Avoid the Christian Financial Planners Directory

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A few weeks ago David wrote an article entitled, “Avoid Dave Ramsey’s Referral Services” where he reported, “Rumors suggest that the network’s vetting is a five minute process where you are told the fees are about $1,000 a month.”

Shortly after publishing that article, I was asked if SeedTime’s “Christian Financial Planners Directory” was an okay option for finding a financial professional.

The client facing side says:

Christian Financial Planners Directory

This page is dedicated to helping you find a Christian Financial Planner, Christian Financial Advisor, Retirement advisor, investment advisor, financial consultant, or anything else.

You can browse by State below to find a Christian Financial advisor in your state.

…Additionally, any of these listings should not be considered a recommendation for or an endorsement of any of the advisors listed but should be used for informational purposes. By using our directory you agree that SeedTime, it’s employees, advisors listed will not be subject to any liability for any direct or consequential loss arising from the use of this directory.

This disclaimer is likely because stating that you endorse an investment advisor on account of their track record of success would be against federal law. Such statements would be a violation of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) ban on adviser endorsements.

Down the page, they share a link for, “If you are a Christian financial professional and would like to get added to the directory, you can find out more here.”

On the next page that loads, it quickly becomes clear what kind of directory this is as they list the following pricing structure:

Everyone in the directory is willing to pay at a minimum almost $200 per year to be listed. I cannot imagine any consumer who, if they understood how such a select list of advisers was actually compiled, would use this list. Why limit yourself only to firms willing to pay a referral service for endorsement?

We do not recommend using this directory to find your financial advisor.

Instead, we recommend finding a member of the National Associations of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) in your area.

NAPFA-Registered Financial Advisors must have received a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) certification or a similar designation, take no commissions, and offer comprehensive financial planning, not just investment advice. There may be many financial professionals in SeedTime’s “Christian Financial Planners Directory” and some of them may be excellent, but there are only about 3,000 NAPFA members in the entire country. Limiting your search to NAPFA-Registered advisors is a quick way to narrow the field of people posing as a financial advisor to a few firms who are committed to structuring their firms to act as a comprehensive fee-only fiduciary.

After the assassination attempt against Ronald Regan, Reagan joked to his surgery team, “I hope you are all Republicans.” In this context, it is obvious that if he was being serious, he would just be foolish. You don’t want a surgeon who agrees with your politics. You want a surgeon who is very very good at his job.

Many of the advisors in our firm have strong spiritual beliefs. Some of us identify as Christian. However, we would not identify ourselves as exclusively a “Christian financial planning firm.” In my experience, businesses that feel the need to feature “Christian” in their marketing are compensating for large weaknesses that they have in other areas. If they were known for their excellence, would they need to lead with their spirituality?

While there are some beliefs that do influence a financial advisor’s opinions in significant ways, those opinions will manifest themselves in other more telling ways.

Part of life planning is aligning your money with your values. These are by definition your values though, not your advisors. You should find an advisor you can trust, but your financial advisor need not share your values in order to be helpful to you.

A good financial professional should fully accept and take seriously his or her fiduciary duty. He or she should be someone who puts your interests first, who takes the time to understand your values and help apply them to your situation, and who is competent enough to disagree with you when it is in your best interest to be corrected.

You don’t need someone who is a clone of yourself as your financial advisor. In fact, if there are too many similarities, your advisor may be unhelpful. For example, a parrot, although agreeable, is a bad advisor. Instead, having someone a little different from you can be a huge blessing. Sometimes the best advice is when a competent advisor tells you that you are wrong. When they protect you from “The Big Mistake” and stand as strong opposition in the face of pressure.

More than any other criteria, we recommend you seek a competent fee-only fiduciary who offers comprehensive financial planning. If you are looking for a way to limit your search to just those types of professionals, try finding a member of the National Associations of Personal Financial Advisors in your area.

Photo used here under Flickr Creative Commons.

Follow Megan Russell:

Chief Operating Officer, CFP®, APMA®

Megan Russell has worked with Marotta Wealth Management most of her life. She loves to find ways to make the complexities of financial planning accessible to everyone. She is the author of over 800 financial articles and is known for her expertise on tax planning.