The Sterk Financial Difference
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Many people don’t know where to find the answers to the financial questions running through their mind. It's also hard to know who to trust for good financial advice.
Let’s face it. The financial industry has gotten enough black eyes that anyone in their right mind would be suspicious. Misleading sales practices, corporate shenanigans, and blatant fraud have dominated the headlines. It’s no wonder that you don’t know who to trust.
Add to that the sheer amount of complexity involved in financial planning and the idea of getting your financial ducks in a row can easily become overwhelming. The natural reaction for a lot of people is to stick their head in the sand and avoid the issue altogether!
Here’s the thing: money doesn’t come with instructions.
You need a path.
You need a strategy.
You need a guide.
This explains the Sterk Financial Services motto in a nutshell: Plan. Protect. Grow. Our team of professionals has years of experience in strategic financial planning. Our specialized programs help you manage investments and strategically plan for life changes such as retirement, divorce, job changes, or entering a caregiving role. We can help you protect and grow your portfolio to set yourself up for a successful financial future. Our goal is simple – to provide advice and strategies that aligns the money you have with the life that you want to lead.
Mary Sterk, CFP®, leads a large financial planning practice staffed by an experienced team of expert advisors. We are headquartered in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, with nine affiliated offices across the Midwest that serve clients nationwide. We are ready to address your needs today and guide you through every phase of life. Let us help you take the complexity and uncertainty out of financial planning, and help create clarity and confidence as you move forward.
How are we different?
We base everything around your money philosophy.
What is a money philosophy? Simply put, your money philosophy is what you feel money does for you in your life. Sure, money has a monetary value. But it also has a life value, meaning that money funds things that we value in our lives.
Everyone leads a unique life, and we all value different things in our own personal way. For instance, you may value the experience of traveling the world, while your next door neighbor values spending time in their garden, nurturing the growth of vegetables and flowers. Perhaps you value a higher university education while your friend values the lessons taught through trade school. Maybe providing a loving home for abused pets matters a lot to you, while your spouse gets excited about programs that support young children. Whatever captures your interest generally takes some level of money to support. How you use the money you have to fund your time, experience, and connection to the things you value IS your money philosophy.
At Sterk Financial we have a money philosophy that is simple and easy to understand. We believe that money is not about the material things you buy. Money is also not about the feelings of happiness or security that many people associate with it. In our opinion, the only thing that money really does is buy you choices. When you have no money, your choices for how to live your life seem very limited. But when you do have money, you can choose to use the money you have to fund the life you want to live.
That’s it—that’s our money philosophy: money buys you choices. So how does that connect to confidently managing investments and planning your financial future? Here’s how. When it comes to financial planning, any advisor can give you graphs and charts and numbers. Heck, you can even create that yourself on the internet these days if you really want to. But what we are really, really good at is understanding what’s most important to you, and then helping you align the money you have with the life that you choose to live. And that is what a good financial plan is all about.
How do we get paid?
An advisor makes money one of two ways: either through fees or commissions.
Bottom line, financial advising is not a non-profit business. Your advisor brings wisdom and experience to the table, and expects to be compensated for the help they provide you.
When Mary Sterk started in this industry 20+ years ago, the typical way to work with people was to sell a product and earn a commission. But there was a problem with this approach. Many people were not looking for financial products to buy, they were looking for advice and strategies about what to do. The problem was that most financial advisors only made money one way—when they sold you a financial product. So inherently there was, and in many cases still is, a competing agenda within the relationship. You want advice and strategies, and the advisor is just trying to sell you something so they can make a commission.
Mary Sterk wanted to create an environment where we always had the same goal as the client. We want our clients to know we have their best interests at heart, and to never worry that the only reason we’re recommending a course of action is so that we can sell them something. The only way we can do that is to simply charge a fee for our planner’s time, wisdom, and advice. Therefore, many years ago, we evolved into a planning practice that is primarily fee-based.
So how do fees typically work in a fee-based setting? Fees take into account two things: time and complexity. Based on an initial conversation, your planner will determine the amount of time it will take to create a strategic plan for you. The more complex your situation, the higher your fee will be. A typical retirement plan fee generally ranges between one to five thousand dollars.
Normally, the planning fee is broken into two parts. We charge half of the fee up front, at the time you sign a financial planning contract that outlines the scope of the work you’re hiring us to do. The remaining half of the fee may be charged when the plan is complete, or, in certain situations, may actually be waived.
The beauty of working with a fee-based planner is that you can take our recommendations and advice, and go back to your existing advisors to implement it. When the plan is done, we simply collect the back half of your fee. The strategies that we suggest are unbiased, objective, and based on the best course of action for you—no matter how or where you implement them. You are paying us to create a financial strategy, and it is never based on us selling you a financial product.
Sometimes through the planning process, people feel an enhanced level of trust and collaboration with our fee-based planners. They determine that they DO want to have us manage assets or help them with insurance. If that’s the case, your planner will explain exactly how they will be compensated. In most cases, when our fee-based planners helps you implement your investment or insurance strategy, the revenue generated from implementing your plan is used to offset and waive the back half of the fee. You see, we don’t think it’s fair to double dip—your planner shouldn’t get paid to create a strategy, and then paid again to implement the same strategy!
The bottom line is this: with a fee-based arrangement, you will walk away with a plan and a strategy that is good advice no matter what. You will know that the recommendations are solid regardless of whether you do any further business with them or not. If you choose to—great! If not—also great! But either way, you get what you came for: advice and strategies about what to do going forward so you feel confident taking steps toward your financial future.
Let us also make note of something here. When/if you chose to do further business with a financial planner, it is our job to place your investments or insurance programs into the financial vehicles that are right for you. Sometimes, vehicles are fee-based and require us to have a special license to utilize them. Sometimes, vehicles are commission-based and don’t have the option to pay us in a fee-based way. Not all financial vehicles are available to planners who are only fee-based, or who are only commission-based. But they are all available to planners like us who have a hybrid model.
A hybrid model means that if you are engaging a planner to actually manage your investment or insurance, they can make recommendations from either side—fee-based or commission-based. As a hybrid advisor, we have access to a broader array of financial vehicles and therefore can make a more targeted recommendation about what is right for you. To avoid any type of “bait-and-switch” issue of an advisor moving from a fee-based approach to a commission-based approach without your awareness, we make sure to disclose how we are compensated for each and every financial vehicle that we recommend.
Do We Work For You Or For The Insurance Company?
We are an independent financial planning practice – so we work for you.
Here’s the skinny on this. If an insurance company’s name is on the door of the office (or in the signage), then your advisor probably is an agent for that company. What does that mean to you?
There is a vast difference between an independent financial advisor and an agent representing a company. An independent advisor assesses your situation, and matches you up with the best solutions in the financial industry. The role of an agent in a company is to match you up with the best solution that particular insurance company offers. Big difference. Be aware, and be wary.
How can you connect with us?
Our planning process is designed to give you unbiased, objective advice on what solutions and strategies best fit your unique situation. We hope you use this as an opportunity to schedule the first step - a Value Assessment meeting with one of our expert planners. You bring nothing with you - the first meeting is a simple conversation over coffee.
During a Value Assessment Meeting we will talk about your goals, objectives and your hopes for the future - the starting point for any successful financial strategy. We will discuss the concerns and obstacles facing you, and understand the opportunities that offer you the best chance of financial success.
We will determine together if our firm can bring value to you, and which Certified Financial Planner in our office is best suited to work with your unique situation. Based on the complexity of your plan, we will also discuss a fee for services that our office will provide for you.
We work with clients all over the United States, so near or far we invite you to reach out to schedule your free Value Assessment Meeting.
There are three ways to schedule an appointment:
Contact us at 605-217-3555 or toll free at 1-866-800-2186
Email us at [email protected]