How Much is a Financial Advisor Really Worth?

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And … Can it be Quantified?

Doctors and FAs

[By Staff Reporters]

How much of a boost in net returns can financial advisors add to client portfolios? According to Vanguard Brokerage Services®; maybe as much as 3%?

The Study

In a recent paper from the Valley Forge, PA based mutual fund and ETF giant, Vanguard said financial advisors can generate returns through a framework focused on five wealth management principles:

Being an effective behavioral coach: Helping clients maintain a long-term perspective and a disciplined approach is arguably one of the most important elements of financial advice. (Potential value added: up to 1.50%).

Applying an asset location strategy: The allocation of assets between taxable and tax-advantaged accounts is one tool an advisor can employ that can add value each year. (Potential value added: from 0% to 0.75%).

Employing cost-effective investments: This component of every advisor’s tool kit is based on simple math: Gross return less costs equals net return. (Potential value added: up to 0.45%).

Maintaining the proper allocation through rebalancing: Over time, as investments produce various returns, a portfolio will likely drift from its target allocation. An advisor can add value by ensuring the portfolio’s risk/return characteristics stay consistent with a client’s preferences. (Potential value added: up to 0.35%).

Implementing a spending strategy: As the retiree population grows, an advisor can help clients make important decisions about how to spend from their portfolios. (Potential value added: up to 0.70%).

Source: Financial Advisor Magazine, page 20, April 2014.

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The Fine-Print

But, Vanguard notes that while it’s possible all of these principles could add up to 3% in net returns for clients, it’s more likely to be an intermittent number than an annual one because some of the best opportunities to add value happen during extreme market lows and highs when angst or giddiness [fear and greed] can cause investors to bail on their well-thought-out investment plans.

More: http://www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

Assessment

Most retail financial services products are designed to enhance the well-being of the Financial Advisor and/or vendor at the expense of clients. The clients get only the leftovers. Of course, no one tells them that secret. They have to figure it out for themselves. As the old line goes, “Where are the customers’ boats?”

Source: Rowland, M: Planning Periscope [Where Advisors are the Clients]. Financial Advisors Magazine; page 36, April 2014

Conclusion

Are doctors different than the average investors noted in this essay?

Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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***

Should You Comparison Shop for an Investment Advisor?

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By Rick Kahler CFP® www.KahlerFinancial.com

Rick Kahler CFPYou can spot comparison shoppers a few aisles away at any retail store. They are the ones carrying articles from Consumer Reports, badgering the salesperson with a million and one questions. People who manage money well are usually big fans of comparison shopping.

If comparison shopping is important before choosing a new refrigerator or lawn mower, it’s even more essential before choosing an investment advisor. Unfortunately, there is no easily available consumer’s report on advisors. Even more frustrating, those selling financial products often have incentives not to be forthcoming with the information that is crucial for comparing advisors.

A Focus on Investment Returns

One aspect of shopping for an investment advisor is to know what questions to ask. One common mistake is to focus on investment returns. Shoppers may ask for the average recent returns of the advisor’s portfolios or may want to know whether the advisor’s returns beat the market averages.

Problems:

There are several problems with focusing on returns.

First, the numbers mean nothing without also knowing how much risk the advisor took to produce the return. It’s like someone on a diet focusing only on fat grams without regard to total calories. Consuming ten soft drinks in a day may give you zero fat grams, but you could easily exceed your daily calorie limit before eating one bit of food.

Second, any unscrupulous advisor can put together a portfolio consisting of the hottest investment classes over the past 10 years and show you how fantastically they did.

Third, whether an advisor beats the market is overrated. Why? A whopping 97 percent of all mutual fund managers don’t generate an “average return” over 20 years. Just finding an advisor who has done so means you found someone in the top three percent.

Fourth, some financial advisors may show you a phenomenal track record for the short term (under 10 years). Since wise investing focuses on the long term, beating the averages over a short term isn’t necessarily significant.

Gamesmanship

If so many games can be played around returns, what questions should a savvy comparison shopper ask? Focus on one word: transparency. You want to find out if the returns, costs, and risk (standard deviation) of your portfolio will be clearly displayed and contrasted against appropriate benchmarks.

Transparency

Here is how to accomplish that goal. Most advisors have model portfolios. Ask them to show you the standard deviation and the expense ratio of their model over five and ten years. Ask them to contrast the return of the portfolio against a similar benchmark.

For example, if the portfolio has US stocks, US bonds, and foreign stocks, have them compare it to a benchmark of indexes proportionate to those asset classes.

Next, either ask the advisor to run a similar analysis on your existing portfolio or have one done independently. You may even have done better than the advisor’s model.

Ask the advisor to disclose all fees in addition to the expense ratios charged by mutual fund or sub-account managers. You need to find out how the advisor is paid and how much. Ask whether there are any wrap fees, transaction costs, administrative fees, mortality fees, redemption fees, annual 12b(1) fees, surrender charges, or up-front sales charges.

Referral

Assessment

Don’t be surprised if you get a bit of resistance when you ask for all this information. Brokerage firms, life insurance companies, and many commission-based advisors don’t have much incentive to give you this data and may not even be able to.

If you don’t get clear disclosure on fees and costs, keep asking. If you persist and still don’t get understandable answers, you may need to do more comparison shopping before you choose an advisor.

Conclusion

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Our Recent Experience with CFP® Mark Utility

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Certification Falling from Grace – Deserved or Not?

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA, CMP™

[Publisher-in-Chief] dem21 

The Premise

In the summer [2008], we sent a random email blast to the first 200 Certified Financial Planners® on our list-serve. These were folks who had previously contacted us, and/or purchased our textbooks, handbooks, tools and/or dictionaries that assist accountants, financial advisors, attorneys, medical management consultants and all those working to assist physicians and medical professionals on business and economics matters.

The “Straw-Poll” Query

Our email blast asked the simple question:

“Did you ever voluntarily resign your license to use the CFP® mark?”

First Round Results

We received four positive responses [2%]. We then followed up to learn that 2 of the 4 were CPAs, one was a CFA and another was an MBA. Now, what do these results signify – probably nothing – or maybe an emerging trend?

Repeat

So, last summer [2009], after the continuing Wall Street collapse, and the Somnath Basu PhD article on “CFP Trust” in Financial Advisor magazine and this blog, we sent out a follow-up email to the exact same 200 Certified Financial Planners® as before; but carved-out and replaced the 4 CFPs who had resigned the mark, with 4 others.

Link: I Jealously “Shake my Fist” at Somnath Basu PhD

This time we asked the question:

“Have you recently considered allowing your CFP mark to lapse; or resigning it?”

Second Round Results

This time we received exactly eight positive replies [4%] or double the number from the first round. One CFP® said:

“I am rethinking my entire business and marketing philosophy. This includes separation from any taint left over from recent industry scandals – and yes – even including my CFP® mark”

 CMP logo

http://www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

Assessment

This little experiment was not statistically significant by any means. And, again it probably is indicative of nothing. Yet, these types of questions must be boldly asked today; even if they were not even timidly asked yesterday.

Nevertheless, cited plausible reasons for the increased negative CFP® mark response may be:

 

  • CFP BoS lacks modernity and membership alliance. 
  • SEC mismanagement.
  • NASD/FINRA impotence.
  • Wall Street greed.
  • Lack of true fiduciary accountability.
  • Client anger and public distrust.
  • Advisor frustration at lost income.
  • College for Financial Planning and American College credibility.  
  • ME-P operations in the medical niche advisory space.
  • CFP® mark and related industry certification taint.
  • Alternative degrees and available designations.
  • Rise of RIAs and the fiduciary CMPmark for healthcare specificity.
  • Resigning [doing] and considering [thinking] are not equivalent;
  • etc, etc. 

It is interesting to note that no CFP® resigned their mark who did not hold either another graduate degree [MBA, MSFS, MA, MS, PhD], or more rigorous industry [CFA and CPA] certification.

Assessment 

So, is CFP mark allegiance just a union-like mentality of “united we stand – divided we fall”, by those with little to no gravitation pull of their own – or something else; ie., industry group think? You decide; and do tell us what you think.

Note: I am the founder of the CMP online education and certification program for financial advisors and consultants interested in the health economics, finance and medical practice management space, and a former [resigned] certified financial planner www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org 

Update 2013:

Conclusion

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Developing a Financial – Management – Advisory Practice for Doctors

Deep Knowledge and Personalized Marketing Brings in New Clients

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA, CMP™

BY Professor Hope Rachel Hetico; RN, MHA, CMP™

[ME-P Publisher and Managing Editordave-and-hope]

In any marketing situation, the more you know about your target audience, the more successful you will be. Accordingly, all of the old rules still hold true, such as “do your homework.” Unfortunately, for some financial advisors and management consultants, homework means researching broad (i.e., vague) demographic information such as zip codes, income, and age. This broadband approach to marketing is insufficient and unlikely to succeed. For example, SWOT analysis is best done in-house, while related medical marketing information can be obtained from the Institute of Medical Business Advisors, Inc.

www.MedicalBusinessAdvisors.com

Focus like a Laser Beam

An absolute of communication is to focus on the person receiving your message. If you don’t know anything about the person, you can’t focus on what is important to him or her, and you end up placing too much emphasis on yourself. Your message then carries less weight and has less impact.

Defining Your Niche

Instead of approaching all people in a certain neighborhood or age group, look for people within professional subcategories—people who use their talents in a specific way. Primary care physicians, dentists, podiatrists and optometrists apply their talents differently than surgeons or pediatricians. And, private management consultants and entrepreneurs use their talents differently than large corporate managers.

Develop a Profile

Let’s look at the medical entrepreneur niche space. Perhaps you regularly work with such entrepreneurs who manufacture or deal in medical gadgets, Durable Medical Equipment [DME], healthcare IT devices, instruments etc., and would like to increase the number of clients you serve in this niche.biz-book

The Process

First, you need to develop a profile that gives you specific information about those who manufacture said medical widgets in your area (i.e., more than just their zip codes), bearing in mind of course, that the profile is a point of departure. The general profile is then divided into several subsets based upon their specialty sales-type, devices, locations, market size, gender, etc. Concentrate on developing niches in which you have existing clients. Next, consider the attitudes, values, and mental processes common to all of your clients within a given niche. Knowing (or at least being able to project) what those qualities are will make your marketing efforts more successful because you already are familiar with who they are, their values, and how they want to receive information.

Client Values

How do you find out what someone’s values are? Just watch the person work. Ask questions. What do you want? Why do you do that? What’s important to you? To what words and phrases do you relate? What words and phrases do you resent? What does your desk look like? How do you prefer to receive information? Do you prefer a structured or a more relaxed environment?

The Value of Profiles

Developing profiles of specific groups within any given niche helps you establish rapport with people who are not yet clients. Many marketers make their initial contact through a letter. That’s dangerous, unless you are able to establish rapport in the letter. If not, you have diminished your reputation and accomplished little.

Mirroring

If you understand the concept of mirroring, you know it is important to mimic the other person’s breathing, vocal tonality and body language. That works amazingly well in meetings or even during telephone conversations.

Beware Letters

However, you can’t mimic in a letter, so you have to mirror the other person’s mentality. You have to match his or her attitudes, values, and mental processes in your marketing. Again, to consider sending a marketing letter – without first developing a profile – may be a foolish gamble.

Assessment

In short, relationship niche marketing can work to increase your practice without diminishing your reputation.

fp-book

Enter the Certified Medical Planner™

For those fiduciaries interested in the medical management and the healthcare financial advisory deep-space, for doctors and medical professionals, please visit www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.com for more information.

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this Medical Executive-Post are appreciated? Despite the CFP imbroglio, how do you niche market, or attract physicians or other “high-value” clients, to your advisory practice? Do you possess any special deep-knowledge or “gravitational pull?” 

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I Jealously “Shake my Fist” at Somnath Basu PhD

On CFP® Mis [Trust] – One Doctor’s Painful Personal Experience

[“So Sorry to Say it … but I Told You So”]

By: Dr David Edward Marcinko; FACFAS, MBA, CMP™

[Publisher-in-Chief]dem21

According to Somnath Basu, writing on April 6, 2009 in Financial Advisor a trade magazine, the painful truth is that many financial practitioners are merely sales people masquerading, as financial planners [FPs] and/or financial advisors [FAs] in an industry whose ethical practices have a shameful track record. Well, I agree, and completely. This includes some who hold the Certified Financial Planner® designation, as well as the more than 98 other lesser related organizations, logo marks and credentialing agencies [none of which demand ERISA-like fiduciary responsibility]. For more on this topic, the ME-P went right to the source last month, in an exclusive interview with Ben Aiken; AIF® of Fi360.com  

fp-book4

The CFP® Credential – What Credential?

Basu further writes that stockbrokers and insurance agents who earn commissions from buying and selling stocks, insurance and other financial products realize that a Certified Financial Planner® credential will help grow the volume of their business or branch them into other related and lucrative products and services. After all, there are more than 55,000 of these “credentialed” folks. And, this marketing designation seems to have won the cultural wars in the hearts and minds of an unsuspecting – i.e., duped public; probably because of sheer numbers. Didn’t a CFP Board CEO state that its’ primary goal was growth, a few years ago? Can you say “masses of asses”, as the oft quoted Bill Gates of Microsoft used to say when only 2,000 micro-softies defeated 400,000 IBMers during the PC operating system wars of the early 1980’s. Quantity, and marketing money, can trump quality in the public-relations business; ya’ know … if you repeat the lie often enough … yada … yada … yada! Yet, as the so-called leading industry designation, the CFP® entry-barrier standard is woefully low. Moreover, the SEC’s [FINRA] Series #7 general securities licensure sales examination is not worth much more than a weekend’s study attention, even to the uninitiated.

insurance-book2

Easy In – Worth Less Out

In our experience, we agree with Basu and others who suggest that scores of lightly educated, and sometimes wholly in-articulate and impatient individuals are zipping through the CFP® Board of Standards approved curriculum in three to six months of online, on-ground, or “self-study”. But, that some can do so without a bachelor’s degree when they join wire-houses and financial institutions, which cannot be trusted to adequately train them, is an abomination. And, even more sadly, some of these CFP™ mark-holders, and other folks, believe they have actually received an “education” from same. Of course, their writing skills are often non-existent and I have cringed when told that, in their opinion, advertiser-driven trade magazines constitute “peer-reviewed” and academic publications. Incidentally, have you noticed how thin these trade-rags are getting lately? Much like the print newspaper industry, are they becoming dinosaurs? One agent even told me, point-blank, that his CLU designation was the equivalent of an “academic PhD in insurance.” This was at an industry seminar, where he thought I was a lay insurance prospect.

THINK: No critical thinking skills.

biz-book4

Education

There is another sentiment that may be applied in many of these cases; “hubris.” I mean, these CFP® people … just don’t know – how much they don’t know.”  The very real difference between training versus education is unknown to many wire-houses and FAs, isn’t it? And, please don’t get me started on the differences in pedagogy, heutagogy and androgogy. Moreover, it’s sad when we see truly educated youngsters become goaded by wire-houses into thinking that these practices are de-rigor for the industry. One such applicant to our Certified Medical Planner™ program, for example, had both an undergraduate degree in finance and a graduate degree in economics from the prestigious Johns Hopkins University – in my home town of Baltimore, MD [name available upon request]. He was told, in his Smith Barney wire-house training program, to eschew CMP™ accountability and RIA fiduciary responsibility, when working with potential physician and lay clients; but to get his CFP® designation to gather more clients. To mimic my now 12 year-old daughter; it seems that: SEC Suitability Rules – and – Fiduciary Accountability Drools. And, to quote Hollywood’s “Mr. T”; I pity the fools, er-a, I mean clients. But, T was an actor, and this is serious business.

cmp-logo1

Of CEU Credits and Ethics

Beside trade-marks and logos, we are all aware that continuing education, and a code of ethics, is another important marketing and advertising component of state insurance agents and CFP licensees. It’s that old “be” – or “pretend to be” – a trusted advisor clap-trap. Well, I say horse-feathers for two reasons. First, both my insurance and CFP® Continuing Educational Unit [CEU] requirements were completed by my daughter [while age 7-10], by filling in the sequentially identical and bubble-coded, multiple-choice, answer-blanks each year. Second, this included the mandatory “ethics” portions of each test. When I complained to my CEU vendor, and state insurance department, I was told to “enjoy-the-break.”  My daughter even got fatigued after the third of fourth time she took the “home-based tests” for me.  After I opened my big mouth, the exact order of questions was changed to increase acuity, but remained essentially the same, nevertheless. My daughter got bored, and quit taking the tests for me, shortly thereafter. She always “passed.”dhimc-book3

Thus, like Basu, I also find that far too many financial advisors are unwilling to devote the time necessary to achieve a sound education that will help attain their goals, and would rather sell variable or whole life products than simple term life, even when the suitability argument overwhelmingly suggests so, for a higher payday. We not only have met sale folks without undergraduate degrees, but also too many of those with only a HS diploma, or GED. Perhaps this is why a popular business truism suggests that the quickest way for the uneducated/under educated class to make big bucks, is in sales. Just note the many classified ads for financial advisors placed in the newspaper job-section, under the heading “sales.” Or, in more youthful cultural terms, “fake it – until you make it.”

Of the iMBA, Inc Experience

According to Executive Director Ann Miller RN MHA, and my experience at the Institute of Medical Business Advisors, Inc:

“Far too many financial advisors who contact us about matriculation in our online Certified Medical Planner™ program – in health economics and management for medical professionals – don’t even know what a Curriculum Vitae [CV] is? Instead, they send in Million Dollar Roundtable awards, Million Dollar Producer awards, or similar sales accomplishments as resume’ boosters. It is also not unusual for them to list some sort of college participation on their resumes, and websites, but no school affiliation or dates of graduation, etc. And, they become furious to learn that we require a college degree for our fiduciary focused CMP™ program, and not from an online institution, either. The onslaught of follow-up nasty phone-calls; faxes and emails are laughable [frightening] too.”  

www.MedicalBusinessAdvisors.com

Assessment

More often than not, it is the financial institutions that FAs and CFP™ certificants’ work for that reward sales behavior with higher commissions, rather than salaries; which encourage such behavior and create the vicious cycles that are now the norm.

THINK: ML, AIG, Citi, WAMU, Wachovia, Hartford, Prudential, etc.

Note: Original author of Restoring Trust in the CFP Mark, Somnath Basu PhD, is program director of the California Institute of Finance in the School of Business at California Lutheran University where he’s also a professor of finance. He can be reached at (805) 493 3980 or basu@callutheran.edu. We have asked him to respond further.

My Story: I am a retired surgeon and former Certified Financial Planner® who resigned my “marketing trademark” over the long-standing fiduciary flap. I watched this chicanery for more than a decade after protesting to magazines like Investment Advisor, Financial Advisor, Registered Rep, Financial Planner, the FPA, etc; up to, and even including the CFP® Board of Standards; to no avail. Feel free to contact me for a copy of a 43 page fax, and other supportive documentation from the CFP® Board of Standards – and their outsourced intellectual property attorneys – over a Federal trademark infringement lawsuit they tried to institute against me for innocent website errors placed by a visually impaired intern. Obviously, they disliked the launch of our CMP™ program. As a health economist and devotee of Ken Arrow PhD, I polity resigned my license, as holding no utility for me, to the shocked CFP Board. They later offered to consider re-instatement for a mere $600 fee with letter of explanation, to which I politely declined. Of course, my first thought after living in the streets of South Philadelphia while in medical school, during the pre-Rocky era, was to say f*** off – but I didn’t. Nevertheless, I still seem to be on their mailing list, years later. No doubt, the list is sold, and re-sold, to various advertisers for much geld. And, why shouldn’t they; an extra bachelor, master and medical degree holder on their PR roster looks pretty good. I distrust the CFP® Board almost as much as I distrust the AMA, and its parsed and disastrous big-pharma funding policies. Right is right – wrong is wrong – and you can’t fool all of the people, all of the time, especially in this age of internet transparency.

Shaking my Fist at Somnath … in Envy

And so, why do I shake my fist at Somnath Basu? It’s admittedly with congratulations, and a bit of schadenfreude, because he wrote an article more eloquently than I ever could, and will likely receive much more publicity [good or slings-arrows] for doing so. You know, it’s very true that one is never a prophet in his own tribe. Oh well, Mazel Tov anyway for stating the obvious, Somnath. The financial services industry – and more specifically – the CFP® emperor have no clothes! Duh!

ho-journal5

Good Guys and White Hats

Now that Basu’s article has appeared in Financial Advisor News e-magazine, the other industry trade magazines are sure to follow the CFP® certification denigration reportage, in copy-cat fashion. And, the fiduciary flap is just getting started. This is indeed unfortunate, because I do know many fine CFP® certificants, and non-CFP® certified financial advisors, who are well-educated, honest and work very diligently on behalf of their clients. It’s just a shame the public has no way of knowing about them – there is no white hat imprimatur or designation for same – most of whom are Registered Investment Advisors [RIAs] or RIA reps. For example, we know great folks like Douglas B. Sherlock MBA, CFA; Robert James Cimasi MHA, AVA, CMP™; J. Wayne Firebaugh, Jr CPA, CFP®, CMP™; Lawrence E. Howes MBA, CFP®; Pati Trites PhD; Gary A. Cook MSFS, CFP®, CLU; Tom Muldowney MSFS, CLU, CFP®, CMP™;  Jeffrey S. Coons PhD, CFP®; Alex Kimura MBA, CFP®; Ken Shubin-Stein MD, CFA; and Hope Hetico RN, MHA, CMP™; etc. And, to use a medical term, there are TNTC [too many, to count] more … thankfully!

Conclusion

Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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A Due-Diligence ‘Condom’ for Physician Investors

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Using Financial Advisors with Increased Safety

[By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA, CMP™]dr-david-marcinko8

Following the Bernie Madoff investment scheme, and related financial industry scandals, here are seven “red-flags” that should have alerted physician-investors to proceed with extreme caution. Always consider them before making an investment with any financial advisor [FA], registered representative [RR] or financial advisory firm, regardless of reputation, size, referral recommendation or so-called industry certifications and designations. In other words, according to Robert James Cimasi; MHA, AVA, and a Certified Medical Planner™ from Health Capital Consultants LLC, of St. Louis, MO;” trust no one and paddle your own canoe.”

Red Flags of Cautious Investing

As a former insurance agent, financial advisor, registered representative, investment advisor and Certified Financial Planner™ for more than a decade, the existence of any one of the following items may be a “red-flag” of caution to any investor:

  • Acting as its’ own custodian, clearance firm or broker-dealer, etc.
  • Lack of a well-known accounting firm review with regular reporting.
  • Unreliable or sporadic written performance reports.
  • Rates-of-return that don’t seem to track industry benchmarks.
  • Seeming avoidance of regulatory oversight, transparency or review.
  • Lack of recognized written fiduciary accountability in favor of lower brokerage “sales suitability” standards.
  • No Investment Policy Statement [IPS]. 

Assessment

Let a word to the wise be sufficient going forward. But, in hindsight, a healthy dose of skepticism might have prevented this situation in the first place. As is the usual case, fear and greed often seem to rule the day. Just as there is no such thing as safe sex – just safer sex – there is no thing as safe intermediary investing. But, exercising some common sense will surely make investing with any financial advisor much safer. It’s like a condom for your money. 

For more information on the topic of fiduciary standards – which we have championed for the last ten years in our books, texts, white-papers, journal and online educational Certified Medical Planner™ program for FAs – watch out for our exclusive Medical Executive-Post interview with Bennett Aikin AIF®, Communications Coordinator of www.fi360.com coming in March. Ben, an Accredited Investment Fiduciary® did a great job with the tough questions submitted by our own Ann Miller; RN, MHA and Hope Hetico; RN, MHA, CMP™. Don’t miss it!

Disclaimer

I am the Managing Partner for http://www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org and I agree with this message.

Conclusion

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