Does Altius serve a niche client base?
We serve a diverse group of clients.   However, we do work extensively with a few sub-groups - single women, lawyers, employees of international organizations (World Bank, IMF, etc.) and families with special needs.

There are many advisors out there. What is different about Altius?
We offer a unique combination of a deliberative and thoughtful approach with strong credentials (CFA and CFP), extensive experience (10+ years), responsive customer service and a fee-only compensation method.

What is the benefit of having a financial plan?
A good financial plan will:

(a) let you know whether you are on track to meet your financial goals,
(b) identify areas that are working well for you and areas to focus on, and
(c) list the specific steps you should take to stay on course. 

What is the process to develop a financial plan?
The first step is to call us to discuss your needs and our services. If it makes sense to move forward, we will ask you for some general information about your personal and financial situation. Then, we will have a face- to- face meeting to further discuss your needs and how we might help. There is no charge for this initial meeting. After this meeting, we will send you a proposal outlining how we can help and what our fee will be. If you accept our proposal, we will send you some paperwork to sign. Once you are a client, we'll ask you for more detailed information and documents. We'll have a second meeting to discuss our assumptions and inputs to your plan. Then, we will develop your plan and when the plan is complete, meet with you to discuss it. After our meeting, we will help you implement your plan.

How long does it take to develop a financial plan?
Once we have all of your information, we typically complete your plan in two to four weeks. 

I've had plans done for me before and don't want a 50-page document gathering dust on my shelf. How are Altius's plans different?
Our plans are customized for you – each plan takes several hours to craft. The plan document consists of an Executive Summary, Our Observations & Analysis and Our Recommendations. Reports accompany the text. We attempt to prioritize our recommendations and make it easy for you to implement them. We'd like your plan to be a living, practical document that you refer to over time and update when needed.

What is the process to have Altius manage my portfolio?
After your financial plan is done, we will help you open the necessary brokerage and retirement accounts at Fidelity, our primary custodian for our clients' assets. When the accounts are open, we will help you transfer assets from your other accounts to Fidelity. While the accounts are being set up, we will send you an Investment Policy Statement (IPS) to review and sign. The IPS contains the framework for how we will manage your portfolio. When you have signed off on the IPS, we will begin trading in your account – buy, sell and exchange securities to get your portfolio to your target allocation – an allocation that we would have set together.

Do I have to move my assets to Fidelity for you to manage them?
Yes, we manage assets custodied only at Fidelity and in limited instances, at TIAA-CREF and certain 401K providers. It is operationally simpler for us to use a single custodian. It is a fairly straightforward process to open accounts at Fidelity and transfer assets there. We do it often for our clients. It typically takes two to three days to open accounts at Fidelity and one to two weeks to transfer your assets there.

What is Altius's relationship with Fidelity? Is Altius required to use Fidelity mutual funds?
We use Fidelity as the custodian of our clients' assets. We use National Financial Services (a Fidelity company) as the broker for all trades. We are not required to use Fidelity products and nor do we, unless we consider them worthy of investment. We screen and then select funds and ETFs that we believe are the best in their asset class. We trade through Fidelity's online trading system for advisors and have access to research and other resources from Fidelity should we choose to use them. We don't pay for these resources and we are not required to use Fidelity products.

What reports can I expect if Altius manages my investments?
You will receive monthly statements from Fidelity and quarterly portfolio reviews from us. In our quarterly reviews, we highlight the performance of the markets and your portfolio. We constantly strive to improve our reports and provide meaningful, substantive information to our clients.

What returns can I expect to earn if Altius manages my investments?
We cannot promise any specific returns. Your investment return will be a function of several factors: (a) the returns of the markets, (b) your specific allocation, (c) our strategic and tactical decisions about your portfolio, (d) your holding period, (e) the cash flows into and out of your portfolio and (f) investment costs.

Will Altius do better with my investments that I would have done myself?
We hope we will do better than you would have done yourself, but we cannot assure you of that. To answer that question, we would have to know how you would have managed your portfolio initially and over time, including the changes you would have made/not made in response to changes in the markets and economy. That's difficult to do. We apply our knowledge, experience, skills and intuition to manage your portfolio as best as we can. We believe that over time, positive results will flow from our deliberate and thoughtful approach.

Am I not better off if I seek Altius's advice on my investments and then manage them myself? I would save Altius's fee.
We agree that you would save the cost of Altius's fee if you managed your own portfolio. However, you would be taking on a number of responsibilities and might incur other costs such as:

  • The cost of your time (to research, trade, track, rebalance your portfolio)
  • An increase in your stress level (if you don't do well or can't keep up with the tasks)
  • Lower returns and/or higher risk than what we might have delivered (you might do better than us too).

What are the various costs involved in managing a portfolio?
There are several levels of costs involved in managing a portfolio, some of which you would incur even if you managed your own portfolio (designated by the letters "SM" for Self Managed)

  • Altius's fee — our fee to manage your portfolio, update your financial plan and advise you on an ongoing basis.
  • Mutual Fund/ETF expense ratio (SM) — every mutual fund and ETF charges an annual fee to cover the costs of managing the portfolio.
  • Load (SM) — Some funds (typically designated as A, B or C share classes) charge a load or sales charge that covers marketing expenses and commission for the advisor who sells that fund. We will not typically invest in a load fund unless it is an excellent fund and the load is waived because we are fee-only advisors that earn a fee directly from you and accept no compensation of any other sort whether loads or commissions.
  • Trading costs (SM) — Some mutual funds incur a transaction cost when we buy or sell them. ETFs and stocks incur a trading commission when we buy or sell them. ETFs and individual stocks and bonds also incur a bid/ask spread which is the difference between the price at which the broker buys a ETF/stock and the price at which he/she sells it.
  • Other costs (SM) — Fidelity charges an administrative fee to close certain accounts.