agency a few times. Not sure whether he is fee-only, but his presentation-style suggests that he might be. https://stephenzelcer.com/

renegade06
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by renegade06 » Wed Oct 09, 2019 11:21 am

http://www.steveharveyllc.com/ I'd contact John Bernards at The Harvey Group. They are based in Alexandria, VA and specialize in federal employees. Great people with experience.

Topic Author
Woodthrush
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by Woodthrush » Wed Oct 09, 2019 3:37 pm

gtd98765 wrote:
Tue Oct 08, 2019 10:08 pm
Thanks for the recommendation. I looked on their website and got the impression that they sell financial instruments and insurance, but they refer to themselves as "fee-based." So it sounds like they may not be fee-only planners. Do you happen to remember how they charged you for their services? Did they sell you investments or insurance or did they just provide advice?
Just advice, he did not try to sell us anything. I paid them around $600 for an hour of consultation time; clearly they had done some prep time before because they already understood our situation when we walked in. I brought my mutual fund list; he said he thought that was a little risky for our age, but overall reasonable. He suggested my wife needed more life insurance, but did not even try to sell it to us himself. We had specific questions about federal pensions that we spent the most time on. I don't remember whether he brought up the portfolio management issue, but we were not interested in that and would have dismissed it out of hand. Even before I found Bogleheads years later, I was already a buy and hold mutual funder with Vanguard.

So we took his advice on the federal pensions questions and the life insurance (which we bought elsewhere). We definitely thought the money was well spent for the advice we got, and still do. Otherwise, I would not have suggested them to you.
Thanks for explaining more fully. Did he offer any suggestions for what funds to shift your investments to in order to reduce risk and suggest allocations for each fund? We're looking to get help with a full retirement plan, including a monte carlo assessment, suggestions for improving our current investments, as well as managing the federal benefits. Thanks again, it's a huge decision to pick a financial planner when you're preparing for retirement and I really appreciate your feedback!

Topic Author
Woodthrush
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by Woodthrush » Wed Oct 09, 2019 3:44 pm

6Pack wrote:
Tue Oct 08, 2019 8:39 pm
Depends where in MD you are. I work closely with a few-only planner near Baltimore. They also have an office in Frederick.
We are only about a 30-minute drive to Baltimore, so I would be interested to get the name of your planner. I'm looking to interview several planners before picking one. Does s/he have training and extensive knowledge of federal employee benefits?

Topic Author
Woodthrush
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by Woodthrush » Wed Oct 09, 2019 3:46 pm

tormund wrote:
Tue Oct 08, 2019 10:28 pm
I think Harris Federal Law Firm also has expertise in financial planning and is branching off just beginning to offer services. I am currently using them for Federal Disability Retirement and have been very pleased with them, but I can't attest to financial planning. I intend to meet with them to discuss my financial needs eventually. They are Chartered Federal Employee Benefit Consultants. You can lookup consultants in a directory who went through whatever the requirements were to get certified.
Thanks for the link on the Chartered Federal Employee Benefits Consultants - I wasn't aware of that designation.

Topic Author
Woodthrush
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by Woodthrush » Wed Oct 09, 2019 3:55 pm

DCChak wrote:
Wed Oct 09, 2019 11:00 am
OSUBucks4Evr wrote:
Tue Oct 08, 2019 8:54 pm
Have you heard of Edward A. Zurndorfer? He's a certified financial planner out of Silver Springs, Maryland. His area of expertise is federal employee benefits, but I don't know if he works on a fee basis. He retired from federal civil service around the 2005 timeframe, and in addition to his work as a CFP, he travels the country giving federal employee retirement seminars. From 2014-2017, I attended his seminar at my base each year. He would hand out a thick binder to all attendees, full of info on everything you ever wanted/needed to know about federal employee retirement benefits. He's definitely an expert in the field.
Zurndorfer regularly posts pretty detailed articles on My Federal Retirement - https://www.myfederalretirement.com/author/edz/.
I just looked up his firm EZ Accounting & Financial Services and looked at the google reviews. There was a very detailed, very negative review of the place which seemed intelligent and credible. I have seen his articles before, but after reading that review it doesn't sound like a good choice for us. Thanks anyway for the idea!

Topic Author
Woodthrush
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by Woodthrush » Wed Oct 09, 2019 3:55 pm

DCChak wrote:
Wed Oct 09, 2019 11:00 am
OSUBucks4Evr wrote:
Tue Oct 08, 2019 8:54 pm
Have you heard of Edward A. Zurndorfer? He's a certified financial planner out of Silver Springs, Maryland. His area of expertise is federal employee benefits, but I don't know if he works on a fee basis. He retired from federal civil service around the 2005 timeframe, and in addition to his work as a CFP, he travels the country giving federal employee retirement seminars. From 2014-2017, I attended his seminar at my base each year. He would hand out a thick binder to all attendees, full of info on everything you ever wanted/needed to know about federal employee retirement benefits. He's definitely an expert in the field.
Zurndorfer regularly posts pretty detailed articles on My Federal Retirement - https://www.myfederalretirement.com/author/edz/.
I just looked up his firm EZ Accounting & Financial Services and looked at the google reviews. There was a very detailed, very negative review of the place which seemed intelligent and credible. I have seen his articles before, but after reading that review it doesn't sound like a good choice for us. Thanks anyway for the idea!

rich126
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by rich126 » Wed Oct 09, 2019 3:57 pm

I haven't used him and he isn't local but there is a guy in Alaska (yes, Alaska) that seems very knowledgeable and does consultations, etc. over the phone. If you google the state and federal retirement I'm sure his name would pop up near the top of the list.

I think there are various levels of services provided.

Topic Author
Woodthrush
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by Woodthrush » Wed Oct 09, 2019 4:03 pm

renegade06 wrote:
Wed Oct 09, 2019 11:21 am
http://www.steveharveyllc.com/ I'd contact John Bernards at The Harvey Group. They are based in Alexandria, VA and specialize in federal employees. Great people with experience.
From their website, it looks like they are money managers, rather than charge-by-the-hour (or by the job) fee-only planners. Do you know if they charge an annual percentage fee to manage people's money?

Topic Author
Woodthrush
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by Woodthrush » Wed Oct 09, 2019 4:04 pm

rich126 wrote:
Wed Oct 09, 2019 3:57 pm
I haven't used him and he isn't local but there is a guy in Alaska (yes, Alaska) that seems very knowledgeable and does consultations, etc. over the phone. If you google the state and federal retirement I'm sure his name would pop up near the top of the list.

I think there are various levels of services provided.
I did see him, but we'd prefer to work with someone local who we can meet with in person. Thanks anyway!

Topic Author
Woodthrush
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by Woodthrush » Wed Oct 09, 2019 4:34 pm

Woodthrush wrote:
Wed Oct 09, 2019 3:46 pm
tormund wrote:
Tue Oct 08, 2019 10:28 pm
I think Harris Federal Law Firm also has expertise in financial planning and is branching off just beginning to offer services. I am currently using them for Federal Disability Retirement and have been very pleased with them, but I can't attest to financial planning. I intend to meet with them to discuss my financial needs eventually. They are Chartered Federal Employee Benefit Consultants. You can lookup consultants in a directory who went through whatever the requirements were to get certified.
Thanks for the link on the Chartered Federal Employee Benefits Consultants - I wasn't aware of that designation.
P.S. I just looked up the company that confers the Chartered Federal Employee Benefits Consultant designation and it appears to be owned by a single individual in Colorado. The course itself consists of a 2-day training or an independent study (they give you a manual). The training appears to be limited to certain subject areas. Given the sheer volume and complexity of federal benefits it's hard to believe they can cover that much in 2 days. It appears to be a way for financial planners to get some basic familiarity with federal benefits so they can use the designation to market themselves to federal employees. There may be some planners with this designation who really are experts, but there may be others who only know the basics. I had hoped it was a more rigorous training, such that I could trust that anyone who has it really is an expert. Thanks anyway for the link, at least I know what the designation really means now.

WS1
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by WS1 » Wed Oct 09, 2019 4:43 pm

The XY Planning Network has a “government employee” filter on their search page. I don’t think anyone here would have a problem with a Michael Kitces blessed organization.

Topic Author
Woodthrush
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by Woodthrush » Wed Oct 09, 2019 5:50 pm

WS1 wrote:
Wed Oct 09, 2019 4:43 pm
The XY Planning Network has a “government employee” filter on their search page. I don’t think anyone here would have a problem with a Michael Kitces blessed organization.
Thanks, I'll check it out. May I ask who Michael Kitces is?

ExitStageLeft
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by ExitStageLeft » Wed Oct 09, 2019 6:35 pm

https://www.kitces.com/

A financial analyst blogger that espouses many of the Boglehead philosophies.

gtd98765
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by gtd98765 » Wed Oct 09, 2019 8:39 pm

Thanks for explaining more fully. Did he offer any suggestions for what funds to shift your investments to in order to reduce risk and suggest allocations for each fund? We're looking to get help with a full retirement plan, including a monte carlo assessment, suggestions for improving our current investments, as well as managing the federal benefits. Thanks again, it's a huge decision to pick a financial planner when you're preparing for retirement and I really appreciate your feedback!
This is seven years ago, so there is only so much I remember. Our focus was really the federal pension issue I mentioned. I characterized above his reaction to my mutual fund list. That's about what I can tell you. Good luck.

tormund
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by tormund » Sun Oct 13, 2019 8:02 pm

Woodthrush wrote:
Wed Oct 09, 2019 4:34 pm
Woodthrush wrote:
Wed Oct 09, 2019 3:46 pm
tormund wrote:
Tue Oct 08, 2019 10:28 pm
I think Harris Federal Law Firm also has expertise in financial planning and is branching off just beginning to offer services. I am currently using them for Federal Disability Retirement and have been very pleased with them, but I can't attest to financial planning. I intend to meet with them to discuss my financial needs eventually. They are Chartered Federal Employee Benefit Consultants. You can lookup consultants in a directory who went through whatever the requirements were to get certified.
Thanks for the link on the Chartered Federal Employee Benefits Consultants - I wasn't aware of that designation.
P.S. I just looked up the company that confers the Chartered Federal Employee Benefits Consultant designation and it appears to be owned by a single individual in Colorado. The course itself consists of a 2-day training or an independent study (they give you a manual). The training appears to be limited to certain subject areas. Given the sheer volume and complexity of federal benefits it's hard to believe they can cover that much in 2 days. It appears to be a way for financial planners to get some basic familiarity with federal benefits so they can use the designation to market themselves to federal employees. There may be some planners with this designation who really are experts, but there may be others who only know the basics. I had hoped it was a more rigorous training, such that I could trust that anyone who has it really is an expert. Thanks anyway for the link, at least I know what the designation really means now.
I really appreciate you digging into it. I really wasn't sure of the rigor, but sounds like a well-informed federal employee such as myself might not gain much from someone who took the course but doesn't have much experience elsewhere.

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Jerry55
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by Jerry55 » Sun Oct 13, 2019 11:50 pm

OSUBucks4Evr wrote:
Tue Oct 08, 2019 8:54 pm
Have you heard of Edward A. Zurndorfer? He's a certified financial planner out of Silver Springs, Maryland. His area of expertise is federal employee benefits, but I don't know if he works on a fee basis. He retired from federal civil service around the 2005 timeframe, and in addition to his work as a CFP, he travels the country giving federal employee retirement seminars. From 2014-2017, I attended his seminar at my base each year. He would hand out a thick binder to all attendees, full of info on everything you ever wanted/needed to know about federal employee retirement benefits. He's definitely an expert in the field.

I post questions to Mr Ed Zurndorfer and usually get a response from him in 24 hours or so. He's a regular contributor on FederalSoup.com website forum. You can join that discussion board by signing up with an email addy and password.
You can find him here ~ in the "Federal Employees Benefits Q&A" section.

https://forum.federalsoup.com/default.aspx?g=topics&f=6
Retired CSRS on 12/19/2012 @ age 57 w/39 years | Good Bye Tension, Hello Pension !!!

averagedude
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by averagedude » Mon Oct 14, 2019 12:07 am

Could be wrong, but I would think it would be easy to find a fee based financial planner in the DC, Northern VA, or certain parts of MD that would have expertise in dealing with people who worked for the federal government. I would search for someone in these areas who have 15+ years of experience, and travel if necessary. This is a high net worth market and there should be above average numbers of planners in this area. Perhaps you could check the Garrett Planning Network in these areas.

cdc
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by cdc » Thu Oct 17, 2019 10:48 pm

OSUBucks4Evr wrote:
Tue Oct 08, 2019 8:54 pm

Stephen Zelcer is a young, fairly knowledgeable advisor who touts himself as a Federal employee specialist. He has spoken at our agency a few times. Not sure whether he is fee-only, but his presentation-style suggests that he might be. https://stephenzelcer.com/
Zelcer spoke at my agency recently. Be aware that he advocates for taking Social Security as early as possible, which is counter to what many on this board (including me) think. He’s adamant about this. I’d be cautious with him.

DarkHelmetII
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Re: Fee-only planner for federal employees?

Post by DarkHelmetII » Fri Oct 18, 2019 2:30 am

PM about fee only planner we used in D.C.

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