Trail Financial Planning, LLC is a fee-only financial planning and investment management firm located in Bellingham, WA

Service Models

Our service models, and how people typically engage with us.

Typically, a client starts work with us by “developing a financial plan.”  This engagement is a thorough examination of your financial life – past, present and future.  We help you dream big, prepare for the unknown, and create an honest action plan to achieve your goals.  Once the develop a financial plan process is complete, many people opt for an ongoing relationship of financial planning, investment management, or both.  The frequency of contact and work will depend on your situation and your needs. All financial planning work may be done in person, or virtually through video conferencing and cloud-based software programs. Trail Financial Planning Analogy.  Because financial planning can be difficult to visualize, we provide an analogy for each service as if it were a component of planning for, and travelling on, a long backpacking trip.

Mt Baker Wilderness Green Trails map.

Develop a financial plan

In this service, we address your full financial life by developing and presenting a comprehensive financial plan. We explore your values, your goals, and your current financial situation.  We assess how you are utilizing your financial resources. We address every important aspect of your financial life. We analyze the information to produce multiple scenarios, or plans of action. We work together to select a preferred strategy and develop an implementation plan.

Details, and what you receive:

  • Clarify and organize meetings – Meet with your advisor to explore, develop, and hone your goals.  Advisor will find out what is important to you (your values), as well as collecting your financial data.
  • Analysis – Advisor analyzes the information, ensuring that all pieces of the puzzle are on the table and considered.
  • Scenario preparation and recommendations – Advisor creates multiple scenarios, including an assessment of “maintain current plan.”
  • Financial plan presentation – Advisor presents the plan and recommended scenarios to you, in person or virtually.  (One meeting)
  • Implementation plan – Client and advisor together create an implementation plan, which may include the services of the advisor.
  • One month support – You may contact your advisor for one month after the creation of the implementation plan for questions or clarifications regarding the plan. Contact may be made by telephone or virtually.

Fees for this service are based on time worked, and our hourly rate.  More details may be found on our “Fees” page.

Trail Financial Planning analogy:  A comprehensive Financial Plan is like making a map of your financial world.  It will show where you are, where you are going, and have information about the terrain. Everyone’s financial situation is unique; everyone’s map is unique.

Ongoing financial planning (through hourly, or wealth management service model) 

In an ongoing financial planning relationship, the Advisor assists the Client to engage their financial plan in systematic and strategic way.  Together, we select a strategy to work towards. Example strategies:

  • Managing a lump sum of money (like an inheritance)
  • Developing a robust estate plan (usually with the assistance of an estate planning attorney)
  • Creating a spending and saving plan (AKA “no blame/no shame budgeting”)
  • Paying for college

Your Advisor will consider how any particular financial planning strategy is intertwined with other financial areas of life such as taxes and cash flows, as well as emotional and behavioral aspects.  Within a strategy, we create a tactical action plan, called the Implementation Plan.  The Advisor may assist the Client in carrying out elements of the Implementation plan.

Details, and what you receive:

  • Regular, strategic consultation with your advisor.  At least once per quarter we meet with you to address the next topic on your implementation plan. Contact may be in person, by phone, or virtually.
  • Ongoing support about any financial planning topic you wish to address.
  • Annual, or biennial, update of comprehensive financial plan (per client preference).

Fees for this service are based on time worked, and our hourly rate, or covered through wealth management.  More details may be found on our “fees” page.

Trail Financial Planning analogy:  Ongoing financial planning is like hiking with a guide, or working with a coach.  Your advisor will accompany you on your financial journey – helping you pack your bag, set up a trip plan, assess risk, make route decisions, keep a sustainable pace, and celebrate beautiful destinations.  Sound financial planning will help you keep on route, keep a steady pace, and make appropriate adjustments when the going is easy or tough.

Investment Management

We can manage your investments, or a portion of your investments.  We are purposeful investors, where the “why” comes before the “how.”  How you save and invest to help your 16-year old daughter pay for college in two years will be very different from how you save and invest for your retirement in 20 years.  Thus, we always start with “why.”  For more information on how we invest, see our Investment Management Strategy.

Details, and what you receive:

  • Discovery Meeting – We meet to understand the purpose for your investment accounts.  We collect information about your wider financial life including other investments you have.  We also ask questions about your risk tolerance, and gather some other financial data to help determine what level of risk is appropriate for you.
  • Analysis – We analyze your information.
  • Investment Policy Statement (IPS) – We prepare a written report that describes some of your financial context, and a recommended investment strategy.  The IPS will include type(s) of investment accounts we recommend as well as the investment strategy.
  • Presentation – The Advisor will present and explain the IPS to you.  You must agree to the plan before we proceed.
  • Implementation – We will help you set up investment account(s), contribution levels, and we will make the investments according to the IPS.
  • Quarterly Reviews – Every 3 months your Advisor will send you an electronic report of the status of your investment portfolio. Fees for this service are described on “Services and fees” page.

Fees for this service are based on the level of Assets Under our Management.  Details may be found on our “fees” page.

Trail Financial Planning Analogy:  This is part of hiking towards a destination.  Sometimes the weather is beautiful, the scenery is incredible, and there are no bugs.  It will seem like the easiest, most pleasant activity in the world.  But, there will be other times when we must weather the weather, endure the bugs, or put up with long slogs to reach a vista.  It is those times that test our character, and willingness to stay on track!

Photo by John Chesbrough

Wealth management 

For clients with more than $500,000 in Assets Under our Management, all financial planning and investment management services are included.  The client and advisor develop a financial plan, and work to implement financial planning strategies in an ongoing manner as described previously.

Details, and what you receive:

  • Develop a financial plan as described under “Develop a financial plan.”
  • Strategic ongoing planning as described under “Ongoing financial planning.”
  • Ongoing investment management as described under “investment management services.”

Clients in this service will have a minimum level of Assets Under Management with the advisor.  Typically, all fees are covered through deductions from the clients’ investment account(s).  More details may be found on our “Fees” page.

Trail Financial Planning analogy:  Wealth Management is like a fully guided trip through your financial world.   We work together to choose your destination, but your guide (the advisor) takes care of many of the details like what kind of gear you will need, how to get there, and route finding.

Targeted financial planning – a single issue financial analysis

If you have a single question of financial planning you wish to explore, such as “Will you (the advisor) see if my investments make sense for me?” or “How can I better manage my tax bill?,” we can do an hourly-based planning engagement.  The work includes data gathering, analysis, recommendations, and plan presentation.

Details, and what you receive:

  • Discovery Meeting – We meet to gather financial data, and to clarify the scope of work. This meeting can be done in person, or virtually (email or video conference).
  • Analysis – Advisor analyzes the information.
  • Targeted planning presentation – Advisor presents the analysis to you, and multiple recommendations if appropriate, either in person or virtually.

Fees for this service are based on time worked, and our hourly rate.  More details may be found on our “Fees” page.

Trail Financial Planning analogy:  Targeted Financial Planning is like taking a compass bearing.  We help you determine the direction, then you head off on your own.

You’ve persevered all the way to the bottom of this page!  To read more, you might want to visit our Fees page. Or, you can reach out for more information by going to our contact page.