Q&A with Foothills Financial Planning, Inc. - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Business

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Q&A with Foothills Financial Planning, Inc.

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Posted: Friday, November 6, 2009 12:00 am

Foothills Financial Planning, Inc.

Owner: Kevin O’Reilly

Address: 4425 E. Agave Road, Suite 115

Information: www.FoothillsPlanning.com; (480) 445-9072


Q: Where are you from and what did you do before opening your business?

A: I was born and raised in Chicago, but my wife and I have lived in Ahwatukee for over 10 years. Prior to starting Foothills Financial Planning, I worked for about nine years in the semiconductor industry – mostly with Intel – in corporate finance and technology management. Before that I owned a software business.


Q: Why did you open your business in Ahwatukee Foothills?

A:  My wife and I have lived here for more than 10 years, so it was a natural consideration. In addition to that, though, my research made it clear that there are many options for financial advice in places like the Biltmore area and in Scottsdale, but there just aren’t that many in Ahwatukee. It is an under served area.


Q: How did you get the idea to open your business?

A: I have been passionate about investments and personal finance for many years, and have a solid academic grounding in these areas. In the past five years a couple of events transpired that convinced me that this was the right thing to do. One was that my wife and I had triplets, and the other was that my parents’ health began to deteriorate. In the latter case, my siblings and I got first-hand experience dealing with many of the financial issues related to the aging process, and it is not easy.

By way of example, there are 46 Medicare Prescription Drug plans available to Arizona residents! The list of challenges is long, and the number of independent service providers around to help individuals make good choices is small. Having triplets led me to spend significant time learning about the tax ramifications, investment possibilities and other financial tools that are relevant to parents. The idea of leveraging that experience and my accumulated knowledge of finance to help others in similar situations was exciting to me.

The thing that really tipped me over the edge was my discovery of the Garrett Planning Network, which is an affiliation of about 300 independent, fee-only advisors who share knowledge and cheer each others’ successes. They provide a model for practice management on top of a lot of product and service training, and tremendous knowledge sharing. Joining Garrett gave me the certainty that I could start my practice as an independent practitioner, but have the backing and support of a large enterprise. Being independent of the large financial product companies was important for the sake of my clients. It also affords me the flexibility to have time to spend with my kids while also spending time in Chicago helping my parents.


Q: What type of merchandise/services do you sell?

A: I provide fee-only financial planning and investment advice. The “fee-only” part simply means that I do not sell specific products, and I’m paid directly and solely by my clients. This minimizes conflicts of interest, and allows me to recommend solutions and products based entirely on their merits, rather than on how much compensation I will receive from the companies selling those products. The services we provide range from debt reduction and cash flow management to investment advice and management. I’m a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor, and much of my time is spent helping individuals plan for retirement and assisting small businesses with choosing the right investment options. Also, I have a lot of customers from Intel and other technology firms, and I’m able to help them develop strategies for restricted stock and stock options.


Q: What does your business offer that no one else does?

A: Cerulli Associates, a firm that studies financial services, states that of all financial advisors, only 10,000 (4 percent) are fee-only. In a recent study, after learning how advisors get paid, 82 percent of customers using commission-based advisors said they would choose a fee-only planner. Foothills Financial Planning works with people from all walks of life, and we don’t require a minimum level of assets or net worth.


Q: How have residents of the community responded to your business?

A: I think the response has been very enthusiastic, particularly given the market conditions. Clients who have come to me with a previous understanding of the fee-only model have generally been eager from the start. In a number of cases, the volatility of the past 18 to 24 months has pushed people away from their stockbrokers and other commission-based salespeople to true advisors, and our business has benefited from that. Others have worked with me in the past in different capacities and were glad to be able to work with somebody with whom they had already developed a level of trust.


Q: What does your business have in store for the future?

A: Perhaps the most tangible new thing for potential clients is that we are planning to package a service or a limited set of services to provide to our customers at a flat rate. These would combine some degree of customized advice with more general information to provide assistance in a specific area. One example is a new college grad package, whereby young adults will get advice specific to their situations, combined with some more general advice about starting off their careers on solid ground, all at a flat rate. Another planned offering is a simple 401k review, in which we’ll combine an assessment of an investor’s ability to stomach risk and the amount of time they have remaining until retirement with an analysis of their plan options, and make specific recommendations as to how to move forward with their 401k investments. We typically do this as part of a broader financial plan, but for customers who are seeking independent, targeted advice on their 401k plans, this approach will be valuable.


Q: Anything else you want the community to know about you or your business?

A: A recent Federal Reserve Board survey found that two out of three households will probably not be able to accomplish a major life goal because they did not plan appropriately for their future. Even those who have been able to accumulate substantial assets have typically been forced to choose between managing those assets themselves or paying significant fees and commissions for traditional management. At Foothills Financial Planning, we believe there is a better way: provide objective, commission-free solutions to the problems facing individuals and small businesses, from having millions to invest to needing assistance establishing a budget or retirement strategy. We offer a free, no obligation “Get Acquainted” meeting to help our potential customers determine if our services are right for them.


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