I provide tax and accounting services through Peter J. Simon, CPA, CFP, LLC. My investment advice and management services and my personal financial planning services are provided through PJS Financial Advisory Services, LLC, a registered investment advisory firm.
By virtue of the depth, breadth and quality of my tax & financial expertise, I believe I am uniquely qualified in assisting my clients in the areas of tax savings, investment management & financial planning.
The greatest point of differentiation between my services and those of my competitors is my focus on and skill at creating ideas and then rendering advice that provides my clients with significant advantages and benefits. I first learned the importance of this mind set providing tax services many years ago. I realized there were many creative (and legal) ways to save significant amounts in taxes that many other tax professionals did not think of. I realized that this was how I could set myself apart so I became fixated on uncovering ways to save taxes. I then applied this mind set to all the services I provide.
In order for me to be a high value provider of my services, I focused on combining a mind set of looking for opportunities to benefit my clients with a greater knowledge and expertise than other tax and financial planning professionals. I therefore decided to continuously invest substantially more time enhancing my skills than was typical of others in the accounting and financial planning professions.
It has been my experience that to provide high quality financial and tax advice it is important to be well rounded. For example, good tax advice can have negative ramifications for college financial aid or lead to taking excessive investment risk and legal and investment advice without understanding the tax ramifications can be extremely detrimental to the clients’ financial health.
I have seen a lot of bad advice and missed opportunities by attorneys, stockbrokers, insurance agents, and accountants due to failure to consider adverse ramifications of their advice or recognize ways to provide greater value because they did not understand issues or opportunities that were outside of their narrow area of expertise. I therefore made a commitment to continually focus on getting better at what I was already good at and expanding into other areas that I thought were important to add to my ability to enhance the value I could provide to my clients. This is an ongoing process that I am committed to for as long as I continue to provide financial and tax services.
My fees are based upon an hourly rate or fixed fee, with the exception of investment management services, for which I charge for based upon a percentage of assets under management. I do not accept commissions or referral fees. I have no mark ups or undisclosed fees of any kind. For investment advisory services, I charge on a fee only basis so that my interests are aligned with my client’s best outcome. I clearly report (in addition to monthly statements) investment results as compared to relevant indices and client goals on a quarterly basis. My clients always know what they are paying for and how those services are benefiting them.
Accounting, Tax, and Financial Planning
I spent my first eight years in public accounting becoming proficient at providing tax and accounting services to businesses and preparing individual tax returns. During these years I worked for a large international CPA firm and a local CPA firm both located in New York City.
In the early 1990s I decided to add a specialization in personal financial planning so I could provide broader financial and tax advice to my clients.
To start this process I enrolled in the Certified Financial Planner program -- which included coursework in investment management, estate planning, tax planning, financial planning, and risk management. To further this objective in 1992 I joined an accounting firm specializing in serving high net income / net worth individuals, professional practices, and a variety of small businesses in Fairfield County, Connecticut. In 2000 I started my own firm in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
During the years I have worked in Fairfield County I have enhanced my expertise in providing tax and accounting services to businesses and tax services to individual and -- through experience supplemented by relevant ongoing professional education -- I have added specialties in estate and gift taxation; trust and estate income taxation; financial and tax aspects of retirement planning; financial, tax, and financial aid aspects of college planning; general personal financial planning; and investment management. In addition I have focused upon acquiring experience & knowledge in Medicaid, long-term care insurance, and life and disability insurance.
I began providing general investment advice as part of my financial planning and tax services in the mid nineties. Clearly, prudent investing is a key element to the successful implementation of most financial plans, so I sought to enhance my skills in providing this advice. I encountered a variety of brokers, insurance agents, and financial planners in the course of providing financial planning, income tax, and estate and gift tax planning services. I observed and critiqued their approaches carefully. I also read a number of books, took several courses, and read countless articles on investing.
In general, while I was impressed with their selling skills, I was not impressed with how the various investment professionals I encountered managed their client’s money. Most were compensated either entirely by commissions or by a combination of fee basis and commissions. I often saw inappropriate investments, which I suspected had been sold to maximize the advisors compensation rather than maximize value to the client. Client’s generally had no idea what they were paying for investment management since the fees were in the form of undisclosed commissions and mark ups. None of the advisors were reporting their results in a way that their clients could properly assess the value the advisor was bringing.
In the late nineties most advisors were pushing technology and large cap growth stocks. Client asset allocations were often 90 – 100% in stocks. The risk and appropriateness of these portfolios for their clients were not addressed. Further, there were no written investment plans specifying the agreed upon goals and there was no integration with the financial plans I had prepared for my clients.
My general impression of the business philosophy of the financial services industry was to obscure both the magnitude of fees and performance in order to charge high fees for underperformance and questionable advice.
In the mid to late nineties laws were changing across the country allowing CPAs to accept commissions and referral fees and otherwise provide investment advisory services beyond general investment advice. This created an industry of financial services firms who sought to work with CPA firms to provide financial services to the accounting firm’s clients. I decided to investigate these firms with the objective of finding a better approach to investment management that I could integrate with my financial planning service.
I spent about a year investigating approximately a dozen of the leading firms in this industry. After very careful and thorough evaluation I decided to work with BAM Advisor Services to offer investment management services to my clients. BAM is an affiliate of Buckingham Asset Management; a successful investment advisory services firm formed by a group of CPAs and financial services professionals in 1992. BAM Advisor Services was formed to provide the Buckingham Asset Management investment methodology and back office support to CPA financial planners seeking to offer investment management to their clients. Working with BAM allowed me to be completely independent and have the resources of a world-class organization behind me.
I like BAM’s approach for a number of reasons. BAM’s approach is used widely among professional investment advisors managing large pension plans and other institutional funds. These managers are fiduciaries and thus are required to follow this type of prudent investing approach by law. BAM designs customized investment strategies that are codified in written investment policy statements (IPS). These IPSs are the blueprint for implementing, monitoring, and evaluating the results of the investment plan.
BAM has access to Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA) asset class funds. DFA is a leading institutional money manager. Its funds are available only to large institutions and through certain large advisory firms such as BAM. Also, BAM has a very strong fixed income department.
BAM’s approach considers the appropriateness and the willingness of clients to take risk as well as the client’s need for returns. This is a logical approach that integrates well into the financial planning process. BAM is fee only based. There are no markups, no commissions, and no undisclosed fees of any kind. As an independent advisor, I pay BAM a percentage of the fee I charge my clients. BAM provides quarterly reporting that clearly reports performance.
BAM’s investment philosophy is based on a great deal of solid objective academic research and is consistent with my investment philosophy based on my extensive reading, coursework, and experience.
I believe that with BAM behind me I am able to provide a unique investment advisory service to individual investors by combining my skills as a financial planner, investment advisor, and tax expert with BAM’s expertise in investment management. I charge on a fee only basis so that my interests are aligned with my clients and I clearly report (in addition to monthly statements) investment results as compared to relevant indices and client goals on a quarterly basis. Therefore – unlike most other advisors I have encountered – my clients always know what they are paying and what they are paying for.
I am able to integrate my financial planning services with investment management to assist my clients to be able to retire comfortably and without worry of running out of money, provide their kids with a college (and often graduate school) education, and leave an inheritance to their heirs. I do this through a customized tax managed investment strategy taking into consideration each client’s unique combination of comfort with the ups and downs of the equity markets, when they want or need to spend their money, and what rate of return they need to make their long-term financial plan work. I am generally able to provide this ongoing investment management and advisory service for less than the cost of the average actively managed no load mutual fund.