Fairhaven Wealth’s fees have increased. Again.

Sonnie Bailey

11 March 2022

I’ve increased fees for Fairhaven Wealth’s services. Again.

The price for Fairhaven Wealth’s full planning service has increased from $6,000 to $10,000.

The cost of the basic INSIGHT service is staying the same for the time being: $500, although I have also added a $600 tier. (All figures include GST.)

In the spirit of being open and transparent, I’ve published articles discussing significant price increases in the past (here and here), and this article continues that tradition.

I feel wildly ambivalent about this change

When I say that I now charge $10,000, I feel a bunch of emotions.

My dominant feeling is something like discomfort. (I was going to say “wanting to throw up in my mouth”, but I was counselled against doing so.)

To put a price like this on my services feels pretentious and exclusionary. There’s a part of me that thinks that’s ghastly.

It seems outrageous that I’m charging this amount when there are so many Kiwis out there struggling to make ends meet.

I felt the same as when I was a graduate lawyer, with my firm charging hundreds of dollars per hour for my time. I found it hard to imagine that my time would be worth that much.

On the other hand, there’s also an element of pride. There are people who are prepared to pay a lot of money for my services. That’s predicated on a lot of work I’ve put in over the years – of knowledge and experience that I’ve accumulated in my adult life. In short, it seems that there are people who get that much value from my services.

From an entirely selfish perspective, If I can charge $10,000 for my services, then that also feeds into a high degree of comfort and confidence about my financial future as well.

My feelings on the matter vacillate from day to day and moment to moment. It’s a combination of feeling good and bad.

Ultimately, it’s a result of supply and demand

Supply

Over the past six to twelve months I’ve seriously thought about shuttering Fairhaven Wealth to new clients so I can focus on other things.

Running Fairhaven Wealth has to fit in with my life. I’m currently living “the full catastrophe of a rich life”, and at this point in time, time and flexibility are more important to me than money.

I can only work effectively on reports when I have extended periods of interrupted time, and I’m at a point where the cost – in terms of other things I feel compelled to do with my most limited, valuable time – are too high. I’m tired of the “death march” that’s associated with finalising a lengthy tailored report. It impacts my mood and reverberates through my household, when my tolerance for interruptions reduces.

To an extent, I am salting the earth. My expectation is that I’ll have far less clients at this price point. If that’s the case, so be it.

Could I employ or contract someone else?

One solution might be to employ someone else. Surely, at $6,000 or $10,000 per client, I can afford to contract or pay someone else?

Maybe. But:

  • Even at $6,000, and even with low overheads, I’m not at a point where it’s feasible to employ/engage someone else. It would be a significant financial risk, and not one I’m prepared to take.
  • The majority of my time is personal. Unlikely many other advisers who think of the financial plan they write as a compliance document, I am the opposite. Preparing a report is an integral part of preparing advice. As much as I try to automate the process and think about how I could use a paraplanner, I just don’t see how I could do it. A fundamental part of providing advice is to put myself in my clients’ shoes. The way I do this is by writing their reports.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Maybe I’ll engage someone at some point. Maybe I won’t. It’s just not going to happen in the immediate future.

Demand

To be frank, $10,000 feels like an exorbitant amount of money for the service. I wouldn’t pay that much. I felt that way at $6,000. Even at $3,000, I was unsure.

However, I need to step outside of myself, beyond biases such as the typical mind fallacy and the curse of knowledge. I am making that judgement from my own perspective – based on my own circumstances, and through the lens of what I already know.

In a counterfactual universe, I probably would pay $10,000. Let’s say that I’d ended up in IT rather than law and finance, and managed to establish and exit one or more businesses by now, or been an early employee of a business where my vested shares are now worth quite a lot. Let’s say I was worth millions (if not tens of millions) of dollars more than I am now, and I hadn’t spent all those years focusing on law and finance. If that was the case, I would probably be happy to pay $10,000 for someone who is simpatico with the way I see the world, is totally independent, and doesn’t want to touch my money.

Forgetting about the theoretical, this is ultimately an empirical question. There are still people who are prepared to pay $6,000, to the extent where I wasn’t able to take on new client enquiries through most of 2021.

The reality is, many of my more recent clients seem to be fairly price insensitive. My service seems expensive, but it helps that once you get to a certain level of wealth, a one-off cost of $6,000 or $10,000 is ultimately cheaper than what other financial planners will charge them (on an ongoing basis, calculated as a percentage of their investment portfolio).

Consolations(?)

If you’ve been thinking about engaging Fairhaven Wealth, and are exasperated because you’ve been on the fence about engaging me, and seen fees almost double each year — I’m sorry.

The consolations I can give are:

  • For now, Fairhaven Wealth’s INSIGHT service is $500 (for one three-hour conversation) or $600 (for two two-hour conversations). I consider it to be a bargain.
  • I am also working on a “Financial Confidence” course, which will be self-paced and cheaper again. (I won’t guarantee if/when I’ll finish it, but it’s in the works.)
  • Going forward, instead of offering 20-minute conversations to prospective clients, I’m going to offer 45-minute long “curiosity conversations” for free. They will have no agenda, and have the sole aim of being interesting and useful. When it comes to these conversations, I operate on a “good karma” basis. Ie, the more useful I can be to the others, more it will eventually pay itself forward, at least indirectly. My hope is that I can at least provide some value during these conversations, even for people who won’t ultimately benefit from Fairhaven Wealth’s full planning services.
  • There are other financial planners out there. Some of them are terrific, and excellent value for money.
  • I am trying to help out in other ways, and the more I charge the more it enables me to do this. I am involved in industry associations. I am involved in my local community (and want to be more involved). I will continue to make policy submissions where I think I have something to add. I will continue to post articles on this blog that I hope are interesting and useful to everyone who reads them, whether they’re prospective clients or not. On top of this, I’m doing my best to help raise my children to be healthy, happy, functional, productive adults, and to be the best husband/brother/son/friend I can be. I want to leave the world better than I found it, and just because I can’t help out more people with my full planning service doesn’t mean I’m not doing other things.

Prices might change again (upwards or downwards)

There’s a chance that I will reduce fees again. Maybe even a good chance.

There’s also a possibility that my fees will increase even more in the foreseeable future.

If you’re thinking about engaging Fairhaven Wealth, you’re welcome to wait to see if prices decrease. That might happen.

If I’m scratching for things to do, I might make a one-off offer to people on my mailing list or who have contacted me in the past.

But that’s not guaranteed, and perhaps not even likely.

On the other hand, there’s a possibility that I’ll increase fees again. Your guess is as good as mine.

If you’ve already been in touch

If you’ve been in touch regarding Fairhaven Wealth’s services in the past, and wonder whether this price increase is applicable to you, I’ll try to be as fair as possible. Please touch base sooner than later.


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