This is the second in an interview series called: Ask a CFP® Today’s guest is Jason Hull from My Financial Answers.
Who is Jason? Jason Hull, CFP®, CTO of online financial planning service myFinancialAnswers. My Financial Answer is an online comprehensive financial planning service.
What’s your educational background?
Jason: BS in general engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point; MBA from University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business; Certificate in Financial Planning from NYU.
How are you compensated?
Jason: We get paid an annual fee by users of our myFinancialAnswers online financial planning service. Furthermore, we charge hourly for more detailed one-on-one financial planning services that our users request.
What services do you offer?
Jason: We offer online comprehensive financial planning. Think of it as basically a CFP in a box. Our service provides employers and individuals with detailed outputs about how much to save for retirement, how much insurance is needed, how much to save for college, and the order in which to take actions to reach your financial goals.
What’s your investment philosophy?
Jason: My personal investment philosophy is twofold:
1. Index, index, index.
2. Differentially invest in yourself and in the areas where you can personally make outsized gains. For me, this has been entrepreneurship (I have already co-founded and sold a software development company before becoming a co-founder at myFinancialAnswers) and investment real estate.
What type of clients do you specialize in? Do you require an investment minimum?
1. Anyone who wants to take control of their own finances and find out specifically what they need to do to reach their financial goals.
2. No. It’s not applicable. We don’t manage money. Even before I joined myFinancialAnswers, I was an hourly financial planner and didn’t manage money.
How often do you contact your clients?
Jason: We will ask our users to take a survey for us, and, obviously, if they run into issues, we’ll be in touch with them. We are going to start up an e-mail newsletter, but have not yet. Otherwise, since the nature of our service is to provide automated financial planning, there’s really not a need for us to reach out to our users.
Do you provide sample financial plans?
Jason: We are starting to write articles that show what happens if you do X, Y, or Z using generic situations, and those include some screenshots of what you get with the myFinancialAnswers service. A good example is the article “If You Have Debt, How Much Does A $1,000 a Month Side Hustle Help You?”
How long do you spend developing the initial financial plan for a new client?
Jason: This depends on how organized the user is. If the user is organized, knows the budget, knows where the accounts are to connect them to our service via Intuit, and has everything in order, or, alternatively, if they want to do a pretty high-level plan, then it should take about 30 minutes to go from start to results. If the user needs to hunt around for details, it might take between 60 and 90 minutes to get to the results, and may need to happen over multiple sessions. For the users who have requested more individualized consulting, we have found those sessions run from 1 to 2 hours.
What resources and tools do you use?
Jason: We have our own proprietary models for performing the over 1 billion calculations that are required to arrive at the final, comprehensive plan for any given individual. We also use the Intuit account aggregation service for downloading account information – balances, loan terms, and specific investment holdings; it’s the same technology that is used if you have an account at Mint.com.
Do you work directly with all clients or are some items delegated to team members?
Jason: At this point, it’s mostly delegated to team members who are CFPs or CFP candidates (meaning they have passed the CFP exam and are awaiting completion of the experience requirement to carry the CFP designation).
What are you invested in?
1. Startups which I have co-founded
2. Residential real estate to use as rental properties
3. Index funds
What took you so long to get your act together? (write in question)
Jason: I blame it on my limbic system, what I call Monkey Brain, since it’s the part of the brain that we share with our simian counterparts. Monkey Brain is derived from the time when we lived in caves and chased or were chased by woolly mammoths and had no idea if we were going to live or die that day. Because of that, all of our life’s efforts were focused on survival and pleasure today because there might not be a tomorrow.
When I was a young Army officer stationed in Germany, I was single and full of joie de vivre. I wanted to travel. I wanted to not be single. I wanted to have it all.
What I also had was a lieutenant’s paycheck, which, while better than, say a private’s paycheck, wasn’t all that great. It certainly wasn’t enough to justify going out to eat all the time, traveling every possible free weekend, and buying that aforementioned BMW 318i convertible. But, hey, I figured…I’ll make more money later, and I can pay off those debts later.
Usually, it takes a jarring moment to cause you to break your habits, and having a girlfriend who I wanted to marry who had $0 in debt certainly did that for me.
Most people need some sort of catalyst to change their behaviors. Mine was the embarrassment of having to admit to my significant 5 digit credit card debt (while in graduate school, nonetheless). Thank goodness that she was accepting of my situation and that my first year summer internship earned me enough money to kill that credit card debt. Even now, even though we’re well on the other side of that financial indiscretion and we’re financially independent, I still rue that lost time when I could have been building up my savings instead of building up the profits of credit card companies.
If you’d like to be part of the series Ask a CFP® please contact me.