About Our Firm
How is Contour Financial different from its competitors? There are four primary differences:
Many famous financial titans from years past such as Astor, Morgan, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Edison and Mellon made their money in key fields such as real estate, banking, insurance, oil and industry. There is a second act to their stories that is often overlooked. How did these families keep their great wealth over multiple generations? The successful families embraced a concept called Private Wealth Management.
What is Private Wealth Management? It is a fancy name for making sure all of the bases in the financial game of life are covered. While very few individuals will build a multigenerational dynasty, planning for several decades is still critical. Perhaps the Private Wealth Management concept can be distilled into answering this one simple question, "Can I retire when I want and still maintain my current lifestyle until mortality?" If retired, the question becomes, "Can I stay retired and still maintain my current lifestyle until mortality?" If not, what changes need to be made? To answer this, a comprehensive approach is required. Being concerned strictly about portfolio performance alone will not answer this question. Perhaps there is a risk of inadequate insurance, resulting in financial distress should a spouse become disabled or pass away. A Private Wealth Management approach is a tool that gives a complete picture of financial standing, risks and opportunities.
This all sounds logical, but alas there is a catch. Historically, this service has been very time intensive and therefore costly for financial advisors. This is why Private Wealth Management has been offered by the industry exclusively to high-net-worth individuals, as large fees need to be generated to cover the higher ongoing expenses.
Contour Financial offers a solution. The firm continuously implements the most modern retirement planning and portfolio management technologies available and practices tight cost control. The increase in operational efficiency allows for lower operating expenses, and for the cost savings to be passed on to the customer. The results are twofold. First, wealthy customers still get the Private Wealth Management services they expect, but with more favorable pricing. Second, upper-middle and middle class clients can now for the first time have Private Wealth Management services.
With a few exceptions, as private wealth managers, Contour Financial includes all services needed by the client in the assets under management fee. There is no additional charge for telephone or face-to-face meetings throughout the year. Refer to the compensation section for more detail. The following is a list of services included with the fee:
- Building the client's portfolio, implementing trades, monitoring, rebalancing reporting and rebalancing implementation for accounts held at Charles Schwab.
- Quarterly account reporting.
- Providing the annual Retirement Update Letter. If employed, this letter determines whether or not a client is on track to have a successful retirement. If retired, this letter determines whether or not a client is set to have sufficient funds through projected mortality. If there is a shortfall, multiple options will be presented to show what needs to be done. Insurance scenarios will also be presented.
- Taking the time to understand the client's tolerance to market volatility.
- Assistance in addressing insurance, estate, mortgage refinancing and other financial needs.
- An analysis of the client's cash flow.
- Modeling to show how buying a business, property, new home or funding an education is expected to impact the Retirement Update Letter.
- Developing strategies for the complex topics of Social Security and pensions.
- Individual federal & state tax-return preparation if certain fee minimums are met.
- Understanding how to keep good credit and remain safe from identity theft.
Fee-Only — Our organizational structure is fee-only, and all services are offered strictly on this basis. Fee-only can be defined as having our employees avoid potential conflicts of interest by working solely for the client. Often a client does not know how the advisor is compensated. This charge may be hidden in the product sold. It might not be in the best interest of the client to purchase an annuity or load fund, which pays a significant commission.
We earn no compensation from third parties such as mutual fund or insurance companies, and we do not sell any financial products. No compensation is earned for referring a client to another professional that complements our services. Contour Financial is affiliated with the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), a financial planning organization composed entirely of fee-only advisors. NAPFA is nationally recognized and is quoted frequently in financial publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and Smart Money Magazine.
To understand what Contour Financial charges, refer to the Disclosure & Policy — Form ADV Part Two. A tab in the Table of Contents titled, "Contour Financial Compensation," outlines all of the firm's fees. A one-hour complimentary meeting is offered.
For clients opening an account through Contour Financial, investments are held in custody at Charles Schwab. For the custodial services Charles Schwab provides, they have their own fee structure separate from Contour Financial. To understand what Charles Schwab charges, refer to the Disclosure & Policy — Form ADV Part Two. A tab in the Table of Contents titled, "Charles Schwab Fees," outlines all their charges.
At Contour Financial we look for clients that are not searching for the next hot investment. They are not deep in debt, day traders, indecisive, over-anxious, or finance show addicts. Ideal clients for our firm are level-headed people that are looking to build a long-term¹ relationship with their financial professional. Our clients tend to fall into two economic groups:
- The up-and-comer has a good handle on personal budgeting, is eager to learn, able to take and implement advice in a timely fashion, open to new ideas, known to pick up a financial magazine every once in a while to stay informed, able to focus on objectives, and stay the course no matter how the market is performing. This person has developed traits that will prove to be a strong foundation on which to build his financial house. The client typically has investment assets of between $100,000 and $1,000,000. It is possible to not meet our minimum in some cases and yet fit this type. Young people starting out and people who have faced financial obstacles such as divorce or medical bills can benefit from our services.
- A group ranging from the couple thinking about retirement for the first time to the individual retired for many years. Concerns include outliving assets as life expectancy rises, the cost of medical care, the tax effect of IRA distributions, long-term care insurance and estate planning. An approach is developed to integrate the numerous topics to help guide the client through a successful retirement.
- The business owner, corporate executive, doctor or a successful investor that has investment assets exceeding $1,000,000. This person realizes that he needs an advisor to assist in financial areas outside of his expertise. Although he has more extensive needs than the first type of client, he knows that straightforward techniques will keep him financially secure. He is not seeking hedge funds, commodities, futures, margin transactions, limited partnerships, or illiquid investments and strategies.
¹Most of our clients have been with us for many years. A long-term relationship is an essential ingredient for a financial program to succeed. Although this is our objective, there are no long-term contracts. Either the client or Contour Financial can terminate the relationship at any time.
The employees of Contour Financial believe it is important to give back to the community and have been active in charitable pursuits for years. We recommend asking the financial advisor how he gives back to others. The following is a partial list of organizations with which we have had an affiliation.
Advocate Hospitals — This is represented in our area by South Suburban and Christ Advocate Hospitals. We are pleased to be affiliated with these fine institutions and have served on various boards over the years.
Crisis Center for South Suburbia — An organization that helps abused children and women with counseling and housing needs. Cindy Menker served for eight years on the board.
Bridge Teen Center — This organization provides services to teens in the southwest suburbs. Cindy & Egon are former board members.
Marist High School — This leading Catholic high school serves the southwest area of Chicago and adjoining suburbs. Cindy & Egon are proud to support this fine educational institution.