Welcome to Financially Well, the finance podcast for Millennials! Now that we’ve reached the midpoint of 2022, I want to update for you my list of other financial advisors in Washington, DC who I would trust with my own money.
I hear this question often. But I’ve found that it isn’t as easy to answer as it should be.
I’ll briefly explain why, from my own perspective. And then I’ll share my list of the financial advisors who I would trust to help my family make financial progress on the goals that matter most to us. These are the local individuals who I believe are the best financial advisors in Washington, DC.
Any financial advisor is best prepared to help their clients when that advisor specializes in one specific set of financial circumstances. I would love for my company, Illumint, to be able to help everyone in DC who has financial questions. I’ve worked hard to build Illumint into a company that Washingtonian named a “top financial advisor” and that Washington City Paper named “Best of D.C.” for money management services. But I focus my research and analysis on the issues that impact Millennial parents specifically. Our clients typically are in growing families. They’re ready to build their wealth, including planning and saving for college. Plus, there are plenty of people who don’t need – or want – a college financial planner for Millennial parents. If you’re not focused on paying off student loans, investing for retirement, or saving for college, you should find a financial advisor who can address your particular needs.
Some people, Millennial parents included, also may want their financial planning services structured in a certain way. Illumint offers fee-only financial planning. We charge a flat, fixed fee that reflects the valuable guidance we provide for this stage in life. But others might prefer a company that charges a fee based on a percentage of the assets that you invest with them. Similarly, Illumint has long held virtual meetings (even pre-pandemic!) so that my clients don’t lose time to work and family. This meeting style, however, may not appeal to everyone.
No matter the particular reason, I can tell pretty quickly when Illumint is not the best fit for someone based on their financial needs and circumstances. In such cases, I will gladly recommend another financial advisor in Washington, DC who I trust.
After all, you wouldn’t want to work with a pediatrician when you need a hip replacement, right?
We all know that Washington, D.C. is an expensive city. And the cost of living plays a large part in many of the financial questions I hear. But D.C. also is a very vibrant city. And I’ve found that the independent financial advisors who work here often reflect that characteristic. I’ve had the opportunity to interact with my industry colleagues at conferences, local universities (Hoya Saxa!), networking events, and even my favorite neighborhood coffee shops (hi, Elle!).
I’ve reached a point at which I have full confidence that the group I’ll introduce you to below can get you on the right track with your personal finances. With that said, and in no particular order, please meet — in my opinion — the 9 best financial advisors in Washington, DC for this year (along with a brief overview from their respective websites):
“As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional with over a decade of experience, Rianka approaches financial planning with a strong emphasis on financial education and provides business owners, individuals, and families with the tools to make informed financial decisions. Rianka firmly believes individuals can make positive long-term decisions about their money if they understand their financial history, money culture, and the way those two things impact their lives.“
“We structure our family wealth advice around a wealth creation and preservation system called family governance. In part, family governance is an understanding that with growing wealth comes a growing sense of responsibility. Our business is helping clients implement family governance strategies along with the six comprehensive strategies of financial planning.”
“I specialize in helping people make smart financial decisions for international moves and global living. Having lived in six countries in the past 10 years, in positions as diverse as foreign company employee, non-profit worker, dependent expat spouse, and location independent business owner, I have accumulated firsthand experience and created solutions to manage the multi-facet financial picture you are facing.”
“We give female entrepreneurs of color who earn between $200,000 and $4 million per year the blueprint to structure their personal and business finances for impact, flexibility, and to build wealth. We strive to help women of color reclaim the agency they deserve but have been robbed of by scarcity and the systemic inaccessibility of financial information. Every woman of color who is willing to work hard and shoot for the stars can achieve her dreams.”
“My role as a financial planner is to help you use money in accordance with your values and priorities. The financial lives of the military are unique and the opportunities and challenges service members face are unique. I help clients determine what is best for them and accompany them through life as they achieve their dreams. In themselves, financial topics like investing, retirement planning, budgeting, and insurance can seem dull or even painful. The good news is these are the means and not the end.”
“We help progressives build thoughtful, prosperous, impactful financial lives. By making smart financial decisions based on their values, clients can attain financial security, live lives they feel good about, and make the world better. Values Added focuses on meeting the needs of people who want a trusted advisor to help them as their lives evolve over time.”
“When I was a teacher and DC Public Schools staff member, I signed up with one of the salespeople pushing expensive 403(b) plans. When I learned I was set up to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in unnecessary fees over the course of my career, my outrage fueled a passion to help other educators. Now I’m a Certified Financial Planner working with educators and government employees in Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia.”
“Lamar Watson founded Dream Financial Planning to serve the needs of young professionals and minorities who typically don’t have access to fee-only and fiduciary financial planning. Lamar’s proprietary process, the DREAM Financial Planning Process™, is the culmination of 15+ years of industry insight and experience. Less than 30% of all CFPs nationwide are in their 20s and 30s. I use The DREAM Financial Planning Process ™ to help my clients save, grow, and protect their wealth.”
“I created this business to help people like you feel more confident in their future, and to make better decisions regarding the resources that make up their personal wealth: time, human capital, & financial assets. My job is to empower you to use your wealth as a tool to realize life goals and reach your full potential.”
(Disclaimer: This is not an exhaustive list of local financial planners. This list reflects my opinion and is not a testimonial or endorsement.)
I purposefully designed Illumint to operate differently than most financial planning companies. I never wanted Illumint to look or feel like a large, more traditional firm. And I get it – for some people, it feels easier to just ask for financial advice from your bank or investment company. But there’s a unique benefit to working with a CFP® at an independent financial planning firm. With Illumint, I have the flexibility to create the exact services (such as 529 Plan guidance) that our target group (Millennial parents) truly needs.
Here’s how I’ve shaped Illumint to create a financial partner that meets Millennial parents exactly where they are in life:
1. The company’s focus reflects my own experiences in life. I founded Illumint in response to the challenging new financial decisions that my wife and I faced after we had our first child. Today, the company continues to grow as our family considers new financial questions and goals. For example, “How much money should we save for college?”
2. The financial plan that we develop for our clients is a living document. What good is a plan that sits in a drawer and never adjusts to reflect new life events? Financial planning, despite what you may have heard, isn’t about a piece of paper. It’s not about spreadsheets. It’s not about a lengthy report. Rather, Illumint aims to help you plan for aligning your money with what you value in life.
3. I’m proactive about trying to anticipate and understand how we will need to change our financial decisions based on external factors. What will our finances look like in the future? I can’t say for sure. But I’m constantly thinking about how to manage those parts of our financial lives, such as inflation, interest rates, and tax policy, that we ultimately can’t control.
The financial advisors in Washington, DC that I highlighted above bring different backgrounds, perspectives, and services to financial planning. They work with different clients. They specialize in different aspects of personal finance. Yet, they share certain attributes, which you absolutely must require from any financial advisor with whom you work:
1. They are all CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERS™. This is the highest standard in our industry, and you shouldn’t settle for anything less.
2. These financial advisors don’t sell products, such as insurance, to earn commissions from you. They are all fee-only financial advisors.
3. Each financial advisor here has signed a fiduciary oath. Unlike many financial advisors, they have committed to acting in your best interest 100% of the time. You can check out an example of a fiduciary oath here.
Still, there’s certainly a chance that none of the DC financial advisors listed above offers the specific help that you seek. This isn’t an exhaustive list, so you may want to continue your search elsewhere. If that’s the case, I encourage you to check out the following organizations. Their members meet many of the same strict standards as the financial advisors that I consider the “best of D.C.”
During your search, first scroll through each advisor’s website. Get a feel for their style and messaging. Then read a few articles they’ve written. Perhaps watch a few videos they’ve made. Next, I would review their social media activity. What type of financial conversations are they’re engaged in? Finally, I would send any questions you have to the 2 or 3 financial advisors who seem like the best fit.
During your initial conversation with a financial advisor, you may not be sure what additional questions to ask. But don’t let that stop you from collecting the information you need to make an informed decision. To help, I created my own list of the best questions to ask a financial advisor before hiring one. You may find the following articles helpful as well:
Ultimately, you likely won’t want to work with a financial planner who can’t answer these essential questions clearly, concisely, and confidently.
Some people who want financial advice may have recently lost a job. Others may need to allocate as much money as possible to paying off a large amount of debt. Financial planning is almost always valuable. What if money is really tight, though? A one-on-one financial planning engagement just may not be the best use of your resources right now. But you still deserve access to a professional who can answer your most critical questions.
As an alternative, I encourage you to request pro bono financial advice. A national non-profit organization, the Foundation for Financial Planning, can connect you with this help. Financial advisors across the country regularly offer their services at no cost to those who truly can’t afford to pay.
I’ve proudly worked with the Foundation for Financial Planning’s partner organizations. I can attest to their important role in our profession. And Illumint continues to offer pro bono financial advice in very challenging situations. If you’re interested in this type of help, I welcome you to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No matter your circumstances, though, I wish you the best as you put together a financial plan that will help you to create the life you want for later this year and into 2023.
Thanks for listening today. I encourage you to subscribe to this finance podcast for Millennials to learn about more ideas that you can apply to your personal finances in the year ahead.
[Editor’s note: this article reflects the transcript (which I’ve edited for clarity) of a recent Financially Well podcast episode.]
Kevin Mahoney, CFP® is the founder & CEO of Illumint, a Washington, D.C.-based college financial planning company for Millennial parents. He specializes in navigating the new financial decisions that arise during our 30s and 40s, such as repaying student loans, buying a house, learning to invest, and saving for college. Kevin also works with employers and brands on a variety of Millennial personal finance events and projects, including speaking engagements, financial wellness programs, and sponsored campaigns.
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