Seeking a Financial Advisor

Parent Q&A

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  • Financial Planner/First time home buyer

    (4 replies)

    Hi BPN!

    My husband and I are in the process of trying to figure out if we are financially able to buy a house in the Bay.

     I would say that we are very financially immature in terms of having savings/retirement/ general finances in order, and so I would love to have someone look at all our assets and give us a general overview of what it would mean financially to buy a house here, and also help give us a general guideline for what we should be doing for savings in general over the next few decades (for kids, for retirement, emergency funds, etc) and what type of income we should aim for.

    Showing our immaturity, is this the role of a financial advisor? A financial planner? Are those the same things?

    Any suggestions on people who have helped you sort this out would be greatly appreciated!

    As a general rule of thumb, if you are paying more than 35-40% of your income on housing, you are cost burdened. So in order to determine what you could afford as a mortgage, you'd take that number times your income, to determine your mortgage (plus other costs like property tax, insurance, utilities). Add in what you have for a down payment, and there's what you can afford on paper. Obviously in practice, people choose to cost burden themselves but that is very much an individual risk decision.

    Beyond that, I think you might want a financial planner, if self help resources like Nolo Press books aren't enough for you. You could also look into if one of you has access to an EAP, which often have financial planning services included. A financial adviser is more like an investments adviser and sounds like you are not ready for that.

    First, congrats on being willing to share where you are and ask for input! The financial services industry has lots of players so think about it more in terms of what licenses they have and how they get paid (% of vestments, fees for analysis, commissions on products). If you are looking for someone to analysis where you, recommend budget changes & savings options, invest for you, understand how all those those pieces work with your taxes, and offer you education along the way, you”ll want someone with a tax, securities, and insurance licenses. 

    My person has all of those, which is why I love working with her. Her company also offers free financial seminars for college savings, retirement, LTC, and general cash flow/budgeting. So not only is she helping me with my financial health, but I’m learning too. Her name is Nini Yang 408-464-7563. I also refinanced (when rates were amazingly low) with someone she works with. She’s well connected to the Bay Area financial world. 

    good luck and congrats on taking this step! 

    I'm not sure if he does consultations, but if so, we were SO impressed with Daniel Gat as our mortgage lender when we bought our house here in Berkeley last year. He is based half time in LA and half time in Bay Area. He walked us through every single detail of what documents we needed in order to purchase, got us fully pre-underwritten (not just pre-approved) and answered about 1,000 questions along the way. So maybe you could reach out to him and see if he does finance consultations, or could recommend someone else. His contact info is:

    510.717.6510 - cell/direct

    daniel [at]

    What you are looking for is a financial planner, and you probably want to look for someone who is a CFP, a certified financial planner. Given your needs, you probably want to find someone who will work for an hourly fee or who will do a comprehensive financial analysis for a fixed fee. Other ways financial planners charge for services are to charge a % of assets under management (and you would need to have a substantial amount that you wanted to have the planner manage for you for that to even be an option) or there are firms that make money from commissions (again, you'd have to be using them as an investment advisor and commissions put the advisor's and the client's interests out of alignment). Since you are looking for an analysis of your financial situation and not looking for someone to manage investments for you, those latter two payment structures don't work for you.

    The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors ( is a good place to start. They have a lookup that can help you find fee-only (no commissions) planners in the area. 

  • Looking for Financial Planner

    (1 reply)

    Can anyone recommend a good financial planner?

    A relative is planning to retire in a few years and would like to talk to a financial planner.  She's not looking for one that mainly sells investment products for a commission, but one that'd do some comprehesive (big picture) financial planning.  Probably fee based.  She's middle class---so no "high net worth only" type of financial planner.

    Breanna Stott at Finwell Benefits is great and I have used her. She is fee based and does appointments remotely. She regularly does plans for middle class people. 

    breanna.stott [at] 


  • My husband and I need to get our lives together. We have two kids, are at the mid-points in our careers, and just need to figure out next steps, specifically regarding finances. Are there any books, websites or perhaps even professionals you have worked with to help determine your next steps? We're debating whether we should stay in the Bay or head somewhere else where it is easier to buy a home, trying to determine how much to save for retirement, making sure that we are the beneficiaries for each other on everything... ya know, things that adults typically do. If you have any recommendations, please reach out. Thank you!

    Life here is very expensive! Unless you have family ties here that are worth the cost I think your life would be less stressful if you move somewhere where housing is less expensive. That said I think a budget is a great family tool to get alignment. What is really important to you and where can you reduce. We drive really inexpensive old vehicles but we enjoy eating out. We don’t go on expensive vacations and focus on day trips etc.. We only get our house cleaned once a month and have no help for gardening. It’s tough!

    Sarah Behr at Simplify Financial was very helpful to me around these issues. She is a fee-based financial planner with different package options depending on your needs. Sarah is kind, thoughtful, and very knowledgeable.

    Hi there,

    That’s great that you’re getting all of your ducks in a row! It’s not fun by any means, but we’ll worth it. I’d love to recommend my financial advisor. Her name is Jessica Meunier and her email is jessica [at] She is so knowledgeable and she can tailor your time together based on what goals you want to achieve. I can’t recommend her enough! 

    Her website is:

    All the best,


    We met with Sean Burgess some years ago and found him straightforward and easy to work with. He is what is called a fee-only financial planner where he doesn’t charge a percentage of your assets, but charges a set fee to make a financial plan. In general this is recommended as the most cost effective way for this kind of advice (and a Certified Financial Planner is required to be a fiduciary, eg only make recommendations in your interest and not there’s.)

    I had a very similar, “what is going on w my finances” a few years ago. I connected with the wife of a colleague who works in financial services (Nini Yang 408-464-7563) and I’ve been working with her ever since (last 2+ years). She did a financial review (w some education along the way), provided a full analysis, and developed a plan for me. Since she is also licensed for taxes and securities, her plan for me took into account diversifying tax strategies and investment strategies. Highly recommend!  

  • Non-judgemental Financial planner?

    (2 replies)

    Hi all - I’m looking for someone who can sit down with me and my husband and talk about our financial situation. We don’t have much in the way of disposable income but we do have a bit and definitely aren’t making the most of it (major understatement). I’m looking for someone in or near Berkeley, or online I guess, who won’t judge our past decisions or tell us we should have done this long ago. Someone reasonably priced who can help us focus on making a budget, paying for college for our kids, etc. And we’d like a short term set up where we get some advice, not an ongoing relationship with managing investments, etc. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

    Hi there, I’ve posted about my financial planner (who also does my taxes-CPA, Securities License, Life License) on here before. Her name is Nini Yang (408-464-7563). I had a somewhat embarrassing tax/finance issue two years ago. I felt heard and not judged. She did a wonderful job of explaining some basic financial concepts that I was able to incorporate in my budget and have since transformed my spending and more importantly, my savings. Highly recommend!

    We have been working with Autumn Kruse (  She's down-to-earth, nonjudgmental, and charges by the hour or the project.  Since we started working with her, we have a much better grasp on where we are and where we're going, and a precise idea of our finances.  I highly recommend her!

  • We are fortunate to have earned quite a bit of money this year, but now we are trying to figure out how to invest the funds. We will be consulting with a CPA we've found (this was all straight income and we were heavily taxed). We now have a few million $ to invest and don't have the expertise to figure it out ourselves. Our goal is to protect and grow the $ to ensure retirement (education and house basically covered). I know some people say just put it all into index / mutual funds or do robo-investing, but I wonder if it would be more worthwhile overall to pay for more specialized portfolio balancing than that, esp. given that this market can't continue forever, and we want to hedge against downturns. Vanguard would charge .3% and FRB 1.2%; has anyone found that FRB offers much better returns, service, or opportunities to justify the higher fee? At this time we don't need the business lending and other services that they offer, but don't know if using Vanguard wealth management will limit us to their products and strategy, whereas FRB advisors might consider a wider range of vehicles. Has anyone reading this used the personalized wealth management services of either of these and found them worthwhile, or is robo-investing the way to go, even when over $2M? I feel weird handing it all over to algorithms, but have to hope that the actual manager would help in some way beyond the robot. I have also spent too much time looking at real estate investment possibilities all over the country, but it's going down a rabbit-hole and not where I'd want to park the bulk of the $ either. I saw on BPN that a couple of Berkeley wealth managers have been recommended, but are they better in terms of overall returns and strategy than using Vanguard, FRB, or maybe Schwab, or ultimately just higher fees? Thank you very much in advance for any replies, and I wish everyone a healthy and happy New Year.  

    We've been investing with Vanguard for many years now, and I highly recommend them. They offer expertise, service, a ton of options, great returns, and a very low cost for maintenance. The reason they are able to charge such a low rate for maintenance is that they are not skimming money off the top of your investments to pay their shareholders; as with a credit union, the investors ARE the shareholders. They also offer a brokerage account if you would like to invest in non-Vanguard funds but have everything in one location.

    We put our money in two Vanguard index funds.  I would recommend the same for you.  Vanguard is great to work with and money in the index funds does well in the long-term.  

    I would be wary of paying 1.2% or more to a “wealth manager.” Those high fees will eat away at your returns over time. Plus, I don’t believe that these wealth managers can truly spend the time to monitor your investments and beat the market the way they advertise. Stick with a mix of index funds at Vanguard. I love their low fees. You also may want to consider Rebalance360, which I use. They have a similar low-fee philosophy as Vanguard and will do the work for you. I used to pay a financial manager 1.5%, believing he had my best interests in mind, but he did not. He could not spend the time needed to manage my portfolio and beat the market. My returns fell below the major benchmarks and I was paying 1.5% per year! That is when I fired him and moved to - one of the best decisions I’ve made.

    Greetings and congratulations on your good fortune. While working for BUSD I was approached by a financial consultant, daughter of a CHP officer, who was attempting to help teachers with their retirement investments. Her name is Nicole Badovinac and is teamed up with partner Joseph Corner and the two of them are brilliant. They work for Cetera Investors in Walnut Creek and I highly recommend them and most importantly TRUST them! Frankly, all things investment make me nervous since my brain just doesn't prioritize or know how to manage all that. But what I can tell you is that when the market was going nuts, my investments made money. I requested sustainable, non-petrol investments and I'm very happy with Nicole and Joe's incredible work ethic and sensitivity managing their clients funds. Those two are a class act.

    Nicole.badovinac [at]


    My parents have exactly the same question as you do. Currently they just park them in bank but interest is pretty low. I think it depends on what you are looking for and what are the risk you can take for the return you desire, also depends on the retirement plan for monthly expenses. For example, if you park the funds in some foreign country bank, the interest rate could be fixed to around 4-5%, however the inflation rate is getting 7%. Even you can get descent monthly interest, it still cannot beat up the inflation. For wealth managment side, we have been looking around but no luck, also the plans from our HSBC jade manager does not fit our needs that well. Again, it really depends on what your lifestyle could be in retirement stage and if you could find a good wealth manger or come out with solution plans, really appreciate if you could share with us!

    First, congratulations on your good fortune. May it continue in good health.

    Relative to asset management, I'd recommend keeping it as simple and as low-cost as possible. Vanguard is a fine choice. Given that your housing and education goals are set, the assets are essentially all long term, which simplifies things. The main considerations are diversification, tax efficiency, all-in costs, and suitable liquidity. Avoid the siren song of expensive hedging, complex investments, and the promise of superior return generation. Consider the well publicized $1 million wager between Warren Buffet and Tom Seides.

    If you have a little time and the inclination, I'd suggest reading a little to round out your perspective. Suggestions include Unconventional Success by David Swensen (Yale Endowment) and A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel are great places to start.

    We've been happy with Vanguard for many years, doing an index fund. Our feeling is that no human is smarter than an algorithm over the long term for investing. To give you an idea of the scale, we are satisfied enough that, already having about $3M parked there, just added a new inheritance of $1.5M.

    This doesn’t necessarily answer your question…but real estate investments are a great way to diversify your portfolio as recommended by my husband’s business CPA. We have a friend who owns a company that invests with real estate syndications. For each deal, you invest $50-100K with others on multi unit complexes out of state (Texas, North Carolina). Overall rate of return is ~7%. You earn money from rental income and get your initial investment back when the property sells in 5-7 years. The friend vets these companies and personally invests as well. Something to reconsider. 

    We have invested in Vanguard index funds for many years and recently signed up for the Vangurad Personal Advisor Services (which costs 0.30% for the first 5 million).  While this service costs a bit more than a pure robo-advisor, you get a dedicated advisor who will answer most financial and estate planning questions (such as what is the most tax efficient way to liquidate funds for an upcoming purchase).  And we have been impressed with the quality of the advice that we have received.  As others had mentioned, it doesn't seem like you get that much more value from a wealth manager charging much more than .30%.

    We also had tried Vanguard's Digital Advisor services for a couple of months, and decided we would rather pay the extra costs to have a dedicated person and more flexiblity to slight tweak the rebalancing.

    OP here. Thank you so much for the honest responses. One of the commentators asked what we decided. We also currently have HSBC, and it's because we basically never hear from them or get useful advice that I began looking elsewhere. However, we will keep just enough there to qualify for HSBC Premier to use for daily expenses. (We've used them for over a decade, from when we lived in Asia and needed true global banking.) We are going to go with Vanguard Personal Advisor Services, which is what I had been thinking for months, as I'm happy with the representative we spoke with, and it's not that much more in fees than if we used a lower, less-personalized tier of service. He listened and understood our objectives, whereas the First Republic person I spoke with talked the entire time and didn't seem to listen or care about our objectives. It is because we have been in some ways remiss in investing, and not today wary of the current volatile market, that I need a sounding board, and am willing to pay for it. An analogy is that I'm not a doctor and fortunately in good health, but sometimes get a doctor's opinion for issues that arise. I also built a rough spreadsheet about diversification of all net worth, not just current liquidity, including primary home - what % is invested where, and what makes sense for our stage of life and goals? Our NW is not as great or as complex as many here in the bay area, though we're fortunate to have built a very solid base over the past decade+, but it feels good to finally take head-on responsibility, rather than passively let our situation develop as we work, while feeling fearful of an overvalued market that declines. As I originally mentioned, I went down the rabbit hole of looking for investable real estate, but perhaps the wisest thing to do is to begin by building and renting out an ADU right here in the inner east bay; still deciding on whether we want to have tenants next to the main house, but financially it's a no-brainer in terms of diversification. Best wishes for 2022. 

  • Until now we have been managing our savings/investments ourselves by mostly buying index funds and CD's and leaving it, but realized that we need some help to diversify and do a better job investing, especially as our savings grew significantly this year due to recent windfall.  Our income is enough to live on and we don't want to increase our daily expenses/budget, , so we now have an amount we want to invest and set aside so it can grow and be there for us when kids go to college, retirement or if kids need financial help later in life.   We already max out contributing to retirement accounts and have kids college accounts set up, and are set on life/disability insurance.  So we don't need the full spectrum of financial planning services, just want help investing and managing those investments both in retirement and taxable accounts.  Any advice as to financial planners, wealth managers, investment advisors (not sure what the correct name is) who is very good when it comes to investments and building a portfolio?  We both come from low to middle class families, so our families never needed investment services and don't have anyone to recommend, and we don't want to ask our friends as we are keeping quiet our recent financial good fortune. So far we spoke to financial planners in Chase, Bank of America, and Equitable, and the rates seem to vary between 1-1.5% depends on what we do.  We really liked the planners from Equitable but are having a hard time finding other people who used them and can recommend them.  I'd love to hear feedback on Equitable as financial planners, or other recommendations.  Thanks!

    If you are interested in investing in no-load mutual funds (only), I highly recommend FundX Investment Group. I have relied for years on their monthly newsletter, and they also do individual advising.

    I use Prosperity Financial Group in San Ramon. Elliot Kallen is the owner and meets us quarterly or so in person to discuss our portfolio and make any changes that seem reasonable. Fees are reasonable and we have done well by him. His email is elliot [at]  Good luck and tell him Terri sent you!

    I can highly recommend Stefan Sikorski at Equitable.  He used to be with AXA Advisors, but they got bought up by Equitable some time back.  I've been working with him since 2010, and he's always been very responsive and very understanding of what risk level I could tolerate as I got closer and closer to retirement.  He can put together an interesting package of stocks, bonds, etc., but, as a designated reporter at the state agency where I work, the hassle of filling out the annual FPPC [Fair Political Practices Commission] disclosure forms -- which had to include every single transaction -- was just not worth it to me, so we switched to mainly market index funds, and I've been very satisfied with the returns.  Stefan is British and bit hyper, and can talk a mile a minute, so he might not be everyone's cup of tea, but he always leaves me smiling.  Also, he used to be in the Bay Area but now operates out Texas [Austin or Houston, I think], so if you're wanting personal visits rather than Zoom chats, he might not be the best fit. 
    Stefan.Sikorski [at]
    If you decide to talk to him, feel free to say that Norm Vance recommended him.  At the very least, I'm sure he could recommend a local advisor who would be available for personal meetings.  Good luck.  It sounds as though you are proceeding very carefully and very prudently. 

    I would recommend a few-based advisor, rather than one of the services you mention. A fee-based advisor can help you strategize, but isn’t going to keep skimming off the top. You can check in every 5 years or so (or more frequently) for a fee, but again avoiding the annual service fees, which can become hefty as your accounts grow. 

    There are very good reasons to get a financial planner, when you need the full spectrum of financial planning services. But for pure investment advice there isn't a lot of value added compared to a robo-advisor, or some good investing rules-of-thumb, or a target-date fund. A lot of advisors create portfolios for their clients using rules-of-thumb, and they end up looking like robo-advised accounts anyway. Except you pay more for it. Remember that 1-1.5% of assets under management could be more like 10-25% of your annual investment returns (assuming returns of 6-10% per year) and you need to pay the advisor even if you lose money in your accounts (which happens in a bad market year).

    If I were in your position, I would look at moving the windfall and any non-employer accounts to one financial services company like Vanguard, Schwab, or Fidelity. I currently have accounts with Vanguard and Schwab, and used to have an employer account with Fidelity and have liked them all; they are all well-regarded companies. All three have robo-advisor options, and I would avail myself of them.

    FWIW, it doesn't sound like you have been doing at all badly. Index funds are inherently diversified across a large number of stocks. It sounds like you could use help figuring out a bond allocation and choosing an appropriate bond fund or funds. I don't think it is a high a hurdle as you seem to think.

    We've been working with Ellevest, and are happy with them. One of the nice things they do is provide options for alternative investments that all have a social justice angle (green energy, loan funds focused on woment/POC, sustainable workforce housing, etc.) If you care about using your money toward social good, just make sure that the planners you talk to have that as a focus. Some do, but the big banks, not so much. 

    Hi, We've had a good experience with North Berkeley Wealth Management. They are a local firm and have done well for us. Our person is Matt.

    I highly recommend TIAA. We have been with them for years after fleeing more costly alternatives. They can help structure your investments in accord with a risk assessment conducted by a professional. We have found their approach to be very client friendly. One word of caution. Whoever you go with, be aware of capital gains. Most firms want to sell portions of your portfolio and add investments from their own lists. If you have successful investments now, this can create a capital gains tax challenge during your first year as a client.

    Most investment managers are paid via a percentage of the assets you have with them. It's not ideal, but it's common and works well for many people. 1% to 1.5% is typical, though 1% is closer to the average. And a good investment manager should do more than just pick investments for you.

    You might also pay for services by the hour or via a flat fee, but this arrangement is less common. You might look at fee-only advisors at Most do planning (which you said you don't need) but some likely do just investment advice for a flat or hourly fee. 

    Merrill, Chase, Equitable, etc. are more likely to have irreconcilable conflicts of interest, to sell you on something that makes them more money, and in Equitable's case maybe try push you to more expensive annuity and insurance-based products. The incentives are inherent to the system.

  • I need help figuring out if I am financially secure enough to retire soon. I will have income from a pension, social security and some savings. But I am not sure how to estimate how long this will last. In addition, I am getting a larger inheritance from my parents in Germany. I believe, there are no taxes due on this, but I would also like to discuss any potential tax effects and help with investing the money from the inheritance.

    I would like to work with a fee-based financial advisor. I am not sure if one professional would have the expertise for all these questions, or if I need to work with multiple advisors.

    What good questions! Note that you are looking for three specialties: financial planning, tax advisor, financial advisor. I've been putting this together for myself over the past year or so in preparation for retirement. I have yet to find one person or entity that does all three in-house, certainly not fee-based. That said, I've found solid solutions for each.

    I recommend Sarah Behr at Simplify Financial ( for fee-based financial planning. She's in San Francisco and meets clients over Zoom during this time of pandemic. Sarah is straight-forward and thorough in her approach. Sarah helped me assess my overall financial picture in preparation for retirement and made recommendations for adjustments to my investment portfolio (self-managed, mostly in mutual funds). 

    Sarah is not a tax specialist, nor would I expect any financial planner to be, although she does know a lot about taxation issues related to investments. She can refer you to a tax specialist or coordinate with your tax preparer if you are already working with one. 

    As for help with investing the funds, I don't know of any financial advisors that offer fee-based service; all that I am aware of charge a percentage of assets managed. That said, you may not need to pay for this service if you are willing and able to self-manage with a little help. Consider looking into any of the major online investing platforms—Vanguard, Schwab, Fidelity, TM Ameritrade, etc. They all have automated programs where you can plug in your assets, goals, etc. and your assets will be invested accordingly. Schwab has free in-person support in their local branches.

    Search online to educate yourself before talking with professionals. Good places to start are and

    Good luck in moving toward a stable retirement.

    Mary Robinson is wonderful...she's an effective listener, is patient, and very thorough.  She's on the East Coast and we had several virtual meetings to get my finances in order.

    mrobinson32 [at] ()

    Mary Robinson - Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

  • Hi all - My partner and I are in our early 40s and have wanted to work with a financial planner for years but aren't sure how to find one or really what to look for.  We have one child and do not own a home.  We'd like someone to see if we're allocating the right amounts to saving for retirement, saving for our child's college fund, and paying off our own grad school student loans.  We also have about $200K in savings and aren't sure where to put it.  (We'd been saving for a house but now aren't sure if that is a good idea.)  Thank you for any recommendations!  

    We highly recommend Don Willner.  He has been easy to work with and provides sound advice that has been very beneficial for us over the years.  


    don [at]

    I have worked with Jason Draut (510) 558-8272 and Trish Johnson (510) 459-0938.

    If your money is in a local institution, they should have advisors you can talk to.  I just met with a Schwab representative (post-divorce), who was very helpful.  I recommended Charles Schwab in Berkeley.  

    Boom Planning in SF is amazing. I started working with them when i got pregnant and it has been so great - wills, retirement, investments, you name it. They are kind and really good at explaining things in simple ways. They take a lot of time to really understand what YOU want, and what your values are, they then customize a plan based on that. Feel free to ask for Amy Bloget and say miakoda sent you.

    I've been working with Sean from for 5 years. He's a fee-based fiduciary with very practical advice and tools for the estimates you referenced in your post. Highly recommend!

  • Looking for a financial planner

    (3 replies)

    Hello, I'm looking for a financial planner that can look at my financial health and help me decide if I can afford a 2nd home, an addition on my house, and also saving for college and retirement. Do you have a financial planner (preferably fee only) that you really liked? Thanks!  


    I really like Eugene Demler. He learns about your family and your life taking a wholistic approach to your finances. He looks at your whole financial picture and goals for your finances and your future before making recommendations on investments. He also helps with financial planning, which is really helpful for your current finances and future planning. His website is

    Hi! I know an excellent financial advisor. His name is Cliff Barros. I’ve had a great experience working with him the last 3 or 4 years. You can contact him to cliff [at]

    I hope this helps!


    Eugene Demler eugene [at]

    He worked with us after we got an inheritance and helped us plan for it the right way. He's got all the charts and figures if you want them but he can also make it really easy to understand, which was helpful for us. We don't have kids yet, we honestly didn't know if we could afford it. But Eugene helped us see what the Long term costs look like and even set up a plan for a college fund. I highly recommend talking to him. 

  • Flat fee financial advisor

    (2 replies)


    I am looking for a recommendation for a flat fee financial advisor. Someone who can easily walk us through some planning and help us figure out our retirement with our limited resources. We don’t have a lot to work with and are also interested in learning about low index funds. We are in our early 40’s ,  2 young children, a school teacher and an X-ray tech. We now live on the Peninsula but are willing to drive to the East Bay . Thanks in advance for your recommendation and or advice!

    Highly highly recommend Sean Burgess for this:

    We've been working with him for a few years. He's flat-fee, fiduciary and very keen on index funds. We really like him, and though he's now based in Portland, all the visits are remote!

    I highly recommend taking this short course at your own pace, especially if you're in need of simple retirement planning (401k, 403b, Roth IRA) and already understand that index funds are the way to go. I follow Jeremy on social media and his course is cheap and super helpful: There's also a ton of free resources too. This is the best $80 you can spend.

  • Socially responsible financial planner

    (2 replies)

    I'm looking for a fee only financial planner who focuses on/supports socially responsible investing. Someone to consult with & perhaps follow up with periodically. For personal use. The few postings I found are all years old. I've encountered Comunitas:, & North Berkeley Investment Partners: Anyone familiar with either? Thanks & stay safe!

    Another suggestion- we worked with Tanya at Redwood Grove and she's been great. She's very interested and up-to-date on socially responsible investing options. She also does a flat fee plan which we really appreciated.

    I've been working with Autumn Kruse for years and she's terrific. 

  • I'm mid-40's, single, no kids, self employed.1) what's an "acceptable" fee to pay a company like Vanguard or Fidelity etc to help manage your retirement investments (SEP/ROTH)? I know this kind of service requires a % fee, but what's considered "average" or acceptable?2) I'd like to find a Financial Advisor or Planner this group highly recommends. I want to learn more about managing my retirement investments, but need some guidance and education initially. (I've been reading a lot online and in books, but having a human to guide and ask questions to would be helpful). I don't want to be sold into specific funds the advisor is affiliated with. I just want guidance so I can eventually mange them myself and reap better returns. My previous investments were lacking in any strategy and I have a lot of catch up I need to do. TIA


    I'm also in my mid-40s and self employed and had many of the same questions as you a few months ago.  I found a very good financial planner named Chris Foley who works for Edward Jones.  I was very skeptical about working with a financial planner because I was worried about fees, but Chris will look at your existing portfolio in detail and make recommendations personalized to your situation and goals, including different options for investments and fees, so that you end up something that you're comfortable will and better prepared for the future.  Note: you don't have to do a % fee approach.... there are other options.  Message me if you're interested and I'll forward his contact information. 

    We work with the financial planning firm Reynolds and Reynolds in Atlanta and have all our meetings remotely. We specifically work with Nick Wagner. He’s great, and it’s cheaper work with someone who lives in a more affordable area of the country. Highly recommend.

    I feel very passionately about this topic because I think that many financial advisors do not have their client's best interest at stake. I used to have a financial advisor for my family's retirement accounts, to whom I paid an annual fee of about 1.25% of assets, which is fairly standard in the industry. He put us into various funds of his choosing. About seven years ago I was reviewing the periodic reports he would send us, and I was shocked and angry to see that our portfolio was not beating the major indices, and yet we were paying a 1.25% annual fee and the managed funds we were in had high annual expenses! I would have been better off putting my money in the S&P500! About this time I was reading an article about a new company called RebalanceIRA (now called Rebalance360) whose mission it was to help regular people retire with more money by offering an investment strategy at a low cost. They help you identify your risk tolerance and then allocate your money into ten asset classes. They use index funds and ETFs, which have minimal fees. Then they rebalance your portfolio every quarter, bringing it back to your target allocation. They charge 0.7%. That half a percentage savings in fees, plus not paying the costs of a managed fund, make a huge difference in your return over time. They have an account minimum of $100K (I think). If you are below that level or want to do things yourself, then I would recommend Vanguard, which offers low fee funds such as their Target Retirement funds. Needless to say, I fired my financial advisor and moved my accounts to Rebalance, and I have never looked back. Their website has lots of helpful info:   Good luck!

  • Financial Advisor Recommendation?

    (7 replies)

    My husband and I are trying to figure out the best way to save for retirement, pay off student loans, and put a down payment on a house. We would like to talk to a financial advisor who can help us figure out what to prioritize and set up a schedule for specific amounts to put each month towards each category. Does anybody have recommendations? We live in El Sobrante, and would prefer to find someone in the East Bay, but are willing to travel to San Francisco. Thanks in advance!

    I've recommended our advisor to several friends and we are all very satisfied. Sean Burgess lived in SF for a long time but moved his family to portland and conducts all business over Video and online. He is a licensed fiduciary and does not manage our money, which is what we were looking for.

    We've been very happy with Jarrett Topel at Topel & DiStasi in Berkeley (near the Claremont Hotel). We initially had a long meeting with Jarrett to discuss our goals, and he now checks in with us every 6 months to see if we need anything. He also (as authorized by us) automatically shifts things around as necessary. We recently met with him to get a handle on retirement, and were very pleased (and surprised) with what we learned. Here's the website:

    Gavin DiStasi at Topel & DiStasi Wealth Management. Very nice fellow, knowledgeable, reasonable, and helpful. He helped me a lot, and I continue to seek advice from him.

    2907 Claremont Ave, #111
    Berkeley, CA 94705Phone: 510.898.1270
    Fax: 510.898.1604

    I did a bit of research to find a financial advisor  who would talk to me and my husband about retirement accounts and college savings. I really wanted to find someone who would charge by the hour, not take a percentage of accounts they set up for us. After a string of referrals to people who said they "didn't exactly do that" we ended up seeing Julie Asti. She was really fantastic, and helped clarify all of the questions we had, and seemed extremely competent, smart and efficient. She charged us $300 and hour and we met with her for 2 hours. It felt incredibly worthwhile, and I cannot recommend her enough. It seems really rare to find someone who will just charge by the hour to offer objective advice, not try to sell you financial products. We are pretty set for now with all of the information we need to move forward financially, but I anticipate that we will have more questions at some point in the future and we will definitely go back to her. Her website is

    I highly recommend Alicia Ivanovich at Financial Healthy.  I have been working with her for a couple of years and find her enormously helpful.  She is has helped me set long and short term goals and find the path toward meeting them.  I am in much better shape financially now than I was before I began working with Alicia. Can't recommend her highly enough. Plus she's a Berkeley parent herself!   Her office is in downtown Oakland.  Here is her contact info

    Alicia Ivancovich, CFP®
    Principal and Certified Financial Planner™ practitionerFINANCIALLY HEALTHYA Registered Investment Adviser firmFinancial Advice and Investment Management1999 Harrison Street, Suite 1800Oakland, CA  94612Phone:  (510) 496-4567alicia [at]

    Rick Prime. He's on Domingo near the Claremont Hotel.

    He's an absolute gem of a person, and he's not looking to sell you anything or make a buck. He's just a wonk who knows tons and wants to share info. I can't say enough about him (you sound exactly where my husband and I were when we were referred to him by another friend). 

    We love working with Jack Rabuck of West Coast Financial. He is smart, attentive, progressive, thoughtful, and so understanding. We connected with him as we were feeling anxious about retirement, paying for college, moving — it was all on the table — and he helped get us to a place of confidence and calm. He can be reached at 510-925-1668. His email: jack [at] His office is in Oakland, but he visits us at home.

  • Financial planner for short term investing

    (3 replies)

    Hi there,

    I'm looking for ideas, or financial planners to get ideas from for some short term investing.

    After an unfortunate car accident I received a settlement from insurance and now have some sudden money in the bank. I saw an ad for a 1 year CD at 2.24, which made me realize if i am not going to need this money in the next year it should be somewhere other than my savings account. I don't want it tied up for more than a year, and not all of it , as i have some kids medical bills etc coming up. But I think i could invest in the 30K range and be ok for a year.   Thanks.

    We just had some good experience with Julie Asti of Asti Financial Management in Albany. Also: some online savings accounts offer APY's on par with CDs but without the time commitment. Ally and CIT (Savings Builder) are great options.

    My 2 cents--CDs and savings accounts are guaranteed and secure, though the interest rate is low. Generally, most other investment options are not guaranteed. If you put your money into something that isn't guaranteed, you could lose it, although some investments are much safer than others. As they say, risk=reward.

    The amount you are talking about investing actually isn't that much (hard to believe, I know). I am not sure it's worth paying for financial advice. In your position, I might look at low-cost mutual funds at Vanguard. I believe they offer banking options as well. I think Warren Buffet is the one who pointed out that you can't control the market. But you can control the fees you pay. Since investment fees are deducted regardless of whether or not you earn money, think low fees!

    If Vanguard doesn't meet your needs, I'd look at local credit unions, which offer offer better interest rates and more services at lower fees.

    I probably wouldn't consult with a financial planner if all you're doing is investing 30k for one year. A cd is a good (safe) option. Otherwise, you might want to consider Wealthfront. You can open an investment account with them, or even do a high interest cash account, which is at 2.51% APY. 

  • Financial Advisor (SF or East Bay)

    (4 replies)

    Hello! I was wondering whether anyone had a financial advisor they would recommend? With our asset and income level, an advisor with a flat fee arrangement probably makes more sense than one who charges a certain net fee.  We won't need anything too complicated - essentially the basics of planning for retirement, down payment, and children's education. We have had a fairly traditional approach to saving thus far, and it's clear that with housing prices as they are in the Bay Area, we'll need to get a little more creative if we want to meet our goals comfortably, and we're hoping a strong financial advisor will help us get there. Thanks in advance-

    Denise Petersen of Petersen Investment Planning would be terrific for what you need. - 510-639-9080 - dpetersen [at] We've worked with her for over 20 years, and she got us to a comfortable retirement.

    Julia Epstein

    We are currently working with Autumn Kruse:

    She charges a flat fee and does not manage funds, which is one reason we chose her. She's been great so far with helping us plan for our son's future expenses and retirement, and generally get our lives in order (she insisted we find someone to help us prepare wills, for example).

    Elizabeth Husserl is wonderful to work with and offers a flat fee arrangement over a set number of sessions. She really helped us identify our goals, come up with a clear plan and held us accountable. Elizabeth offers a holistic approach to financial management, which we found really helpful. Highly recommend!

    Hello! We’ve loved our financial planner Rocky. His office is in San Rafael, but he comes to your home (if that’s easier). Info below:  

    Rockne S. Schatz, BFA, CFP


    Capital Strategies & Investments, Inc.

    1005 A Street Suite 408

    San Rafael, CA 94901-3129



    CA Insurance License 0684802

    Securities offered through Securities America, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. 

    Advisory services offered through Capital Strategies & Investments, Inc. 

  • Looking for a Superb Financial Planner

    (2 replies)

    My husband and I recently moved here from New York and are looking for an independent financial planner not affiliated with a big firm. We've felt anonymous in the past with a big firm so aren't interested in the type of advisor mentioned in a lot of previous posts. We also want a CFP so that we can be sure that there are not selling us anything. We want help with budgeting, saving for our kids' college educations, maximizing our job benefits, saving for retirement, and investing the money that we have in a strategic way. We aren't looking for an hourly planner but someone who can work with us over time. Thanks

    We use Denise Petersen of Petersen Investment Planning. Denise and Maire do exactly what you describe and are wonderful to work with.

    My family uses - and loves - Alison Davies in Berkeley.  She sounds like a good fit - she wants clients with whom she can build a long-term relationship and stressed this to us when we first hired her.  We're glad we did.  She is patient, good at explaining things, and makes herself available when we need her.  She does not sell any products, is transparent about pricing, and is very ethical.  While she is paid a percentage of the assets we invest through her, she encouraged me to keep a retirement account separate when it was doing really well, against her own financial interest.  Her website is  I hope you find someone who is a good fit!

  • I am seeking a professional who can educate my partner and me on best practices around kids and money. We have lots of differences of opinion around how to instill values with money in our parenting and how candid to be about our family's financial situation with our teenager among other issues. Also, there are wealthy relatives who are inclined to just give large monetary gifts (not education-based) to our daughter which troubles me (but not my partner) so it would be good to have a skilled professional who knows what the research shows on kids and money and also kids and inherited wealth. Partner is open to meeting once for a one to two hour session. I know professionals who help parents create in-depth family and money plans (and only work on a project basis) but haven't found anyone with this who consults hourly.

    This is a specialty area in financial planning and family counseling.  I recommend looking at a few of the books that have been published over the past few decades on the topic for starters and to get names of people who do this work.  

    Here are a couple:

    Beyond Gold: True Wealth for Inheritors Perfect Paperback – December 7, 2012by Thayer Cheatham Willis  (Author)  (I think this author lives in the Bay Area and still consults with clients or can refer you to someone who can assist you.)Inherited Wealth: Opportunities and Dilemmas Paperback – June 9, 2008by John L. Levy (Author), Tracy Gary (Preface), J. Jeffrey Lambert (Foreword)Also, search the internet for "Inherited Wealth" workshops and see who is out there these days.  There are some excellent professionals who specialize in this topic but they keep a low profile.    

    We just visited our financial advisor who was talking about teaching his kids about finances including different types of debt and investments. He is a great guy and we've gone to him for seventeen years. Personal recommendation.

    Stephen G. Krochmal, Jr., CLU®, ChFC®, CFP®
    Financial Advisor
    KKP Financial and Insurance Services
    A financial advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc.

    Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. 
    100 Pringle Avenue 
    Suite 420 
    Walnut Creek, CA 94596 

    O: 925.280.4444 | F: 925.932.8351 

    Rebecah Freeling is a family coach and also a financial professional. She helped us with issues around behavior, but she also helped us figure out how to talk to our kids about money. Rebecah is very knowledgeable and understands how kids think and develop. I highly recommend her. We really enjoyed working with her.

    This book is fantastic: "The Opposite of Spoiled" by Ron Lieber. It really helped me crystallize my vague thoughts on kids and money, and start developing a family policy around it. Obviously you and your husband should be on the same page though, and if you are having trouble getting there, maybe you could both read the book so you start sharing a framework, and heck, if your kids are teens, they could read it too and you can have a family book club discussion!

  • My parents are seeking recommendations for both a financial advisor and a tax advisor. My impression is that my mom will be the one primarily interacting with these folks - she is very competent, but hasn't been the one dealing with these issues. My dad has dementia but still thinks of himself as a financial genius - he has agreed (for now) to take a back seat, but it would be great to find advisors who are able to gain my dad's trust, answer his questions patiently, and gently get him off the phone etc. They are looking for a financial advisor who can help them make smart investment decisions, and a tax advisor who is able to provide answers about the immediate and long term (estate) tax pros/cons of certain investment decisions. They already have someone who handles their tax returns but he doesn't provide this kind of strategic advice. 

    Someone local (Berkeley / Oakland) might be nice though I imagine everything would be done by phone, so happy to have someone further afield. 

    -New to the sandwich generation

    We worked with financial advisor Karen Jaber for both my mom and my brother's mother-in-law, and we were so pleased and impressed that my brother and I each used her as well.  She is based in Mill Valley but travels all over the Bay Area to meet with clients (we're in Oakland), so my mother was not inconvenienced at all.  Her # is (415) 388-1523.

    For tax advice, I assume in the estate planning context, I would call Mary Rudser, an estate planning attorney who specializes in tax issues at Donahue Fitzgerald in Oakland.  Her # is (510) 451-3300.  I'm an attorney myself and I've used Mary and recommended her to countless friends who have been very happy with her. 

    Both of these women have extensive experience working with older clients, and they are both incredibly gentle, communicative, and insightful.

    Good luck!

    I've been working with Lan Shaw of Edward Jones for a number of years. As a certified financial planner she has the knowledge, experience and also the care and concern you'd want for your parents. Her office is on Allston Way in Berkeley. 510 704 8854. Also her assistant, Heather, is really great. She researched a complicated question I'd called with and got back to me the same day. 

  • I was wondering what folks pay financial planners or investment counselors to manage their investment portfolios. Do you pay a percentage of the assets managed? If so, what percentage?  Does it vary by how much you have in the portfolio being managed?  Or do you pay a flat amount? Again does it vary by the amount of your portfolio?  Trying to figure out what is reasonable.


    It really depends. I don't pay my financial planner anything. This is, I believe, partly because of the products I invest in and partly because of the planner's business model. I know that many advisors do charge fees, and this depends on the company's practices. I like that I don't pay anything :)

  • Financial advisor(?) - rent vs. sell

    (1 reply)

    I am a reluctant landlord for my childhood home in Berkeley, a three unit building which is currently rented out.  I would love to extricate myself from the situation (which involves complicated relationships with siblings, but I have authority to make the decision to sell).  I am looking for someone who is knowledgeable about real estate to help run the numbers regarding long term rental income, maintenance and tax deductions compared to. profit, capital gains, challenges regarding sale of rental units in Berkeley, etc.  If we sell I would also probably want investment advice.   I have seen lots of recommendations for financial planners, but this is a very complicated situation and I am hoping to find someone with relevant experience.  (I think this type of person would be called a financial advisor or financial planner, but I have no experience with this , so maybe there is another kind of professional who could help.)   Thanks!

    I recommend Dustin Ma. He is our financial advisor and he knows a lot about real estate investment. Good luck. 

    Dustin S. Ma

    LampPost Planning


    Financial Advisor

    2010 Crow Canyon Place

    Suite 100 / 404

    San Ramon, CA 94583

    Office:    (510) 488-3634

    Fax:         (510) 280-9198

    Email:      dustinsma [at]


Archived Q&A and Reviews

Update on Financial Planner Lan Shaw

April 2017

I read the reviews about financial planners and decided to make an appt. with Lan Shaw.  She's no longer at Edward Jones as indicated in earlier BPN reviews, but instead is now running her own practice at Vision Financial Planning, 2150 Shattuck Ave (The Chase Bank Building), Suite 135.  I am impressed with her background, skills and concern about her clients and look forward to working with her.  

Financial adviser needed

May 2013

At present I oversee all my wife's and my finances and investments. We are looking for an excellent adviser who would take over this duty in case I become incapacitated or die before my wife. She has minimal investment knowledge or experience so this person must be highly recommended, very experienced, trustworthy and successful. My preference is not one who is primarily involved in insurance as we have someone who handles that area already. Many thanks.

I highly recommend trying out Julie Asti who runs her business out of her Albany home office. She has been helping me for about 3 years with all of my financial issues--overall picture, investments & allocation, retirement, household budgeting. I have also called her to answer various financial questions relating to my aging parents. Julie can look at the whole picture in a non-judgmental way. She is available on an hourly basis and doesn't try to sell you anything. Julie is very knowledgeable and presents things clearly. She can be a bit of a fast talker, but she also gets things done and gets you answers to your questions quickly, which means there is little time wasted. You definitely feel you are getting your money's worth (good news for anyone who's reluctant to use a financial advisor.) Julie Asti,CFP\xc3\x82\xc2\xae Asti Financial Management 510.558.8557 p 866.829.3702 f Good luck k12mcc

Hi Robert I've been with my financial adviser for over 5 years now and he's helping me to become financially secure for retirement. I'm well on my way. His name is Jonathan DeYoe at DeYoe Wealth Management (510) 848-0012. (He's located in Berkeley) I highly recommend him. He's very experienced, honest and trustworthy. The best thing I like about him is that he is communicative and approachable. He's the best. Larry L

My husband and I have worked with Guy Ben Ari for several years, and he is great! He is in Alameda and is part of Edward Jones Investments. Guy is knowledgeable (he is a cfp), helpful, and never pushy-- we always feel like he just wants what is best for our family. He really knows us personally, too, and that is unique for a lot of large brokerage firms. I highly recommended him. guy.benari [at] / (510) 522-2009 Good luck, Shirley

I can VERY highly recommend Berit Suba. She is my personal financial advisor and have helped me invest my savings with excellent results! She has also set up a Roth Ira for my husband. I could not be more pleased with the expertise, and personal service Berit has provided. Here is Berits contact info: Berit Suba, MBA, CFP Financial Advisor Chartered Retirement Planning CounselorSM Tel 415-395-2432 berit.suba [at] Good Luck! Sf Mom

Give Tony Garibaldi a call. He is very professional and knowledgeable. He is a CFP with Eagle Strategies/NY Life. 650-455-2085 Anonymous

I would recommend DeYoe Wealth Management to you for managing you and your wife's finances and investments. We have been clients of theirs for 5 years and are pleased with the quality of service we've received from Jonathan and his staff. They did a complete analysis of our financial situation, helped us understand how much we needed to save to have enough for retirement, recommended additional insurance (when we added to our family), made suggestions on how to reallocate funds in my 401k and recommended several attorneys to contact to have our trust drawn up. Although we did buy life insurance policies through them, that is a very small aspect of what they do. Jonathan also gets great reviews on Yelp. I've included his contact information below. DeYoe Wealth Management, Inc. 1400 Shattuck Avenue Suite One Berkeley, CA 94709 ph - (510) 848-0012

I recommend Lan Shaw as Financial Advisor at Edward Jones, Berkeley. Lan is straight forward, thoughtful and very interested in YOUR needs for financial planning and outcomes. She listens carefully and asks very good questions to help you create a plan to meet your investment goals. I recently met with her to discuss planning for my children and was impressed by her. She helps folks who are at the beginning, middle and later years of their investments. Lan communicates clearly with people at all levels of financial knowledge. She can be reached at: (510) 704-8854 Email: [at] Web site: Berkeley Parent

Lan Shaw of Edward Jones in Berkeley on Allston Way is smart, patient and takes the time to get to know you and to work out the best plan for your money that fits your needs. She also provides explanations you can understand. Bottom line, she cares about her clients (works with lots of older folks), and is a great financial advisor. Her number is 704 8854 and email is [at] laura n

Constance Young of Ameriprise Financial is a FANTASTIC financial planner - she REALLY knows her stuff and is great at explaining it to lay people. She's also interesting, funny, kind and a great listener. Ellen

Hello Roger, I've been working with Lan Shaw of Edward Jones for about six years now. The idea of money management has been always been foreign and off-putting for me. I had inherited some money and it was being managed by a company in another state by someone I never met. I had no idea what to do with the portfolio or what it even meant. Then I was introduced to Lan and when I transferred investments to her everything shifted. She is so helpful, always available, works in my best interest and advises me what to expect from various investment options. She checks in with me periodically to make sure my financial goals are being met. I highly recommend giving her a call. She's in Berkeley: 2161 Allston Way (510) 704-8854 thankful to have found the right person

I highly recommend Elmwood Wealth Management ( on 4th St. in Berkeley. They are extremely experienced, professional, down to earth, and just good people. You will see what I mean if you meet them. Bob Gillooly specifically has been helping us with our finances for years. He's very knowledgeable and just a really good, honest guy. He's given us great advice over the years. His e-mail is: bob [at] mandy

I highly recommend Jim Frazin whom my husband and I have been relying on for financial planning and social responsible investing. He is a fee based adviser and has no bias recommendations tied to other investment firms/banks. We've been with him for over 5 years since our first child was born. His office is in downtown SF right by Powell BART station. Jim Frazin, CFP\xc3\x82\xc2\xae, AIF\xc3\x82\xc2\xae Communitas Financial Planning 870 Market Street, Suite 754 San Francisco, CA 94102 v: 415.337.4566 x 101; 866.882.7817 x 101 quynh

Fee-based investment advisor

May 2013

We're looking for a fee-based investment advisor. I searched the archives and couldn't find someone fitting the description of what we need. We'd like to work with a fee-based investment advisor on a one-off basis. We'd like to sit down with this person and go over our retirement portfolio, which we've always managed ourselves on eTrade. We just pick funds, ETFs, and stocks rather randomly, and have rolled a bunch of employer IRAs into it over the years. The result has been some good returns, many sup-bar returns, and of course losses in the last two crashes. Now that the account has reached between $500k and $1M, we really need professional advice on specific funds or ETFs that will meet our retirement goals. This person would be an investment expert, not a financial planner who helps more with budgeting and planning, as we are past that stage. (We are done saving for college for our kids, for example.) We also don't want to work with someone who is compensated for recommending certain funds, nor someone who takes a percentage to manage the account. We just need to know where to put our hard- earned retirement savings! If there is someone who fits this description, we would be very happy to get a recommendation. Saver

It seems there are some decent recommendations provided. I caution using Fidelity's free advice. Please, please look very closely. Very rarely is any service free. If this is, in fact, free, they are likely going to advise you toward Fidelity IRA and Fidelity Funds. Be ware. They aren't evil, but it's their business model.

Consider consolidating all your IRAs and 401k plans into 1, preferably with your current employer if they have solid options. Often times, large companies have access to less expensive investment management....and they will often use separate accounts or collective trusts rather than more expensive mutual funds. This is a good thing. Good luck and happy retirement! friend

Hourly Financial Advisor for UC Employee

April 2013

I am a UC staff person who started putting into my 403b on the late side. I will be 60 in four years and would like to retire then. We will have put our 2nd kid through college by then. And I will have 20 service years in at that point. My business owner husband does not put into his SEP IRA nearly as often as he should. Money issues are sensitive; we need a well-rounded individual who can advise us on investment strategies, budgeting, and even changes my husband might need to make in his businesses (one solo; one a partnership). This person needs good familiarity with the tax codes. A pleasant and non-judgmental personality would be nice. My husband is very good at what he does but he is not strong on the business management side of his business. These are tough issues for us and are causing strain in our relationship. We are in N. Berkeley and it would be great if we do not have to travel far as just getting my husband there will be a challenge. Thank you!

As a UC Berkeley employee, you do have access to free financial advice for retirement through Fidelity. I'm years away from retiring, so I don't have personal experience with them, but I do know that they have special websites (e.g.,, classes (including webinars you could watch with your husband), and one-on-one consulting. I just logged into NetBenefits to see what they have there, and there is a link for how to schedule an appointment with a planning and guiding consultant ( I'm sure that they won't be able to do everything for you, but take advantage of these free resources first, before you pay anyone!

Great financial planner?

March 2013

My husband and I are expecting our first child in August and we are trying to get all our financial ducks in a row. Can anyone recommend a good, solid, helpful, LOCAL certified financial planner? We'd love to work with someone who understands the unique challenges Bay Area families face trying to balance quality of life and education with the high cost of living! East Bay is preferable. Thanks so much!

I'd recommend Alex Huynh from NY Life. Although he is not a CFP, he works closely with several of them. NY Life has a great business model, as Alex has access to some of the best minds in the business. He is nice, friendly, passionate and I get value from him in realms unrelated to finance as well. He is a tremendous person and is a superstar in the making! I've had a lot of bad experiences with financial planners and insurance agents in the past, so I feel blessed to have met Alex. Alex Huynh 415-393-6014 ahuynh [at] Randy

Financial Planner to assist w 401K's

March 2013

I have 3 different 401K's and would like to roll them all into one. I would greatly appreciate referrals to a financial planner who can assist with me understanding the nuances of rolling it them into an IRA vs. 401K and then selecting the right mix of investments based on my age and retirement plans. Thank you! CocoaContessa

This is a reply to the posting looking for a Financial Planner to assist with 401K's. I can VERY highly recommend Berit Suba. She is my financial planner and have helped me invest my 401K rollover with excellent results! Here is Berits contact info: Berit Suba, MBA, CFP Financial Advisor Chartered Retirement Planning CounselorSM Tel 415-395-2432 berit.suba [at] Good Luck! SF Mom

As a tax professional and attorney, I know whereof I speak. You state that you have 3 separate 401K plans, which implies that you are no longer with at least two of the companies. You can roll these accounts over into a traditional IRA, with just a form or letter to the custodian of the plan, at no charge or fee. When you have the two or possibly three accounts consolidated is the time to study investments and decide upon funds. There are 3 investment companies which specialize in small investors - Fidelity, American, and Vanguard. Good luck Lynn

I highly recommend Eugene Demmler in Alameda. He understands financial planning and has been investing for his clients for over 20 years. He can help you consolidate and develop a plan that is suitable for the level of risk you want to take and help you understand your priorities. His company name is E. Demmler and Associates and he is based in the Marina Parkway in Alameda. His phone number is 510- 865-1026. Sharon

Lan Shaw of Edward Jones in downtown Berkeley will be able to help you consolidate your 401K plans and look at your overall retirement goals as well. She is a great listener which is important in a financial planner- as you want someone who will listen to your goals and interests rather than focus on their own. You can reach her by phone at 510-704-8854 or via email at: [at] lisa

Hi, I've worked with Daniel Jew who is a certified financial planner with Edward Jones. He's helped one of my clients who has a fear of finances and couldn't even look at his investments, much less make decisions. Daniel patiently led him step by step through the process helping him make the best and right decisions on a complicated situation that sounds much like yours. Daniel is in Oakland near the lake. His number is 663 0196 and email is daniel.jew [at] SM

Lan Shaw is a very dedicated, conscientious financial planner. She works with Edward Jones in Berkeley. She specializes in helping families and individuals with their financial planning including creating or tweaking a financial plan making sure each person's goals are accounted for. She is very educated and a good listener. She educates her clients about the different financial options and tailors the plan to her clients' needs. Give her a call at (510) 704-8854. Her email is [at] Savy Investor

I highly recommend Guy Ben Ari with Edward Jones. His office is in Alameda, and my husband and I are extremely happy with his service. He has helped us with our own retirement, and we also work with him for our other investing needs. He is knowledgeable, easy-going, and not pushy at all. You can call his office at 510-522-2009. Good luck! Sarah

Well-Rounded Financial Advisor w/nothing to gain

March 2013

We need someone to give good investment advice and help weigh things like investing in rental property versus the stock market. Need someone who is a great listener and will take our personal situation and preferences into account. Most importantly, I don't want someone who's going to try to sell us anything--no life insurance, and if we do invest, we'll probably use existing accounts, so this won't involve ongoing commissions. Just someone who will charge an hourly rate for great listening and great advice. Thanks!!

I have seen a few requests looking for a financial planner recommendation. I use Elmwood Wealth Management, and am extremely happy. As a former CFO of a public corporation, I have been a member of the 401K committee and worked with several large wealth management companies. As a result I am very particular when I choose my financial planner and have high expectations I have been extremely pleased with Elmwood they are a full service organization, they developed a long term financial plan, are very open and honest about their approach, and work with a network of individuals to provide me guidance in improving all financial aspects of my life such as establishing, a trust, a will and more.

One of may significant concerns is that wealth management companies objectives may not always be aligned with my personal objective which is to earn the greatest return while paying the lowest fee possible. Many financial planners will place your funds in a mutual fund who charges fees on top of the financial planners fees. Elmwood's approach is to minimize the fees while maximizing yield. They research each investment and evaluate historical performance, fees and projected volatility. I can not say enough positive things about Elmwood Wealth Management. Their phone number is (510) 858-2722. Roxanne

Certified Financial Advisor/Planner

Feb 2013

Hello, I am looking for a recommendation for a certified financial planner. My husband and I need someone to help us plan for the future. We have two young children and have not done our due diligence to make sure we have enough money saved away for a rainy day, life insurance and for their college funds. Our totals assets are less than $500k so it would be great if the person is comfortable with handling a smaller client and not looking at a family with millions of dollars in assets. Thanks! CLD

John Madden of DeYoe Wealth Management is your guy. John will take time to go over your needs, goals and all possibilities. I highly recommend him. Office # is 848-0012, e-mail is jmadden [at] good luck. June

To CLD, Here is a wizard of a Financial Advisor. Her name is Cathy Mu. She's brilliant, patient and kind. She has no minimum requirement, and your estate sounds like a healthy one! She is located at 2121 N. California Blvd, Walnut Creek, 94596. Her # is (925) 979-2378. Good luck! Maria

I whole-heartedly recommend, Mark Zaifman. He can do exactly what you are talking about. He is smart, experienced and a warm, caring man to top it off! Mark Zaifman Pat

Hi, I am responding to the posting looking for a recommendation for a certified financial planner. I use Berit Suba, with Wells Fargo. She is SUPERB. Knowledgeable, passionate about what she does and she gives excellent service to her clients, and so so nice to work with.I feal like I am in the best of hands and trust her 100% with my investments. Her contact info is: Berit Suba, MBA, CFP\xc3\x82\xc2\xae Financial Advisor Chartered Retirement Planning CounselorSM Wells Fargo Advisors Tel 415-395-2432 berit.suba [at] Best of Luck! Petra

You should contact Jarrett Topel who is a certified financial planner in Berkeley. He put a great plan together in a way that made sense for us, showing how all of the different issues worked together. I don't think he has a minimum as we were in a similar position to you. His number is 510-898-1270. Elaine

I recommend Asti Financial Management. I got Julie Asti's name from the archives of BPN and had a free consultation. She then gave me an estimate of how much it would cost and while it was not cheap, it was well done and very helpful. Julie checks in by email every 6 months and I like that because sometimes I need her input. She's not a warm and fuzzy type but she is very qualified and I think that in the end, that's most important. Diane W

Financial Planning for Retirement

Nov 2012

We're looking for a good financial planner to help us with retirement planning and investing advice. anon

Please have a conversation with Mark Zaifman (877.801.5133). He is an amazing financial planner and just all round wonderful guy. Working with him was a huge blessing. He understood us, put a realistic plan in place, and helped us let go of tons of anxiety about our financial future. Check out his website: Good luck! Pat C

I can highly recommend our financial adviser, Eugene Demmler (Phone: 510-865-1026). My partner and I have been with him for 15+ years and he's done well by us, even through these tumultuous financial times. Eugene is also an independent adviser and just a nice, steady, smart guy. Tisa

Try Jarrett Topel in Berkeley. We found him on BPN and love the work he has done for us. 510-898-1270. Betsy

Constance Young is fantastic! I just referred my mom and two of my dearest friends to her. Conny is incredibly smart AND charismatic. I would trust her with all of my financials current and future. She knows all the laws and gearing people up for retirement is her specialty. Her tel - 925-476-4711 Tara

Hi! I highly recommend our Financial Advisor, Constance Young with Ameriprise Financial. She is the perfect combination of being whip-smart, no-nonsense, and tremendously warm and non-judgmental. Her contact info is: constance.x.young [at], 925-937-0500. Jessica

I have a recommendation to make for the person looking to prepare for retirement. I don't know of any classes, but I have a wonderful financial planner to recommend to you. Her name is Constance Young and she's helped me to get me on the track to retirement and stick with my plan. She really knows her stuff and takes the time to explain everything and unlike other financial planners, keeps in contact with me. I highly recommend her. Give her a call: Constance Young Ameriprise Financial (925) 937-0500 anonymous

You should check out Elmwood Wealth Management. They are an amazing team--they are all super personable, knowledgable, and very down to earth. They recently broke off from a big money mgmt firm in SF to start a smaller, more personalized firm here in Berkeley. And what's really cool is they will organize all your assets/financial plans/trusts/taxes on an iPad that they give you!! Their website is: Tell them Julie H recommended you!

Which financial planner?

Nov 2012

I've checked the archives and come up with a few names for financial planners which seem to be recommended frequently. I'm wondering if someone can comment on which might be a better match for our situation: LGBT family with 2 kids, no debt but no real savings either. We chose to work in very low income social justice-oriented jobs until we had kids so didn't build up the savings we might have. (And then had need to comment more there.) Our combined income is abot $140/year and we have a lot of medical expenses not covered by insurance. We do own our own home (TIC). Neither of us is money- saavy, and I feel a lot of guilt and shame about not having done this before. We need to think about college, retirement, etc, and be more on top of things. We want someone who is knowledgeable about GLBT issues, but also nonjudgemental, socially aware, willing to be patient with us, not too expensive. The people I'm thinking about are Julie Asti, Justin Martello, Rachel Robasciotti. (Or if anyone else seems particularly applicable to our situation that is fine, too.) anon

Try to find a licensed financial planner who charges by the hour and does not sell any products or invest the money for you. Vanguard is a not for profit investment company and they are the ones who started mutual funds and they also started low fee or no fee funds. That way more of your investment goes to you instead of the company. Once you figure out how to invest the money you can call Vanguard and have them help you re/balance the funds according to your age and Investmnent strategy. You could return to the financial planner every few years too. Vanguards' advice is that no one can beat the average return of the stock market over time, so the safest investment is in their total stock market fund. This will beat having your money in a savings account. Also, the older you get the less money you want to have in stocks and the more money you want in bonds and your emergency account. I learned this from Eric Tyson's class he taught at UCB extension and his book, 'Financial Planning for Dummies'. Be cautious about buying insurance such as life, disability and long term care insurance. Get educated about your options and about the cost to you over time. Judy

Check out Eugene Demmler, who is local and a member of a business group I belong to. eugene [at] Michael Mc

Financial advisor for planning for the future

Oct 2012

Interested in working with someone with low to moderate priced fees and a history of sound advice. I am a homeowner with some debt and a new business and want guidance in how to manage resources and plan for future. Thank you. Amy

I've been happy with Matthew Wakefield at Northwestern Mutual. He listened to He listened to my goals and concerns, asked me questions about my finances that I haven't thought of before and created a thorough personalized planning analysis of my situation. His services are also free. I would recommend him and his company without hesitation. Matt Wakefield's office number is 415-733-6595 and email is matthew.wakefield [at] Feel free to contact him directly. Leia

I saw your request for a recommendation for a reasonably priced trustworthy financial advisor. I'd like to offer recommendation for my financial advisor Constance Young. She is wonderful to work with and has really helped me to look at the big picture and stay on course. I also know a number of people who work with her and are very satisfied with her skill, professionalism and the financial results they are achieving as a result of working with her. Her number is (925) 476-4711 Email: constance.x.young [at] anonymous

Socially Responsible Financial Advisor

Sept 2012

I am in need of a financial advisor-- someone who can not only make recommendations about our financial situation, but also someone who could potentially be a broker (like Fidelity or Schwab or??) We have a house (mortgage) and we have cash sitting in a savings account earning less than 1% interest. We are pretty risk averse, but want to at least keep pace with inflation. Looking for someone who can walk us through the investment options and help manage transactions. Also, it would be nice to find someone who is authentically knowledgeable and enthusiastic about socially and environmentally responsible options. Thanks b.

Hi, I would love to recommend my Financial Advisor, Mark Zaifman. He has a deep and strong financial background AND is the sweetest, values-oriented guy. We started working with him about a year ago, and despite my initial hesitation to spend money to get help, I am now a 100% believer. Our retirement plan is clear, do- able, and I feel a huge emotional (fear) burden lifted. And Mark is always there to listen and to advise. You can read more about Mark at And good for you for taking this step to address your financial situation - you and your family will definitely benefit on many levels. Good luck! Pat

Financial/Debt/Savings Planner (free or low cost)

July 2012

Hi There, I'd love to sit down with someone who can look at all my bills and debts (student loan/IRS mostly not really credit card debt) and help me come up with a plan. We would like to still be saving for retirement and college (one child who is 1.5 year old) while we're paying off these enormous debts we owe. Currently saving a portion of salary for retirement, but no idea if that's enough, etc. I'm horrible at knowing how to tackle this stuff and would love to know I'm on the right path each month. I'm very good at following instructions, so I want someone who can plan it out for me and boil things down to a simple plan of action. Would love a recommendation of someone skilled at financial planning for the low-end working class family (not really interested in lots of investment advice). I'm not sure it's possible to consolidate debt to the IRS/CA tax board/student loans, but someone with experience/ideas on that would be extra helpful. Also, if you're familiar with non-profit organizations that might help with this kind of thing, that would be great too. Thanks in advance! need financial plan/help

I don't have a debt counselor or financial planner to recommend, but I would recommend you go see someone in the Legal Aid office or similar non-profit organization (if you qualify) or a tax professional (if you can afford it) that is familiar with the Offer in Compromises (''OIC'') program of both IRS and FTB. You might have tried this already, but if you have large tax debts that presents a hardship, you might be able to get them reduced through the OIC program. You could read about this yourself on the IRS website. Though I would recommend you try to get some pro-bono legal help, as otherwise it would be too expensive and likely not worth it. Ora

Someone to help with monthly budget

June 2012

Is there such a thing as a money ''counselor'' for married couples? My husband and I need someone to help us work out a monthly budget that we can agree on and then help us figure out a way to stick to it. There are some complicated issues involved between us related to how we spend what we have. Traditional marriage counseling is not on the table, however - it needs to be someone whose primary focus is on the realities of our financial situation. Ideally it would be someone who has worked with families where serious illness and an unpredictable future contributes to the financial landscape. hole in my pocket

Yes, there are people who work with couples around financial decisions and the emotions and dynamics that often surround these. Check out ''financial coach'' online. The Coaches Training Institute ( has a directory that lists coaches by specialty. Pat

Hi - I'm a CFP in Berkeley and I refer clients to Kathryn Amenta all the time. She's located in SF. She is a unique combination of 'financial therapist' and financial planner. She's very talented. her specialty is helping people overcome their money issues - overspending, debt issues, fear of money, couple's spending differences, etc. She gets to the root of the issue - with a focus on finances - then helps you build a plan to move forward. Good luck! Julie Asti

Julie Asti of Asti Financial Management is great: She can help you work out a monthly budget. As for helping you stick to the'd have to ask her. I don't know. But definitely give her a call and see what she can do for you: 510-558-8557 Andi

Financial Planner for inheritance

March 2012

We have a ''good problem.'' We are about to receive a decent sized inheritance and while excited/relieved to have this bonus, are nervous about mismanaging it and we are unsure how it affects our day to day finances (are we spending too much or how much can we relax given this cash infusion?) and goals (college, retirement, house, philanthropy?? etc.). I've read the archives re: financial advisers and planners and wondering if anyone has a strong recommendation for those mentioned or anyone new, who could help us figure out what to do with this new money and actually manage it for us AND examine our overall picture and help us figure out how much and where we need to be saving (or not given this small windfall) and what our monthly budget should be. Thanks for your help! Excited but scared of screwing it up!

We have been really happy with Jarrett and Gavin at Topel & DiStasi Wealth Management (, who we found on BPN. We started out doing financial planning with them, and were so impressed that we moved our investments over to be managed by them. They are very goals oriented, don't push a bunch products on you, and tend to be fairly conservative in their investment strategies.

I recently met with a financial planner named Berit Suba. She works with Wells Fargo but practices independently (meaning she gets no benefit from having you invest or open accounts with Wells). I had such a positive experience especially given that I felt very out of my element as my husband and myself have had much of the same concerns that you described. Berit will take the time to talk with you about your full financial picture including goals and expenses and then present you with a comprehensive plan that includes budgeting as well as investing possibilities. The plan was complimentary and we felt zero pressure to invest although all of our options were explained thoroughly including how to invest wisely. She has been in the field for a long time and definitely knows what she is doing on the investment side of things (just ask about her qualifying experience). Berit was so fantastic and now we are secure with the plan she set us up with. I can't recommend her enough. You can contact her at berit.suba [at]

I have a great financial advisor that you should check out: Mark Zaifman. Check out his website Mark is experienced, smart, gentle and light. I am a numbers geek and my partner a numbers-phobe - we both love him!!! He helped us set up a retirement plan and make decisions about saving, spending, insurance, taxes, etc. I believe he'll give you a free 20-minute consultation ( 707.237.5212) or mark [at]

I think a very strong recommendation for a financial advisor would be Jonathan DeYoe at DeYoe Wealth Management (510) 848-0012 (he's located in Berkeley). I've been with him for over 5 years now and I am still impressed with his honesty, his work ethic and how easy he is to talk to. He loves what he does and aspires to help others achieve their life long goals. Larry L

I recommend Jonathan DeYoe and John Madden of DeYoe Wealth Management. Both of them have been very helpful in advising me over the years. You can reach them at DeYoe Wealth Management, Tel: 510-848-0012 or Ernie

Congrats on your ''good problem''! I would see a CFP I were you. And someone who isn't tied to specific products. Get someone to do a financial plan for you and then help you execute. We use Justin Martello at Effective Assets in Berkeley. He is knowledgeable, savvy, and wants to educate you about your situation, not just sell you a bunch of stuff and send you on your way. He knows how to look at the whole picture of cash flow, savings, risk-management... His number is 510-549-2525. Give him a buzz. anon

Call Julie Asti! She can assess your current (and future) situation and help you figure out how you should best use this happy windfall. She can also help you invest the money wisely. She's honest, explains things well, and is wicked smart. 510-558-8557 signed, A Happy Client

My wife and I worked with John Lee of SGC Financial (jlee [at] in the past and found him to be extremely helpful and straightforward. Having little experience in understanding the various financial instruments available to us, we appreciated his counsel and patience, and we were happy with the direction he proposed. His office is on the peninsula but he can meet with clients in the East Bay too. jsilvers

I'd definitely recommend John Lee for financial management/ financial advisor needs. He's an independent CFP and he's helped us tremendously in planning for things like buying a house, school for our daughters, retirement, and insurance. He manages our investments and we meet on a regular basis, but we don't just talk about the portfolio, we talk about all aspects of our lives that impact our finances. John's also been really helpful in working with our tax accountant on ways to help us save money on taxes. He has a real hands-on individual approach that is hard to find these days. And he has been amazingly patient in answering every little question we have. We have worked with other advisors in the past and none have remotely compared to the personable and comprehensive approach he has. You can reach him at: John D. Lee, 650-227-0366, jlee [at] (His office is on the Peninsula, but he lives in the East Bay.) Elizabeth

I would highly recommend Berit Suba. She is very knowledgeable and very easy to work with. Berit Suba, Address: 555 California Street, Suite 2300, San Francisco, CA 94104-1502 Phone: 415-395-2432 | 800-634-4965 Fax: 415-291-8657 Email: berit.suba [at]

financial advisor who can help us organize our money

March 2012

My husband and I are looking for a financial advisor who can help us organize our money. We don't want someone who has their own products to sell. Also, we don't have a lot of money so we don't want to work with someone who only has experience working with wealthy people. We want someone to help us be smart with the small amount of money we have so that we can save a little for college and retirement. Thanks

I like Justin Martello (510) 549-2525, located near N. Berk Peet's. He's independent and gets my values, i.e. no war or polluter investments. Also, he's a new dad, like me, which helps a lot. SP

I would recommend Dustin Ma. I've worked w/ him for years. I don't have a lot of $ either and I think he offers sounds advice and direction. Dustin S. Ma Financial Advisor Office: (510) 488-3634 Fax: (510) 280-9198 Email: dustinsma [at] California Insurance License: 0E93974

Know a good financial planner?

March 2012

I just need to meet with a financial planner for a few hours to discuss my future and if I should buy the empty condo next door. Does anyone know of a person who will come to your house and talk for a very reasonable rate? It could be a friend who is also a planner who is interested in making some extra money outside of office hours. If not, then someone who has an office but has reasonable rates. Karen

Berit Suba with Wells Fargo ( is a terrific financial advisor: she is incredibly knowledgeable, responsive and on the ball with her work and maintains a warm and friendly demeanor- I highly recommend her- she is the go-to financial avisor for my entire circle of friends and has done a terrific job for everyone that has worked with her. Ruth K

I strongly recommend Lan Shaw at Edward Jones. She is a very capable financial planner. She'll listen to your needs and evaluate your situation and then provide a thorough plan for you to help you plan and achieve your financial goals. Her office is in Downtown Berkeley. You can reach her at [at] and phone is: (510) 704-8854. Anon

Know a good financial planner?

Jan 2012

Hi BPN, Here is our situation - we are reasonably financially savvy. We are both professionals in quantitative professions, track our finances online ( rules!), have 401Ks, Roth IRAs, personal portfolios, own a home and modest savings. I like to think we have the nuts and bolts of basic financial planning in place. I am looking for a financial advisor specifically because: 1. We need help prioritizing. We have no credit card debt but we do owe family money which we want to pay back ASAP, have student loans and a HELOC. We also have a 6 year old with another expected soon, and we would like to put away something for college. 2. We need help identifying investment vehicles. We are currently using the Roth to save for college. Other options we need help weighing include investing in income generating property, opening traditional IRAs (one of us is self-employed), and different types of insurance options - both to use in case we need long term care, and also as a way of generating income in retirement. 3. We are also trying to weigh the trade off between paying for private school now and letting our kids find their way through college (we have a very mediocre middle school and a bad high school where we live - luckily elementary school is great!) versus paying for college versus scrape together money to buy another home in a better school district. 4. We need someone to look at the big picture and estimate what we will need for retirement - the cash flow + real estate + insurance needs and what we need to do now to get there. When we were younger, $1M sounded like a good number and that's what we were shooting for... ten years in, we are no longer sure and the reality that both of us have genes with longevity but not necessarily good health, and the fact that our parents' health is starting to deteriorate and it's a matter of years before we become care providers for them is staring us in the face. If it helps, both of us are very disciplined when it comes to finances, and can account for pretty much every dollar and cut back when we need to. Can you recommend a reasonably priced financial planner for us? We live in the South bay but will travel to the East bay to meet with the right person. We had one before who tried to sell us products that made no financial sense for our situation. (she was trying to get us to buy bonds as the bulk of our portfolio to put away money for retirement and recommending dividend paying stocks with poor EPS, and we were in our 20s!) Thank you! Need help but don't want to be taken for a ride again

Julie Asti, Julie Asti, Julie Asti. She's wicked smart, fast and will not take you for a ride. She loves clients who think, and you clearly do. I have tried several Financial Advisers in my life, and she is heads and shoulders above the rest. 510-558-8557 -a Berkeley mom

Fee based financial planner

Sep 2011

I am looking for a fee based financial planner (who does not sell products) to review my retirement portfolio and provide advice. Does anyone have more recent experience (the latest archive reviews are for Feb. 2010). Thank you. Hope to retire in 6 years

There's a team that work on fee basis that comes highly recomended. They will give you a retirement plan and investment analysis that is based on the best investment managers. They don't sell fee loaded product but have access to no load investments and charge a fee for services. I'd give them a call and start with an initial consultation.

I highly recommend Lan Shaw at Edward Jones, Berkeley. Her phone is 510-704-8854 and her email is [at] Shoey Sindel

Hi! I have been with Herrmann Financial Services (925-831- 0200) in Danville since I retired in 1994. I love the personalized attention I get and regular reviews they give me. I know they would be happy to review your retirement portfolio and provide advice. (They recently did that for my husband and he was very satisfied with their recommendations.)They are totally fee-based and have done extensive research into all of the available investment options. They are also willing to provide recommendations based on your risk concerns. I have been completely satisfied with the service I have received from them and would highly recommend them to anyone. Kathy

Spanish-speaking Financial Advisor

Sept 2011

Can anyone recommend a financial advisor or organization that works with the Spanish-speaking population? My friend is an attorney who would like a referral to help his clients (many of whom are Spanish-speaking) around financial decisions (e.g., what to do about underwater mortgage; should I file bankruptcy?) Pat

what a coincidence, just today I met this really nice guy named Jaime Quintero at a neighborhood BBQ and that is exactly what his business is set up to do. He used to work for AIG and then decided to go into business for himself. Check out his website at Berkeley neighbor

Excellent Financial Planner needed

July 2011

My husband and I are looking for excellent financial planning assistance. We have not been the most organized, and would like someone to help us look at all our info and guide us for the long term now that we have two kids. Berkeley or Oakland is preferable. saraht

I've heard only great things about Daniel Jew, who is a financial planner with Edward Jones. Several of my friends work with him and they are all exceptionally pleased. I know Daniel personally and find him to be very client-oriented and quite knowledgeable. He works with each individual or family to carefully discern their needs and goals and come up with a workable plan. He's in Oakland. daniel.jew [at] or 510 663 0196 I'm sure he'd be happy to have a no obligation consultation with you. In high regard of this man

Look no further than Julie Asti at Asti Financial! I have worked with her on a number of occasions and found her most excellent in gathering all the information she needs to make valuable and relevant recommendations. She works on a per-hour basis or a project basis, whichever it is you'll decide with her during your first meeting. She's located in Berkeley (check out her website for more details: Good luck! Rosie

Hi, a former neighbor of mine is a great financial planner, Aaron Sisk at Merrill Lynch. Here is his LinkedIn profile: Mobile number is 415-305-1423. C G

Socially Responsible/Green Investing

April 2011

Can anyone recommend a financial advisor who specializes in or is knowledgable about socially responsible/green investing? Thank you Claire

Hi There:) Justin Martello is my financial advisor. He specializes Socially Responsible Investing and his firm Effective Assets has been doing SRI for over 20 years. It isn't just a product he sells, it's his passion and he's really involved in that part of the industry. He is a CFP, which is the highest standard of certification for financial advisors. He's not a cheesy sales guy, he's big on education and will help you make the right decisions for you and your family! He works in North Berkeley and his number is 510-549-2525. anon

Financial Advisor/Planner?

April 2011

My boyfriend and I are struggling financially and want to make some changes. Together we make $135,000/year. Not bad at all! What is bad is that we have nothing to show for it. We rent. I am a single mom and he has 2 kids who are with us part-time. My boyfriend pays $800/month in child support and approx. $800 in alimony. We have credit card debt and I have student loans. Does it make sense to meet with a financial planner to help us look at what is coming in vs. going out and to help us prioritize and manage our bills?

I feel tremendous shame and embarrassment around all of this. I know that we sould be doing a better/more responsible job managing our finances but I don't know how. The thought of forever being in this cycle of paycheck-to-paycheck living... We just don't want it. We are ready to make some changes and to take control. Anon.

I also was a MESS at trying to figure out how to control my finances and needed help figuring out what to do. Then a friend told me about Dave Ramsey and I read his book The Total Money Makeover and listened to his radio show for fre online and learned very simple, logical steps (he calls them baby steps) on how to take control of my finances, get out of debt, and save money, invest, etc. It literally changed my life with regards to my approach to money management. Basically what he recommends is doing these one by one: 1. Pay all your minimum payments on your credit cards and save $1000 in an emergency fund. Stop using your credit cards and pay cash for everything. The $1000 is your ''backup'' if you have an emergency so you don't have to use a credit card and go back into debt. 2. Pay your debts off smallest to largest. So if you owe $100 on one credit card and $4000 on the other, pay off the $100 debt first and then use that money towards the $4000 debt. When you are done with that go to the next largest and so on until you are debt free. 3. Save up 3-6 months expenses in an emergency fund and start investing 15% of your income for retirement. 4. Save up to pay cash for a house (haha for the bay are--I say 25% is good out here). 5. Pay off your house.

Following these steps I went from living paycheck to paycheck and being a HORRIBLE money manager to paying off more than $48,000 in debt in 3 years (making only $40-70k/year). In 3 more years we had enough for 6 months expenses and a 25% home down payment for a house. We are now debt free except for the house and it feels GREAT! It takes hard work and sacrifice, but it is completely possible, especially when you are sick and tired of the cycle and ready to commit to making the change. Good luck! Debt free and loving it!

Hi - I felt the same way you do: making seemingly good money, renting and having nothing to show for it. I didn't know where to turn but found Julie Asti of Asti Financial ( . What i liked about her is she meets with people on an hourly no strings attached basis. She doesn't sell anything and just charges an hourly fee for advice. She's a bit of a whirlwind (fast talker) and gets A LOT accomplished in an hour or two.

I met with her one time initially and have gone periodically when I have a specific question or just want to get back on track. She created a budget for me, suggested areas where I could cut back, gave recommendations on specific things I could do to improve where I was and finally move forward. Its all a work in progress, but I'm finally out of debt and working towards building savings for a down payment as well as retirement. all good stuff. finally getting somewhere

on't get too down on yourselves, close to half of all Americans have next to no savings and don't have nearly as much income as you have coming in. Based on what you have mentioned there simply may not be that much to squirrel away after all your expenses, but it's important to know how much you are spending on food, entertainment, etc.. Are you aware of It's a free site that helps people keep track of their finances. I would also say that, depending on the interest being charged, getting rid of the credit card debt should be one of you first priorities. David

Financial adviser for family with neglected finances

April 2011

Looking for a financial adviser to work with a family whose financies have been completely neglected and know next to nothing about how to manage responsibly. We both come from families who overspent, mismanaged, and who continue to live in denial around money. So this is a systemic problem that runs deep, we really need someone to hold our hands a bit and gently teach us the ropes and give sound advise. anon

My husband and I would highly recommend Susan Bross (based in San Rafael - can work by phone). In only 2 meetings with her, our communication regarding money and our financial planning AS A TEAM have improved immensely. She works within the frame work of the emotions of money, your family history, etc. She can be a dose of reality, but as always, if you're seeking this kind of help it's what is needed. That dose does not come without tons of guidance as to what the steps need to be and how they can be achieved. She's extremely knowledgable, financially brilliant, and her experience covers addiction therapy. You'll sleep better the first night! Good luck! susan [at] Tiffany

Honest, Savvy Financial Planner

April 2011

I am looking for an honest, shrewd, experienced financial planner to help up set up college funds, organize our retirement accounts & help us make investing & contributing decisions. Also, some help with budgeting, etc. would be good. I would like someone who charges a flat fee rather than commission. I heard good things about working with Charles Schwab. Has anyone had good or bad experience with them? Thanks!! Miki

I like Wenjin He. She has the new Edward Jones office in El Cerrito at 10810 San Pablo. Call her at 510.528.4493. kyle

Financial Planner Sought

March 2011

I'm looking for a recommendation for a financial planner in the Berkeley area. I've read the recent posts, but wonder if readers can help me hone in on a few that are appropriate for my needs. I'd like some help with basic assessments -- am I in the right 529 plan? On track for retirement? Claiming the appropriate number of tax exemptions? Sell a home, rent a home, buy a home? How can I maximize my available cash to cover school, mortgage and living expenses? And importantly: I want to find a very nice, patient person who will not scold me for not having done simple things 20 years ago, but will treat this single parent respectfully and with a helpful ''Here's some things you could do now'' approach. Also, what should I expect to be paying for this kind of advice? Thanks very much in advance for your suggestions, good BPN followers! Grateful for the recommendations

I highly recommend Gavin DiStasi in Berkeley. His daughter is in the same preschool with mine and we went to see him to talk about 529 plans. He was so knowlegable and helpful, not only with helping us understand college savings, but how it worked in with all of our other financial issues as well. He didn't charge us for the first meeting and charges hourly to develop a financial plan or a percentage of assets I think if we decide to move our accounts over to him. His number is (510)898-1270. Good luck. Janine

I have only worked with one financial advisor, Jerry Ostrander in Piedmont, and he does have the qualities you are asking for: he's clear, patient, helps each client explore options, and so forth. I he can probably help with most of your scenarios, and there is no charge for a planning session with him. He is at 510.547.4589. Pat

I highly recommend the folks at DeYoe Wealth Management in North Berkeley. They are knowledgeable, creative and incredibly attentive. Being self-employed, I was concerned about my retirement plan. They've really helped me get a handle on what is the best plan of action for me, given my lifestyle and income. Also, it's a small office and everyone there knows the clients. Francesca

Looking for a green financial planner

Feb 2011

My husband and I are looking for a certified financial planner who is ''green''. We have a few houses, two kids, modest 401k, etc. We don't have much, but we want to be smart about how we spend our money, plus we want our money to be invested in environmentally sustainable organizations. We live in East Bay (walnut creek, pleasant hill, concord area). So we prefer the planner person to be on this side of the hill. But we can also travel to see him or her. Anon

Ahouva Steinhaus has been our financial planner for about 20 years, and we couldn't be more pleased. She is extremely knowledgeable about, and sympathetic to, 'green' and socially responsible investing. As I'm sure you know, it isn't easy. Companies that are great on the environment may be dreadful on child care or glass ceilings or political donations. Ahouva is very smart; taught in the MBA program at St. Mary's, a certified financial planner, and sort of the ultimate Jewish grandmother, in terms of giving advice, noodging just a bit when we are slow in making necessary decisions, and being an all around good person. She lives in San Diego, but visits her daughter in Berkeley every month or so, and is available for meetings then, as well as by phone as needed. She is also a registered stockbroker. Her helpful website is for clients only. So you reach her at (800) 760-2840 or ahouvas [at], and tell her that John and Marina suggested it. John

The folks at DeYoe Wealth Management in North Berkeley are all fantastic. They are very attentive to the specific needs of their clients and are creative and intelligent in how they approach each portfolio. I was also interested in socially and environmentally responsible investing when I began to work with them and they provided me with lots of helpful info. The first consultation is free, too. Give them a call: 510.848.0012 Francesca

We use Justin Martello from Effective Assets. Effective Assets specializes in Socially Responsible investing. We started using him before our daughter was born to get 529 accounts, retirement investments, life insurance, etc in place. We've been really happy. From their website: Specializing in Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) for over 23 years, Effective Assets provides goal-oriented, fee- based financial planning to individuals, families and business owners. Our services include SRI portfolio management, values-based retirement and estate planning, and helping non-profits align their investments with their mission. At Effective Assets we assist our clients in using their investments to create a more prosperous and sustainable future for themselves, their families and the world. justin [at] ~Montclair Mama

My husband and I HIGHLY recommend Justin Martello, CFPA of Effective Assets (1510 Walnut Street, Suite E in Berkeley phone 510.549.2525) as a financial advisor. Justin has been guiding us with our investments and life insurance needs for about two years now, and we have become good friends. He is very personable, and is an expert (not to mention very passionate) in socially responsible investing and explaining things so that the layperson can understand. Furthermore, Justin makes time for non- rushed meetings at his office, but also takes care of many things via phone, email and postal mail, saving a trip into his office. I recommend you read his mission statement at team/ and give him a call! Krista M.

I don't know anyone working in SRI (Socially Responsible Investing) in the Lamorinda area.. I work with Justin Martello in Berkeley. A lot of planners will sell you SRI products, but SRI is all that Justin does, so he understands it on a deeper level than just selling a product to you. If you're looking for someone who is passionate about practicing what he preaches, Justin is your guy. He's a CFP, not a sales guy:) He's really big on education too. You won't feel lost in the process as he really wants his clients to understand everything that is happening. I didn't want to feel confused by the process and I wasn't. He works in Walnut Square in the Gourmet Ghetto. His number is 510-549-2525. Definitely give him a call! anon

Financial Advisor with American Funds

Feb 2011

We are looking for a recommendation for a financial advisor who is affiliated with American Funds. Someone based in Oakland/Berkeley is preferred, but we will go as far as SF, Walnut Creek, or Pleasanton/Dublin. (We already have investments with American Funds so really only want to meet with someone who is on their list.) Thanks. anon

About 80% of my portfolio is in American Funds. I am very happy with them. Here is the contact info. for my financial planner. We have worked together for at least 7 or 8 years. John Trull 707-894-2050. He is up near Petaluma but we usually just meet someplace between there and Berkeley for lunch or coffee. kathryn

Financial planner/investment adviser

Jan 2011

I would like to see if anyone has a recommendation for an advisor who works for a base fee or percentage of commissions but more specifically someone who saw you through the tumultuous times the market has gone through. Maybe you still lost money on their advise but maybe you felt that it would have been much worse without them or that you didn't lose as much as others seemed to have lost. Of course, the upside during good times is also what I am after.... Thank you! still worried about the future of the market

I've been with DeYoe Wealth Management (510) 848-0012, for over 4 years now and I couldn't be happier with the choice I made. Jonathan DeYoe and John Madden are committed to their clients and couldn't be more serious about your money. Whenever you have questions, they will be there to help you with answers. They are experienced, well informed, communicative and are very honest. LL

I cannot recommend Jarrett Topel highly enough for seeing us through (hopefully we're through anyways) the most recent recession. We were really worried and more than once almost panicked and pulled out of the market. Jarrett's consistent contact really kept us steady, letting us know what was going on and providing much needed perspective. Obviously he couldn't do anything about the market going down, but he was very dilligent with e-mail and phone calls which were very reassuring and realy kept us from derailing our plans by freaking out. Thanks to that we are basically back on track with our financial plan. Peggy

I highly recommend Richard Magarian. Great communicator, knows his stuff, and skillful at helpful the rest of us navigate financial issues. I started working with him when I was managing to make bad investment decisions even during a good market, and he really helped me get on track and gain clarity about my goals. His input was super-helpful at that time, and even more so during the current volatile market. I would also add that we met when our kids were at the same pre-school, and now my daughter is off to college; he has been a great source of support throughout that transition, which has been especially valuable since I am a single parent and don't have a spouse/partner to help sort me out the financial details. Highly recommended! Richard Magarian Registered Investment Advisor 2231 Carleton Street Berkeley, CA 94704 510-549-0507 (voice & fax) Website: Email: magarian [at] Barbara O.

2009 - 2010 Recommendations

Counselor/coach/financial guru to create financially fit lifestyle

Dec 2010

I'm looking for a counselor/coach/financial guru who will assist me in creating a financially fit lifestyle. I'm ADD and buying a book to use on my own isn't going to cut it. I know that I have lost hundreds of dollars in bank fees and late fees because of missed deadlines and mismanagement. For various reasons, my financial circumstances have been severely reduced- and I can't ignore this hole in my development any longer. I am looking for someone who is well versed in line with an ''old world'' style of financial planning- real world budgeting, organizing, and record keeping in order to stop the pennies from slipping down the drain, along with support for zero tolerance unnecessary spending. Ideally, contact would be substantial in the beginning with phone calls & home visits (to establish systems and to hold me accountable), and homework- eventually opening up to me being able to maintain the new habits on my own. I have a dollar amount in mind that would be feasible- based on the amount I've wasted on fees in the last year. Short of an actual person I also appreciate any additional resources that you can recommend on this topic. Thanks. Financial Fatty

For your financial diet coach, I recommend Ellen Stern. Ellen is a psychotherapist with a specialty in money issues. Here's a page from her website: or you can call: 510-207-2041 or email: ellen [at] I took a class from Ellen in which we focused on uncovering desires, goals and a path. As she reminds me, we're rarely confused but rather, we just don't even contemplate that what we want is possible. jessica

I suggest you contact Lee at nodebtfinancialfree [at] She was fabulous in assisting me get my finances in order. She is eminently sensible. She taught me ways to deal with money, but just as importantly, she has given me a lot of insight into my emotional baggage around finances, almost like a therapist. She also meets the different needs of clients. Eg. I needed someone strict, and she was, but a friend of mine just wanted sensible advice, rather than a 'supervisor', and she played a different role with him. I believe she gives a low cost initial consultation, and her fees are very reasonable. Yvonne

Financial Planner Recommendations

Oct 2010

We are looking for a good financial planner. We are not financially ignorant, however we are so busy that we need someone who can help us determine whether we are doing what we can to save for retirement, help us stay on track, etc. We would prefer paying rather than working with someone who is 100% incentivized to sell us products. Does anyone have any recommendations? Thanks

We use Amy Blodgett of San Francisco Associates, and have been very happy with her services. She is very accomodating to personal needs, does not give the hard sell, is very educated about socially responsible investments. No. is 415 364-0211. Kristin

We use Kirsten Weiss with SGC as our financial planner. She is based in San Mateo. I feel that she is looking out for our financial interests and is not trying to push us to buy any financial products. You can see her approach to financial planning at her professional website at: bst

I use Justin Martello at Effective Assets in North Berkeley. His number is 510-549-2525. When I was looking for something similar, I looked for a CFP, which Justin is. He works on an hourly basis or a fee basis, depending on what you need. It isn't a cookie cutter type of experience over there. He is in a independent firm where they aren't tied to certain products/commissions. He was really friendly, very knowledgeable and super easy to work with. I never felt pressured to buy anything. Give him a call! anon

Anyone can call themselves a financial planner, so beware! I used a fee-only planner who got great reviews on BPN, but made the grave mistake of not checking her credentials. There was no foul play, but after following her advice for a while, I realized her conflicts of interest and began to question her expertise. We were not a good match. So I got another planner and had to redo my investments. Ask for a copy of the ''ADV Part II'' (it describes their qualifications, fiduciary duties, past violations etc.), and make sure the planner will work for your best interests. -too trusting

Personal Finance Counselor or Advisor

Sept 2010

We are looking for recommendations for a personal finance counselor or advisor. I looked at the archives and most appear to be about investing/wealth management. We need someone to help us develop a plan around getting out of debt, saving, managing our spending, and eventually making plans around retirement and college savings. We are most interested in an assessment of our personal finances and help developing a plan to get in a place of financial health. We are not interested in purchasing products. Recommendations appreciated. In need of financial guidance

A great person for you to work with would be Julie Asti of Asti Financial Management. She will sit down with you first to find out what your situation is and how she could help you. That first meeting is free of charge. Based on that, you would decide how to proceed further. Julie is a wonderful person, a great communicator, and she's got a lot of experience. I am sure that she'll be able to help you. Rosie

I can definitely recommend Julie Asti to you. Julie is the principal of Asti Financial Management, and what she'll do is sit down with you, get a sense of your entire financial picture and your goals, and help you map out a financial plan that will get you to where you want to go. She works either on a hourly basis or a fee- based ''project.'' She's not someone who will sell you financial products. You can see her website here: Email Julie at info [at] or phone 510.558.8557. Her office is in Albany. David

I highly recommend Thompson Advisory Services. My wife and I have been working on our finances with Mr. Thompson for a little more than a year now and we have found him to be extremely helpful. He has helped us evaluate our budget, investments, insurance policies, taxes, wills, and long-term financial goals. He is extremely knowledgeable and is able to explain things in layman's terms so that we understand the implications of our financial decisions. I encourage you to call Mr. Thompson (415-954-7186) and visit his web site ( ) Bill

Investment advisor for a large windfall

Sept 2010

We are a low-key, financially not savvy family with a six digit windfall, needing investment advice (very specific, relatively conservative investment advice (much beyond ''pay off your home''). Charles Schwab? Vanguard? A trustworthy, no frills person would be ideal. Thanks in advance. very fortunate but intimidated

You might try Autumn Kruse, CFP, (510) 323-3973. She isn't a broker, so doesn't sell investments but works on an hourly basis helping people figure out what works best for them with their financial assets. She does have recommendations for investments, but isn't connected with any particular sellers. roundpeg

This applies equally to the post about a personal finance counselor or advisor.

If you do not want or need ongoing investment management, hiring a fee-only planner is a good option. Many of these planners can be hired on an hourly basis to help you with specific issues, such as setting up a budget and savings plan, or setting up an investment portfolio. One certification to look for is Certified Financial Planner (CFP). These professionals have expertise in investments, retirement planning, estate planning, tax planning and insurance, so they have the background to address your needs comprehensively.

NAPFA is the the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors and is a good resource for locating fee only planners in your area. I can recommend the Financial Connections Group ( in Berkeley. Carrie

We have been working with Jarret Topel of Topel & DiStasi Wealth Management. Before settling on Jarret, we interviewed a few other wealth managers/financial advisers - one in SF, one in Walnut Creek (lots of glass and steel, but accompanying high fees: typically 1.5-2% of assets under management). Jarret has a more low key approach, and offers a variety of services, some of which are very affordable and all of which are very personalized. We preferred to do our own investing, and simply wanted advice with long-range financial planning. Unlike other advisers we interviewed, Jarret provides this kind of service. After an initial series of visits, we meet with him biannually to make adjustments to our investments. He also does full-fledged wealth management (with attendant fees), if that is what you are looking for. We can recommend him without hesitations.

His contacts are Topel & DiStasi Wealth Management; 2907 Claremont Ave, Suite 111, Berkeley, CA 94705. Phone: 510.898.1270 been there

I would like to recommend Julie Asti at Asti Financial Management ( She is independent, won't try to sell you any products. She has many years of experience, is highly ethical, and a great person to help you decide what your best options are. Julie charges an hourly rate or on a project basis. She will do a complimentary consultation with you first to find out how she can help you. Rosie

I would recommend John Madden @ DeYoe Wealth Management. Very down to earth and knows his stuff. Located in North Berkeley. Here's his contact info: John Madden Wealth Advisor LPL Registered Representative DeYoe Wealth Management 1400 Shattuck Avenue Suite One Berkeley, CA 94709 510-848-0012 PHONE 510-848-0009 FAX jmadden [at] Jean S

Your description sounds like Margaret Ratto-Young. She grew up in Alameda, has most of her clients in the Bay Area and comes here regularly. (Her husband got job at UC Davis so she lives there with her husband and their 2 boys now.)

She is so down to earth, bright and practical, easy to communicate with and understand, straight-shooter and trustworthy. She reminds me of a no-fuss kinda girl, one I always wanted to have on my team. She is a Registered Representative/Investment Advisor Representative. California Insurance Lic. # 0G73320 Call her and explore if you are a good match for each other. Cell: 510-599-2117 Toll free: 866-968-4333 e-mail: margie.ratto-young [at] Louise

Hello, First read ''Personal Finance for Dummies'' by Eric Tyson to get you started on how to manage money and save for retirement. There are other Dummies books on investing and understanding the stock market. Maximize money you can put into retirement funds through work first (with tax savings) and pay off all credit cards before you invest money in other places. Take your time figuring out what to do and keep your money in several savings accounts that are insured up to $250,000 before you make any decisions.

Look at the website for Vanguard and read their advice. You can learn a lot from their website about investing. It is investor owned and the fees are lower that any other investment company.

With a withfall you can probably get a free consult with a Vanguard investment advisor. The man who started Vanguard in the 1950's has basic advise-- you cannot beat the market and most mutual funds that try to beat the market do more poorly in the long run than someone who buys an index fund that represents the whole market. They started index funds-- you can get them for the whole stock market, large companies, medium companies, and small companies, etc.

I have money in the total stock market index fund, big, middle and small company index funds and foreign index funds (Brazil, India and China are growing a lot right now). Stocks can go up and down a lot in the short run, so do not put money in stocks if you need it soon. People usually have an emergency fund that is enough money to support your family for about 6 months if you lose your job. This money is put into savings that is risk free. Then people invest money in bonds and stocks depending on how soon you need the money and how much risk you want to take. Vanguard has surveys you can fill out to determine your risk taking behavior.

Good luck. Plan for your retirement wisely with the windfall money. Judy

A fee-for-service financial planner, who is not vested in having you invest in their products, would be my advice. We used Lydia Palmin to do a review of our personal finances, retirement savings, and an unexpected inheritance.etc. She got her training/experience working at firms that cater to very wealthy clients, and decided she wanted to provide the same level of service to middle-income folks. She is warm, professional, and does a thorough job. Her website is: You can reach her by phones at: 510.698.6309 Happy Client of Lydia

I was in a similar position to yours a few years ago. Most of the money was invested with Charles Schwab. I know very little about stocks/bonds and left the money alone. Due to the dollar amount I had an assigned representative who would call regularly sell and buy what they suggested. I was tempted but decided to wait. (Glad I did.) Time passed and their investments would have been good for them, terrible for me. I quickly realized the way Schwab works is they put you (and everyone else) into one of five investment boxes. Then they ''sell'' you on investing with them which is where they make their money. They will use terms to confuse you which is exactly what intend to do, then give you an simple explanation (which isn\xe2\x80\x99t\xe2\x80\x99 exactly accurate to get you to invest. \xe2\x80\x93 DON\xe2\x80\x99T!) To a certain degree I felt the stock market is a complete scam that can be manipulated, (which it can). If Schwab gets everyone to buy (or sell) that sector goes up or down. I did far better NOT listening to them.

Here\xe2\x80\x99s what I did. Listen to Bob Brinker on KGO 810am on Sunday afternoons. He has a reading list and a newsletter, Market Timer (which I would subscribe to). He we give you sample portfolios and recommends investing in no-load or un-commissioned funds. Listen to his show and you will hear of all the scams or as he calls them shark attacks. He\xe2\x80\x99s conservative and doesn\xe2\x80\x99t take risks. Exactly what I wanted/needed.

Not having any confidence in the market or with \xe2\x80\x9cmarket expert\xe2\x80\x9d I followed Brinker\xe2\x80\x99s advice and have done well. I also took some of the money and purchased a couple of small apartment buildings. My logic being property will always be worth something whereas stocks are just a piece of paper and can be worth nothing. For me real estate is easier to understand.

You are shark bait. Be careful, don\xe2\x80\x99t get bit. Anon

I work with Justin Martello at Effective Assests in Walnut Square. His number is 510-549-2525. It's a small boutique firm that is way more personal than going with one of the big houses like Schwab or Fidelity. I like that I can reach him easily by phone:) He's really friendly and really easy to talk to.

He is a CFP which is the highest certification for what he does. He explains things in laymans terms. I've never felt like I needed a glossary to talk to him and I'm not very savvy either. He works with lots of different kinds of people so you don't get a cookie cutter answer from him. He is also not your typical sales guy (I have no patience for hard-sell types). He explains your options and helps you make the best decision for you. I know that when my parents pass on, I will feel totally comfortable going to him with that question.

I feel totally confident that he has my whole financial picture in his mind. Give him a shout. At the very least, he'll let you know your options, educate you a bit, and you'll feel empowered to make the right decision for you and your family.

Good Luck! A happy client!

I highly recommend Alicia Ivancovich who works for Ameriprise Financial. She is smart, practical, trustworthy and great to work with. She understands the needs of families, and specializes in people who have received large sums of money. Her email is

Congrats on your windfall. kate

Personal Finance Counselor or Advisor

Sept 2010

We are looking for recommendations for a personal finance counselor or advisor. I looked at the archives and most appear to be about investing/wealth management. We need someone to help us develop a plan around getting out of debt, saving, managing our spending, and eventually making plans around retirement and college savings. We are most interested in an assessment of our personal finances and help developing a plan to get in a place of financial health. We are not interested in purchasing products. Recommendations appreciated. In need of financial guidance

A great person for you to work with would be Julie Asti of Asti Financial Management. She will sit down with you first to find out what your situation is and how she could help you. That first meeting is free of charge. Based on that, you would decide how to proceed further. Julie is a wonderful person, a great communicator, and she's got a lot of experience. I am sure that she'll be able to help you. Rosie

I can definitely recommend Julie Asti to you. Julie is the principal of Asti Financial Management, and what she'll do is sit down with you, get a sense of your entire financial picture and your goals, and help you map out a financial plan that will get you to where you want to go. She works either on a hourly basis or a fee- based ''project.'' She's not someone who will sell you financial products. You can see her website here: Email Julie at info [at] or phone 510.558.8557. Her office is in Albany. David

I highly recommend Thompson Advisory Services. My wife and I have been working on our finances with Mr. Thompson for a little more than a year now and we have found him to be extremely helpful. He has helped us evaluate our budget, investments, insurance policies, taxes, wills, and long-term financial goals. He is extremely knowledgeable and is able to explain things in layman's terms so that we understand the implications of our financial decisions. I encourage you to call Mr. Thompson (415-954-7186) and visit his web site ( ) Bill

Hi, Pat Chambers is a personal life coach/ advisor. She is is the PERFECT person to help you do basic financial planning. Pat starts by listening very carefully, to then making a clear and doable financial step-by-step plan. She is no- nonesence, real and very pragmatic and practical. I found my meetings with her to be VERY effective, eye-opening, and I came out from each meeting (mostly phone meetings) with a very clear plan of action that took me exactly where I needed to go. She is also VERY affordable... Pat can be reached at: 510.638.1063 pchambs [at] My life is more in order now

Looking for Financial Advisor

Sept 2010

My husband and I are looking for a good financial planner. We are not financially ignorant, however we are so busy that we need someone who can help us determine whether we are doing what we can to save for retirement, help us stay on track, etc. We would prefer paying rather than working with someone who is 100% incentivized to sell us products. Does anyone have any recommendations? anonymous

For help with financial planning, I would recommend the Financial Advisor Janet Wan at Sierra Pacific Financial Advisors. I liked Janet because she didn't try to sell me any products and she listened to what we wanted. My husband and I were looking for someone to help us especially since we were about to have a baby. We met with Janet and her team - they were able to give us a very detailed plan re: budget / college savings / life insurance. Janet's team is open, friendly and professional. I can ask them any questions I have regarding my finances and they are extremely responsive. They have offices in Oakland, Fremont and Cupertino. Judy S

I can highly recommend Sara Ellefsen of Golden Gate Personal Financial Planning in San Francisco. She is a fee-only planner, meaning that she receives payment for her services from you and only you, so her incentives are perfectly aligned with yours! She likes to educate her clients and help them understand their situation, determine their goals, and then do what is necessary to achieve them while exposing themselves to the smallest risk possible to do so. And, she is just a lovely person and easy to work with. I am an estate planning lawyer and Sara and I have had several mutual clients. I am always impressed with her work and never hesitate to refer to her my clients as well as my friends. You can reach her at (415) 344-0549 or sellefsen [at] Best of luck to you! Kimberley

I recommend talking with Davis and Louise Riemer at DHR Investment Counsel (Rockridge above Diesel Books). They provide overall financial advice and invest and manage investments (index funds) for you. They are paid as a percent of your total investments with them, so it benefits them for you to do well. I do not have time or interest in managing my investments and appreciate them going beyond the investments in providing overall financial advice tailored specifically for our family. They can be reached at 510/596-2580. Karen

I've invested with Fidelity after many frustrating experiences with a large brokerage house. Their fees are a reasonable and there online system is easy to use; their statements are well organized and easy to read. My advisor is Jeff Semp at the Larkspur location (which has parking) who is knowledgeable, takes time to answer all my questions, is easy to talk to and is genuinely interested in helping me and my family understand financial options; he has also helped develop a long-term financial plan for us. Anon

I know of a fantastic financial advisor: David Hale of DNH Capital, LLC. David is an excellent advisor who went independent after tiring of working for the big corporations (Morgan Stanley and UBS) which don't do due diligence to investors' individual financial needs. Because David is independent, he has no obligation to sell proprietary products or services, so he can be openly selective in offering only those investment ideas that he believes are best suited to help each client achieve their financial goals and objectives. Here is a more detailed list of the services he offers: *Overall Wealth Management *Insurance Analysis (Life, Disability, Long-Term Care) *Retirement Income Planning *Education Funding/Planning *Portfolio Construction and Management *Legacy/Estate Planning David Hale DNH Capital Ph: 415-512-8100 david [at] Casey

Socially Responsible Financial Advisor

Sept 2010

I am in need of a financial advisor-- someone who can not only make recommendations about our financial situation, but also someone who could potentially be a broker (like Fidelity or Schwab or??) We have a house (mortgage) and we have cash sitting in a savings account earning less than 1% interest. We are pretty risk averse, but want to at least keep pace with inflation. Looking for someone who can walk us through the investment options and help manage transactions. Also, it would be nice to find someone who is authentically knowledgeable and enthusiastic about socially and environmentally responsible options. Thanks

Hi, I would love to recommend my Financial Advisor, Mark Zaifman. He has a deep and strong financial background AND is the sweetest, values-oriented guy. We started working with him about a year ago, and despite my initial hesitation to spend money to get help, I am now a 100% believer. Our retirement plan is clear, do- able, and I feel a huge emotional (fear) burden lifted. And Mark is always there to listen and to advise. You can read more about Mark at And good for you for taking this step to address your financial situation - you and your family will definitely benefit on many levels. Good luck! Pat

Hi Betony, Look at the archives for Justin Martello of Effective Assets, he's got it covered when it comes to socially and environmentally responsible investments and financial planning. Check the BPN archives and Scott

Financial advice for single working mom

Aug 2010

Single working mom looking for financial professional to give short term and long term financial planning advice - re debts, retirement, benefits, home ownership.

I'd like to recommend Julie Asti ( She works on an hourly or on a project basis, depending on what you need. She'll do a free consultation as well, to get to know each other and see how she could best help you. She's a wonderful, conscientious, detail-oriented, personable professional with a vast knowledge in financial planning. I highly recommend her. Rosie

Expecting our first child, looking for a financial planner

Aug 2010

We're expecting our first child in January and are looking for a good, local, and ideally independent (i.e., not corporate) financial planner to meet with to help us plan for the future. Specifically we need guidance on saving for childcare, college, retirement, etc. We already have a good accountant, but would like to find someone who can assist with the planning aspect of our finances. Saving for the Future

Wow, are you ever smart to start this now! My friend and planner, Cathy Mu, CFP, CPA, is just the best. She has a small child herself, and is a tax whiz! Plus she's funny, and bright and easy to work with. She can be reached at (925) 979-2378, and has offices in both Walnut Creek and Berkeley. Her first session is no charge so you can all meet and see if it is a good match. Julie

I recommend Julie Asti of Asti Financial Planning. Phone: 510-558-8557 Email: info [at] Lisa

We love working with Jerry Ostrander of Edward Jones. He's located in Piedmont, (510) 547-4589. Edward Jones is rated by The Motely fool as the best brokerage firm. We recently moved all our accounts from MorganStanely to Jerry at Edward Jones and the contrast is so complete that we are thrilled. At MorganStanley we had no idea who was managing our account as it had changed hands 3 times since we started with them. At Edward Jones, there is only 2 people in each office - Jerry and his assistant (who's name I can't rem but she is so helpful). It's a very personal service and the fee is the same. Jerry offers a free consultation to see if you are comfortable working with him and to review your needs. There are offices all over, but we make the trek to Piedmont because Jerry was referred to us by a friend and now we trust him and are glad to. anon

I know of an excellent, independent financial advisor who specializes in retirement income planning, education/funding planning, and portfolio construction and management. Here is his contact information: David Hale (Principal) DNH Capital, LLC 415-512-8100

I've been working with Lan Shaw and find her extremely helpful and easy to work with. She explains things in a way I can understand and has excellent suggestions. She's in downtown Berkeley. 510 704 8854. symetrick

We have been working with Stephanie Lee of East Rock Financial, and while we're not done with the process, we've been thrilled so far. Stephanie met with us, took the time to understand our goals and personal styles and gave us good meaningful, clear advice on how to invest. We're still executing that advice, and meeting with her as we do. She's been very clear, and easy to deal with. She sees both the big picture and the consequences of the small details. I can't recommend her more highly. Here's her website.

I know someone who is a financial planner; she is meticulous and family friendly with two kids of her own: Lisa Mireles Shinhira Sagemark Consulting Cristobal & Associates 44 Montgomery Street, Ste 2950 San Francisco, CA 94104 415-263-1323 lisa.shinhira [at] lfg.commar maria

I highly recommend Gavin DiStasi in Berkeley for financial planning. He's just the kind of independent fee-based planner you're looking for. (510) 898-1270. Kate

I would like to recommend that you call Julie Asti of Asti Financial Management. She is an independent financial planner, and she works either on a fee-based (by the hour) or project-based plan... She is extremely helpful at getting the big picture of your financial situation and your goals and setting up a plan for you to get there. Julie has been great working with me and my dauther. Her phone is 558.8557, or you can email julie [at] Her website is Best wishes! David

Catherine Pinkas is an excellent financial planner who can help you navigate all the investment options. She helped me setup college funds for my kids. She quite experienced and even teaches investment classes at Chabot College. Her number is 877-296-2819. She based in Oakland on Piedmont Ave. RMI

Financial Planner experienced with LGBT Families

March 2010

We are looking for a financial planner who has knowledge of the specifics of financial issues among LGBT families. We are two moms with two small children, own our home, and would like to build a more concrete financial plan for our family. We have a very basic budgeting system, some retirement, college funds set up for the children, but would like some more guidance about how to juggle priorities within our finances, and some help really developing and enacting a clear financial plan. We have a tax preparer, but also want a planner who knows the ins and outs of the many LGBT legal complications (inequities) and how they affect family finances. Someone reasonably priced is, of course, a bonus! Thanks. time to plan

Cathy Mu is very experienced with the LGBT community and is also fabulous as a CPA and CFP. Plus, she's fun to work with and has a great assistant, also great to work with. Cathy has finally calmed my nerves about the financial climate, by the way. She can be reached at (925) 979-2378, and she has offices in Albany and Walnut Creek. Her initial assessment is complimentary, so I recommend meeting her to see if it is a fit. You will not be unhappy with her work. Julie

I couldn't recommend Rachel Robasciotti more highly. She's been a life saver for me and my partner. She's very warm, extremely knowledgeable (prevented us from making some bad decisions during the housing bubble), spends time getting to know you and your priorities and makes recommendations in line with them, is willing to challenge you when needed, spends time educating you and giving you tools to be able to manage as much as you like on your own. She provides fee discounts if you give money to charities (any amount counts) and scales her fees to the type of services you need. And she's very active in the LBGT community, informed about current issues impacting our families' finances, and connected to other providers (lawyers, accountants, etc) who can provide additional resources if needed. She's located in the Flood Building on Market in San Francisco. Her website is: Temescal Mama

Need to review our retirement planning and college fund

Feb 2010

My financial situation has changed dramatically over the last year - my investments took a loss and my husband was laid off. Therefore, we want to review our retirement planning and child's college fund. We also have a 401K and need advice on rolling it into an IRA. Since I am in need of a Financial Advisor, I was wondering if anyone could recommend one. Thank you. Laura

I am very glad to be able to recommend someone his name is Dave Felte and his office is in Santa Rosa but has come to Oakland on a regular basis to work with my self and many of my friends and family. Dave is very professional, extremely knowledgeable and personable; and epically knowledgeable about tax treatment between investments, advantages and consequences, much different from almost every other finical adviser I have come across. I hope this helps and here is his information. David Felte 200 Montgomery Dr., Suite F Santa Rosa, CA 95404 Phone: (707) 566-6958 David [at] Thanks, Erik

For the folks who were looking for a Financial Advisor, I highly recommend Tammy Plotkin-Oren at TPO Financial and Insurance Services in Emeryville. She specializes in helping people adjust their financial plans as life changes. She is also really easy to work with, very thorough and makes the whole experience easy to understand. Her number is (510) 601-3362. Liz

You've been describing the kinds of issues that my financial advisor deals with. She works with all kinds of financial issues, is very competent, knows options and can explain everything from investments to tax implications. Lan Shaw with Edward Jones in Berkeley. 704 8854 or [at] sym

Fee-based financial advisor?

Feb 2010

My husband and I are looking for recommendations for experienced, fee-based financial advisors to help create a comprehensive financial plan - ideally someone who can make the baffling world of finances and money comprehensible to our non-profit and art/design brains. Preferably in the Alameda, Oakland, Berkeley area, though open to larger distance if highly recommended. thanks, mm

I can whole-heartedly recommend Justin Martello. He is a dedicated practitioner who really has the client in mind. He won't sell you stuff you don't need and really breaks things down for you so you understand what you're doing. He's not a slick sales guy, he really cares about helping people out. I never felt manipulated or confused working with him. Give him a call at 510-549-2525 and I'm sure a consultation is free! Good luck! Barbara

I would like to enthusiastically recommend Janet Wan, her company is Sierra Pacific. She will listen to what you want/need, is extremely knowledgeable, easy to work with, and gracious. Her company is Sierra Pacific Financial Advisors. Website is: Phone 510-438-6878. She has an office in Oakland. lark

We have used Bedell for our financial consulting and have been really pleased with their services for the last 10 years. Their website is and their Tel: 800-783-0344. They meet with us regularly to discuss strategies and for financial updates. They have also been in the business for 35 years. avril

I highly recommend Jarrett Topel in Rockridge. He's a fee- based planner in who has been a great reaource for us for many years now. I think he'll work on either an hourly consulting basis or flat-fee type of arrangement for a comprehensive plan. He's very knowledgeable and patient with those of us who are less 'financially savvy' so to speak. His number is 510-655-4500. Tracy

Oct 2009

Seeking a reasonable, down-to-earth, approachable and patient independent financial advisor, someone who enjoys coaching and educating young-ish clients. Anyone heard of Karen Eng, Independent Financial Advisor? Would you recommend her? Any stories? I'm thinking of using her services. Or if you have other recommendations, would love to hear them. Thanks! Ready to Manage my Money!

My partner and I benefitted greatly from the services of Karen Eng. She used to be with Ameriprise, but left them about 3 years ago. She now has her own office in old downtown Oakland. She charged us a flat fee for the year we met with her. In a number of meetings over many months, she helped us sort out our financial situation and make a plan to move forward. She was patient, kind, smart, wise, and really knows her field. I would recommend her to anyone. Sheri My husband and I need to get our finances in order and are clueless how to go about it. We need a plan for the future to see if we can afford a house if at all possible, save for our kid's college. Need someone who can look at the big picture and put us on a better path. I'm wary of going to someone who is just trying to sell me their products. We would prefer someone in the Walnut Creek/Lamorinda area if possible and most of the archived data is a little outdated. Financially Unsavy

For financial wisdom in Walnut Creek without someone trying to sell you anything, you might want to try Marie Delahaye at 788- 8408 and marie [at] TorieH

I hired Cathy Mu, CPA, CFP, several years ago and have been fabulously happy with her. In fact, last night I was singing her praises as I was reviewing some documentation from some of our investments. She's extremely competent,dedicated to her clients, and is actually fun to work with. She is in Walnut Creek, near BART. Her office number is (925) 979-2378, or she can be reached at Cmu [at] Her initial consultation is complimentary, by the way. Julie G

Sept 2009

I have recently returned to school along with two kids in college and one going next year. I am the sole provider. I am hoping to find a financial advisor (NOT AN INVESTMENT ADVISOR) that counsels people on an hourly rate basis. I would like someone who I can explain my financial situation, the decisions I have made and would like to make regarding my financial future and get honest, thoughtful and intelligent feedback. Again, I do not intend to change my current investment strategy and so someone who focuses on this is NOT the right person for me. I just want a smart, experienced person who will tell me if my thinking regarding my finances is sound or not and make recommendations as s/he sees fit. anon

Justin Martello is a great Financial Advisor, (not a stock broker:) who works hourly as well as on a fee basis. He is a CFP so he has the highest certification in his field and has a good head on his shoulders. His office is in Walnut Square and his number is 510-549-2525. He has helped me immensely with the big picture and making sure all of my investments are in line with my long term goals and values. Good Luck, Barbara

I think that Julie Asti is just the person you're looking for. She looked at my family's finances for us a couple years back and did a really wonderful job looking at our financial picture and running many what-ifs we were considering. I highly recommend her. By the way, she offers a free initial consultation which is very helpful in its own right, even if you don't decide to hire her for further work. her website: Phone: 510-558-8557 Email: info [at]

Hi There - I have just the person for you - Julie Asti ( My husband was recently laid off and was planning to go back to school. Unfortunatley we have NO investments, and instead have debt. We also didn't have a lot of money to spend getting much needed financial advice. Julie met with us for an hourly fee ($180 I think?) for a few hours to help us crunch some numbers, run some scenarios and most importantly just get us some answers. No sales, no discussion of investments. We left really understanding our situation and how some of our future decisions might play out. It was SO helpful. Hayley

Aug 2009

\\Hello, my husband and I are looking for an affordable financial planner (preferably located in/near Oakland) who can assist us in getting our finances in order. We need comprehensive financial advice. Although we earn above-average salaries, like many families living in the Bay Area, a huge part of our earnings go directly to our mortgage. We need advice in a broad range of areas (how to lower our tax liability, provide sound advice on our home mortgage situation, how to start saving for our kids' educations, etc.). I'm not sure if we'll be able to find a single person with all this expertise. Overall, we need an incredibly knowledgeable, trust-worthy person with a pleasant demeanor (definitely not pushy or aggressive). Thanks! anon

I highly reccomend you speak with Jarrett Topel in Rockridge. He's a certified financial planner and I'm sure he can address all the issues you raised in your post. He's easy going and has been very knowledgeable in a wide range of areas for us over the years. His number is (510)655-4400. Jen

I highly recommend that you contact Justin Martello, a certified financial planner in Berkeley. Totally trustworthy and one of the world's nicest guys, Justin is also very knowledgeable about socially-responsible investing. phone: 510.549.2525 Good luck! Terry

I have been working with Janet Wan, a Certified Financial Planner and the principal of Sierra Pacific Financial Advisors, for quite a few years now. I started as her hourly financial planning client and then transitioned into an investment management client. She is very knowledgeable, honest, thoughtful, and most importantly, she always listens to me and therefore understands my specific needs. One last thing to mention is that she doesn't sell any investment or insurance products, so there is no conflict of interest. She has offices in Newark and Oakland. You can learn more about her at lark

I have used Lydia Palmin for the past 3 years, and she's in Oakland. She's a fee-for-service planner, meaning you pay her for her time, not a % of your investment. She doesn't broker for specific products either. In my opinion, very knowledgeable, honest, easy to communicate with. She will meet with you at your house, at your convenience. See her website: lizC

Feb 2009

I'm looking for an accountant to help me navigate all the various options involving retirement, primarily the implications of lump sum vs. no lump sum. Prefer someone in the Berkeley area, or San Rafael. Potential Retiree

I highly recommend you sit down with Cathy Mu, CFP, who has offices in Albany and Walnut Creek. My husband and I have used her during our journey through retirement and find her extremely knowledgable and lovely to work with. She's also a tax expert and has advised us what to do and what NOT to do regarding our tax liabilities. She can be reached at (925)979-2378. Julie

I highly recommend DeYoe Wealth Management, 848-0012. They do holistic financial management with an eye toward retirement,among other things, helping you look at investments, insurances, wills, trusts, all the aspects of planning. They are guided by a philosophy of community service, integrity, and spirituality. L. Rebecca

A financial advisor would probably be a better choice than an accountant.

Considerations are going to be whether or not you are married, what your needs are, what benefits you might forfeit by taking a lump sum, what your alternatives are, your penchant for risk, what guarantees you want or need, how well the pension fund is being run, etc.

Greg Guardiano at DA Financial Group in Lafayette could help you (925-254-7100). - a happy client

Jan 2009

Has anyone used the financial services of Audrey Grubman on Milvia Street? We are looking for someone to evaluate our financial portfolio and she comes highly recommended. However, I would like to see if anyone else has experience with her and/or recommends her services. Thank you for any information you might have. anon

I highly recommend Audrey Grubman. We've worked with her for several years and have found her to be everything you'd hope for. She works to our goals and risk tolerance and never pushes things that are ''off strategy.'' She schedules periodic updates to make sure we're still on track and to make adjustments as needed. She and her entire staff are friendly and responsive. She's also proactive - since the recent market troubles began, she initiates calls to talk about our portfolio, helping put things in perspective and always being available for questions. Having talked to other financial planners who either pushed products or didn't inspire confidence, we couldn't be happier to have our finances in Audrey's hands. Very Happy Client

Jan 2009

I am needing to consult with a financial planner/adviser, and would prefer a fee-for-service type of financial person. I would very much appreciate some new referrals. I need lots of help and hand-holding! needs help

We used Julie Asti of Asti Financial Management in Berkeley and had a good experience. She works on an hourly basis and you pay for the time you use. We needed some advice regarding our investments after the market started crashing and she was able to really help us out, gave us good advice and rebalance our investments. She doesn't sell any products or require any ongoing commitment - just charges an hourly fee. Thats what we were looking for and it worked out well for us. Amy J

Last year we worked with Asti Financial in Berkeley. I didn't want to be pressured to buy any products and I didn't want to work with anyone who required that they manage my money. I just wanted an overview of our financial situation and advice on how we were doing and what we should do differently. Asti Fin. worked with us on a project basis. Once the project was finished, there was no ongoing commitment. We were really happy with the results and have called a few times since with minor questions at no charge. Julie is a nice person to work with. On the right track

My husband and I would highly recommend Tammy Plotkin-Oren. She does fee for service financial planning as well as help clients with insurance and financial products if appropriate. She is really easy to work with. She took the time to listen and understand our situation and worked with us to set up a plan that we were comfortable with. She goes above and beyond and is really good at explaining things. She didn't just tell us what to do but rather walked us through it so that we really understood the decisions we were making. I'm happy to tell you more. Feel free to contact me. Tammy's contact info is as follows: Tammy Plotkin-Oren, MBA, Financial Services Professional, (510) 601-3362, Good luck! Kana

Brandi Bernazzani of S Financial Services is solid! She's helped us in numerous ways. She and her husband Vincenzo (recently in the post inaguration, Wed the 21st, edition of SF Chronicle in the Home and Garden section) have tons of knowledge between the 2 of them. They've really helped my husband and I navigate this crazy time. I highly recommend them and they're very affordable. Catherine

I recommend Julie Annett-Asti, CFP. -Denise

2007 - 2008 Recommendations

Nov 2008

Hi- Please let me know if you have a Certified Financial Planner at Ameriprise whom you like and trust. We are seeking a referral for someone who understands the financial concerns of a new family with young children. Thank you. Anon

I would like to recommend Constance Young, an outstanding Financial Advisor with Ameriprise. She's wonderful and very knowledgeable. You'll be in good hands. Her contact info is 925-476-4711 (w) or 510-318-4475 (cell). rosie

Having worked with more than one Ameriprise advisor, Connie Young is my absolute first choice in the East Bay. I believe her number is 925-476-4711. (You may email me for more info.) Greg

I have had extensive experience with Ameriprise. I have horrid stories of really deceptive practices. At some point their advisor was screwing up so badly with all of us, her clients, and I started getting calls from their senior vp's offering to take me on for various excuses (redistribute load, etc, even though they worked with really rich clients). They were trying to prevent a lawsuit against them. I pulled my money out and had to suffer through all their calls with the guilt-trips and drama about breaking this ''long, cherished relationship, etc.

I have been managing my money myself at a discount brokerage for several years now. All I had to do was read a couple of books, and get on the boggle discussion board. So many people are doing it on their own, and they are all amazingly savvy, and happy.

I still get the odd ''settlement'' check from the numerous class action lawsuits filed against Ameriprise way back when I was still a client of theirs. These checks is peanuts of course. The fees they collected, and the hidden yields, and dividends that never made it to my investment account ... I am still counting them.

The whole industry is badly run. I worked with several firms, and there are very few protections for the client, despite what we are told about the role of the SEC, the supposed tons of regulation on these companies, etc. It is buyer beware. This industry has successfully lobbied for years to not let congress pass legislation to make your monthly/quarterly statements actually show how much they are getting from you that you could be getting. This is just one issue they lobbied on, and there is much, much more that needs to be reformed.

Seriously, anyone with a high-school education can do it. Anything under a couple of million is not that hard. With a little more in assets you may want to take it slowly. Start reading up on some of Eric Tyson's books, and look at a few index funds, etc, and pretty soon you will not need those folks.

Besides, they do not do all that much beyond meeting or exceeding their own projections for income from fees, etc from your accounts. And they have some really good ways to fudge your account yields to make you think you are doing well. There are longitudinal studies that prove that an index fund does either the same or better than any managed fund with a fancy name, and promises of above market yields, etc. And once you figure in what you pay for that managed fund in WRAP, front-end, or back-end fees, you are actually making a whole lot less.

We have an excellent financial adviser with Ameriprise. His name is Jarred Topel. His office is located on Colby in Oakland. I'm sorry i do not have his phone number handy, but i'm sure he is listed. Marsha

Oct 2008

We are looking for a recommended fee-based financial advisor who is available to meet at our house in Berkeley in the evenings after our little ones are in bed. Thanks for your help! Peace after 8 p.m.

Try Jarrett Topel. He's a fee-based advisor in Rockridge who came to my house on a Saturday, so he might be willing to come to your house after the kids go down. He has a young daughter so he understands the difficulties in trying to hold appointments during 'regular' hours. 510-655-4400. Good luck Tracy

I would like to recommend Constance Young, an outstanding Financial Advisor with Ameriprise. She does housecalls exactly for the reason you describe. She's wonderful and very knowledgeable. You'll be in good hands. Her contact info is 925-476-4711 (w) or 510-318-4475 (cell). rosie

Sept 2008

I am 35 and really just at the beginning of my teaching/writing career, and not making very much money at all. I have some savings that I want to be smart with, and not just use to supplement my income. I'm looking for a financial advisor who has some patience with beginners and won't be too harsh or critical about my non-standard, art-driven goals. Someone who, maybe, appreciates the importance of literature and art!? I know that's a funny thing to ask for, but that's what I want! Any ideas?

Jacques Bolivar is a highly-qualified and affordable Certified Financial Planner in Berkeley. He's very straight forward about presenting you with options. Jacques does a lot of financial education to community groups because he wants people to make good choices that fit their particular needs. He really helped my family, and he's a pleasure to work with! He can be reached at jacques [at] or 510-704-9500. SR

Sept 2008

Does anyone know of a good Certified Financial Planner? We want someone who DOES NOT sell any products. They must just provide a service. Thanks and any brief info about the recommendation would be helpful. Veronica

I know great financial planners: Timothy & Rose Yee Cathedral Financial Group 510-638-6331 timothy [at]

Timothy and Rose will provide just a plan for a fee. They are fee-based planners. Most fee-based planners also implement recommendations and usually earn a commission on that. But T are happy to structure just a plan for you.

Also, most financial planners do not have much familiarity with real estate. Full disclosure: I work in investment real estate and feel that real estate is an important ingredient in a diversified financial plan.

You might also want to interview some top-notch CPAs. I would add accountant, in addition to financial planner, to your financial team. I know a number of them if you want to email me. jessica

Vincenzo and Brandi are the dynamic duo of the financial services, business consulting and real estate/mortgage world. My husband met Vincenzo in the park and our daughters played together while they chatted. We've been friends and colleagues ever since. In 2006, we came to them with a small amount of money to invest and a business with growing pains. Brandi has advised us on every level how to manage our money, pay down and stay out of debt, grow a nest egg and a successful, healthy business. Since we started work with S& B in November 2006 our business revenue grew 300%! And that's not an exaggeration. I recommend the two of them highly. If you live in the East Bay, don't worry, Brandi comes to you.

Aug 2008

My husband and I are in need of a financial planner. We've put off for way too long sitting down and figuring out how much we should be putting away for retirement (the answer is more; the question is how) and what type of investing we should do (doing none now). On top of this, our daughter will be a high school senior with hopes of going away for college (read: private and expensive school), so we also need help putting ourselves in a good position for financial aid. We both work and are in that in-between category: probably make too much to qualify for a lot of financial aid, esp. if the cost of living in this area is not considered, but not so wealthy that $50K a year for college doesn't take our breaths away. Lots of praise in the archives for Frances Fee for assistance in college financial aid, but wondering if she can help with our overall financial picture. Would like some opinions on her for that purpose, and, as to any recommendations for a financial planner familiar with college financial aid. Thank you! Not Retiring Anytime Soon

Samantha Dinh with Edward Jones is wonderful. My husband and I have accounts with her and she's very knowledgeable with planning for the future, asks the right questions, etc. She's incredibly personable too, and works right in Montclair Village. Her number is 510.339.1840 Keren

Jonathan DeYoe, 848-0012, jonathan [at], is is great financial planner. He also has an advanced degree in Tibetan Buddhism. He is appreciated by both women and men for being respectful and not full of his own ego. He is community-minded and is a leader in the Berkeley business community. Reba

May 2008

We are a middle income family that needs help with our financial big picture. We are looking to consult with a financial planner or adviser that has experience with family finance. Need to get an experienced outsider's financial perspective on our overall situation and make suggestions for improvements. If you know of anyone in the East Bay, particularly Berkeley or Oakland, please let me know. Thanks! Jill

Try Jarrett Topel in Rockridge. He's a certified financial planner (which I read somewhere is fairly important) who we met at a college planning seminar he gave in Marin, and i've seen him recommended on bpn before. He's very knowledgable, and put together a great plan for our family. 510-655-4400. Good luck. Sheila M.

I have a financial planner that I can recommend enthusiastically. His name is Paul O'Leary, his email address is paul [at] mailto:paul [at] and his phone number is 510 655 4749. He lives in Oakland near Lake Merritt. Paul is really knowledgeable and he employs a sound strategy that kept our cost low while helping us with a high level diversification. He works with my husband and me on a plan specifically tailored toward our goals, timeline, and risk tolerance. In fact, recently my husband bumped in to him and they agreed to adjust something in our plan. He emailed that he had done it the next day. I've known him for over 10 years, and I can say that he has tremendous integrity and a strong work ethic. Also, he's a really nice, personable guy. He runs his business out of his house, has no overhead, and I feel confident saying that you'll never find such good advice for such a reasonable price. Hope that's helpful, Kristen

April 2008

hi, i am looking for a knowledgable financial advisor whose specialty is mortgages/home foreclosures. we bought a condo in arizona a few years ago as an investment but it has turned out to be a disaster. my husband and i are not working now and don't know how to get out of this big mess. we have rent to pay here in berkeley on our apt and now the mortgage in arizona. the situation is causing us a lot of anxiety especially as we do not know how to get out of this mess. does anyone have recommendations for an advisor who is not working for a major mortgage company? thanks! vera

So sorry about your financial stress. I do know two great people that I would call on about mortgages problems, financial health and plans. I have experience with them both and they are honest, ethical, committed to your financial well-being, and will give it to you straight:

Timothy & Rose Yee run their own independent financial advisory practice, Cathedral Financial. 510-638-6331 timothy [at]

Liz Litaea is a Loan Officer with Windsor Capital. 415-748-2626 liz.litaea [at]

Good Luck! Jessica B

Sept 2007

We need to work with a financial planner to get back on a track. Prefer one with experience in helping moderate income people getting a late start on retirement, solo business owners, and those sandwiched between aging parents and young children. Also prefer someone familiar with various insurance vehicles to help analyze what we already have. Prefer Alameda or East Bay location but will go anywhere for right person. And since I'm making a wish list, how about someone really friendly, supportive, easy to work with and with a great track record of success? :) Thanks for any help you can provide. Needs help!

Try Larry Ginsberg in Montclaire Village 510-339-3933. He is incredibly knowledgable.

We have had a great experience with our financial planner, Alicia Ivancovich. She lives in Berkeley though her offices are in downtown SF. She has helped us get our finances in order, make good decisions and plan for the future in a thoughtful way. And she is very open to questions and feedback from us. Contact her: alicia.a.ivancovich[at] Christina

May 2007

We are looking for a financial advisor that can help us manage our money better so that we can save to move into a bigger house. We are looking for someone that will give us straight advice, we rather not have to deal with someone trying to sell us other stuff. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated it. thanks! Wanna move up

If you want an honest, caring and smart financial advisor. I would recommend talking to John Sadeghi in Walnut Creek. He is very straight forward and smart. Mostly he cares and goes the extra mile for his customers. You should give him a call, and talk to him and see for your self if he is a good fit for you. His clients are very loyal to him because he has done a good job for them. Here's his contact info. John Sadeghi Vice President Alamo Capital 1-800-645-5560 jsadeghi[at] Golriz

For an excellent financial advisor who can help you move into that bigger house, call Jonathan DeYoe at DeYoe Wealth Management (510) 848-0012. Straight advice with no hard sell, and very easy to talk to. He's done extremely well with my investments. Lynch.larry

Great to start the process of saving toward a home purchase! It's a big first step to take. I highly recommend Ralph Nelson from Financial Harmony. His office is in Castro Valley. He is very nurturing and knowledgeable and really has a heart of gold. Ralph will help you set your goals and work with your situation. He stays in contact with his clients and is always available to answer questions/concerns about your finances. I truly trust his services! His contact info is 510 537-2300. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me via email. Amy

I highly recommend Brandi Bernazzanni of Scalisi and Bernazzani Financial Services. 415-664-5884. She is a very practical, down- to-earth person who has helped me and my husband tremendously with our money and our business. She has helped us prioritize our spending and saving and as a result we have comfortable savings cushions for our home and business. Before Brandi we couldn't save a penny. Not only is Brandi knowlegable about money management, investing she can also help with mortgage lending and real estate. Give her a call, she can really help you prosper... Catherine

April 2007

My husband and I have both been dealing with serious illnesses over the past five years. We've been living beyond our means and digging ourselves deeper into debt. We owe taxes, have damaged credit, and have credit card balances. We are both self-employed and not exactly raking in the dough, but we do have equity in our home and in some retirement accounts. We need help resolving our financial issues while holding onto as much of our investments as possible. Ideally, we'd like to find someone who has expertise in how to potentially settle with the IRS and credit card companies. In addition, we have a judgment against us as a result of a credit card debt, so some relevant legal experience/knowledge is needed. We feel on the mend physically and want our financial lives to follow suit. Any recommendations for an appropriate consultant? anon

I highly recommend our financial advisor, Anat Yoder with Ameriprise Financial. I, too, own a small business and she is awesome at dealing with our personal finances, as well. She has us dialed in now, on a budget, and we have had a lot of progress in a short time. Not to mention, I really trust her! Her number is 925-476-4705

March 2007

I am looking for a good financial planner or a good class about financial planning. Our tax preparer says we have bits and pieces and now need a more comprehensive strategy. I'm not so interested in managing money as putting it somewhere where it will earn something more than the current interest rate and not having to think about it much. I took a class through UC extension years ago when I didn't really know what deferred compensation was and, even though much of it was over my head, it helped - I learned the difference between stocks and bonds and a little about annuities but I am still very much a layperson and need things to be broken down for me. thanks in advance trying to be money savvy

I can highly recommend DeYoe Wealth Management in Berkeley. I know both Jonathan DeYoe and his associate Chris Briones. Not only do they really know the field of financial planning and investing, they are also committed to helping you invest your money in a way that honors your values. You can call Chris at 848-0012 or email him at cbriones[at] Good luck! David

We love Steve Minkoff, with Ameriprise in SF. He has given us great strategies for financing our home, investing in 529 plans and investing any extra money in a diverse group of funds Hope

I suggest you contact Richard Magarian, Investment Advisor, in Berkeley (549-0507; Richard explains things in layman's terms, and he'll provide whatever level of help that you want or need to get your finances in order. He's helped me create a plan that's easy for me to implement and maintain. I also appreciate the fact that Richard doesn't receive any commissions on the investment recommendations that he makes, and that he understands the concept of socially responsible investing! anon

March 2007

Rather than buying a package of financial advice, I'd like to prepare a financial statement that gives a picture of my life and my plans and review it with an advisor who I would pay on an hourly basis rather than going with the bigger package. I have a house I am turning into a rental, two rental properties, a small IRA, life, disability and health insurance paid for privately, and fluctuating income because I am an adjunct teacher and office worker. Does anyone have any recommendations for who would be a good match for this service? anon

There's a guy on Ashby at Shattuck in Berkeley who charges hourly for financial advice. I can't vouch if he is any good, but he's the only fee-only planner that I know of who has no ''minimum'' and works hourly (as opposed to a flat-rate, usually $4000 or $5000). I am also a financial advisor myself, you can email me if you'd like more detailed info. adinah

As an addition to the ''Guy on Ashby & Shattuck'' his name is Robert ''Bob'' Cohen and he is excellent. I have known Bob for over a decade now. He is meticulous, ethical and overall very good. He can be reached at cohenrj[at], 510-548-4919. Keley

Feb 2007

My partner and I are approaching the stage of mingling more of our money and becoming domestic partners. We both have houses and credit card debt, there's one child, and we are in different places with our retirement. We'd like a fee-based financial planner who: knows about queer financial needs and the pros/cons of domestic partnership, can help us decide what to do with our homes, and get us on track with our retirement. G

For the couple looking for a financial advisor -- my partner and I use Rachel Robasciotti and Associates (415.986.5500). She is located in downtown SF close to the Montgomery Bart stop. We were in the same position as you about a year and a half ago. Needed financial advising but afraid to just pick someone out of the blue, and really wanted someone who understands lesbian family issues (we have two young children). We found out about her through the Our Families Listserve. Rachel has been everything we wanted and more (she works primarily with lesbians). We have really gotten ourselves on track, have a clear budget, short and long-term goals, and peace of mind. I trust Rachel's judgement and advice very much. We've since had a number of other friends start working with her, and they also reported being very happy. Good luck! anon

Feb 2007

I am looking for a financial advisor for retirement advice and college financing advice. My husband will be retiring at the same time that our daughter will be starting college and I have not worked outside the home since she was born. Thanks, Bonnie

I would highly recommend Catherine Pinkas of Edward Jones as a financial advisor. She is extremely knowledgeable and has a lot of experience helping people plan for retirement as well as college! Catherine can be reached at (510) 763-1639.

I would like to recommend a financial advisor. He specializes in retirement accounts. We have 2 young kids and he has set up college funds for both of them. He has invested all my mom's retirement money. He keeps her informed and answers all our questions. I highly recommend him. His website is -- Matt Baltz. Lynda

You definitely ought to talk with Chris Briones of DeYoe Wealth Managementin Berkeley. My sense in working with him is that he is not only extremely competent in financial management, he and his firm are committed to helping you invest in a way that is consistent with your own values. You can call Chris at 848-0012 or email cbriones[at] David

Jan 2007

Can anyone recommend a good financial planner who isn't super expensive? agenni

I highly recommend Lindy Sinclair to anyone who is struggling to get their financial life in order. She's a financial planner who also has training in therapy, which is a truly marvelous combination . . . so many financial decisions and issues can be emotional (and contentious between couples), and she's really good at helping defuse that tension, while also getting to the bottom of what's going on with your finances.

I don't have stocks or investments, so I didn't seek that advice from her, but she advertises that she has that expertise on her website, and based on the help she gave me with getting a budget together, dealing with debt, refinancing my mortgage, and so forth, I would certainly take her advice on other matters financial as well. And she's just such a sensible, pleasant, level-headed person. Not a ''suit'' at all. Smart and kind are the two words I'd use to describe her. And with a real warm sense of humor. Located in Pinole, but makes house calls in the East Bay (and very accessible from Berkeley--only took me about 15 minutes to get to her home office from Berkeley).

I would like to recommend Brandi Bernazzani. She and her husband Vincenzo Scalisi own and run a small firm called Scalisi & Bernazanni Financial Services and they are fabulous. 415-664-5884. Both are very knowlegeable and have many years of experience in the industry. Their prices are extremely reasonable and that they're there whenever you need advice or have a question. They're both really down to earth and enjoy helping people make success out of small and large amounts of money.

Brandi has consulted us in a number of areas including investments, money management, business planning and managing our real estate assets. They have a wide range of knowledge and it's helpful because our money management run across these many different areas, including what kind of improvement to make to our house that will boost the resale value rather then just be a waste of money. My husband and I run a small business and we have very different approaches to money, etc. She has put an ease into our business relationship by giving us tools that make sense to both of us and that work.

Good luck and give these two a try... Catherine B

2005 - 2006 Recommendations

Nov 2006

Has anybody heard off and does anyone use an investment consultant who is a member of Progressive Asset Management (PAM)? Is any body familiar with The Camejo Group? We are interested in your thoughts and experiences. thank you, - Elyse

I recommend Jeff Colborn at Smith Barney. He also does screening of funds for those interested in socially responsible investing. He is easy going and very helpful and educated in all aspects of wealth management. He tailors his services to meet your needs. He has several clients in the Bay Area. jeffrey.alan.colborn[at]smithbarney (858) 756-6429

October 2006

I'm looking for someone who can take a look at our overall finances and help us figure out when wemll be ready to buy a house, and just how much house we can afford. We'd also like that person to help us figure out if we're investing our retirement funds appropriately. Thanks
Future Homeowner?

I'm looking for a recommendation for a good financial planner. The postings are quite outdated. Someone to tell you how much to save for retirement, college for children, etc. Work in the city so someone downtown would work well otherwise in East Bay (El Cerrito, Albany preferably). Thanks! need $ advice

We are looking for a financial planner who could help us with evaluating our financial situation and directing us towards financial security. We are not savvy in financial matters and figured it is important, particularly after having a child. We are a middle class Asian family, so a financial planner who has experience with Asian clients, preferably Indians, would be helpful Thanks

Hi \xc2\x96 We worked with Julie Asti and were really happy with the financial plan she created for us. We were East Coast transplants renting a home and wanted to buy a home after the birth of our daughter. My husband and I had existing 401ks from our jobs back East that we didn\xc2\x92t know what to do with. Also, my father had died and left me some money that was just sitting in savings. I knew I needed to invest it but the alternatives were overwhelming \xc2\x96 I was struck with \xc2\x91paralysis by analysis\xc2\x92. Julie was really easy to work with and we were both comfortable with her recommendations. She helped us figure out how much home we could afford, analyzed our down payment options and got all our investment accounts transferred and set us on a 'path' where we had no plan before. We even set up some college accounts for our daughter and did some estate planning. Her fees were reasonable and we liked the fact that she doesn\xc2\x92t earn any commissions so we felt comfortable with her recommendations. We really had a good experience with her and would recommend her. You can contact Julie at 510.558.8557. Good luck ~ Hanna

Hi all, I just thought i'd share a great financial consultant with everyone: Scalisi & Bernazzani Financial Services (415) 664-5884. They have lots of experience and are really really thorough and helpful. The financial world can be somewhat intimidating and Brandi & Vincenzo are really easy to understand and don't talk down to you. I've dealt with them on a number of issues and have always felt like I was getting the best advice possible, with all of my options and possible risks laid out for me. Anyway, I think it's good to have numbers around to contact folks that are reliable. They get my vote! :-) Laurian

Hello, I highly recommend my financial planner! His name is Jonathan DeYoe of DeYoe Wealth Management. He provides excellent service above and beyond other financial planners and his level of integrity, sincerity and passion for his work is unmatched by any other financial planner I've ever met or worked with. You can reach Jonathan DeYoe at 510-848-0012. Sincerely, Michele

Sept 2006

My husband and I need money management advice. We contribute the max to our 401K, but are not sure what to do otherwise: setting up our 529, how to reach our short term and long term goals, how much home can we really afford to move up to... After reading numerous books on the matter, we want help. We do not want to deal with someone whose motives might be divided (between helping us and ''selling'' product), so a fee based planner would be the best. Anyone have experience with a planner that they find honest, knowledgeable, experienced, educational? Thank you! Financially Fuddled

I would like to recommend Julie Asti of Asti Financial Management for your financial needs. My husband and I worked with her about six months ago to help us with the same types of issues you are facing \xc3\x82\xc2\x96 retirement planning, saving for college, long term goals \xc3\x82\xc2\x96 and how save for all of it at the same time! We consider ourselves pretty knowledgeable, but really don\xc3\x82\xc2\x92t have the time to manage our finances properly. She developed a financial plan for us that included not only advice on investments but also advice on budgeting, which types of college plans to choose, how to invest for retirement and even advice on how to maximize our employee benefits. Julie is friendly, intelligent, honest and, most importantly, not pushy! We did not want to be sold anything or feel like we were being sold anything. She isn\xc3\x82\xc2\x92t a broker so she doesn\xc3\x82\xc2\x92t make investment commissions. She is fee-based and a Certified Financial Planner as well. We had a great experience with her and will definitely work with her again in the future. You can find out more about her at Good Luck! Heidi

My wife and I used Julie Asti (of Asti Financial Management) to help us with similar issues. She is independent and doesn\xc3\x82\xc2\x92t earn investment commissions \xc3\x82\xc2\x96 she is fee-based. We found her fees reasonable. She helped us sort through our issues and put us on the right track. I\xc3\x82\xc2\x92d highly recommend her services Michael

We use a fee based financial planner for exactly the kinds of issues you are wanting help with. She is excellent - very detail oriented, really knows her stuff. She mostly works with women and gay/lesbian couples, but works with others as well. My partner and I have been working with her for a year now and have a much better handle on our finances, current and future financial planning, and goals. We've recommended her to a couple of our friends and they have also been happy. Her name is Rachel Robasciotti (Robasciotti and Associates) and number is 415-986-5500 financially organized finally!

We found Jarrett Topel from a recommendation on BPN and are very happy with his services. We had many of the same issues as you described, including wanting a fee based advisor. Jarrett is very knowledgeable, and explains things very clearly. We're a lot more comfortable about how our money is being managed now. His number is 510-655-4400. Good luck Tracy

I would recommend Carmen Cheung of Mass Mutual in San Francisco. She is smart, fun and knows a lot about financial planning for retirement and higher education for example. Reach her at: 415 743-1002

I recommend Rick Prime: primer[at] He is not interested in selling you something you don't need, but in working with you to ascertain your needs and a plan that works for you - fee based. I represent clients in estate planning and often recommend Rick as someone very easy to talk to, and intersted in you as an individual not a number. Maggie

August 2006

Hi, My husband and I are looking for a financial planner to help with general budgeting and debt management as well as some advice on investements. We're hoping to find someone with reasonable rates (otherwise we wouldn't need a financial planner!) but whose advice is also realistic and effective. Any recent recommendations and experiences would be greatly welcomed, the website doesn't seem to have anything current. Thanks!

There are two great financial planners I work with that I highly recommend:

Natalie Leininger CFP 3160 Castro Valley Blvd. PO Box 2275 Castro Valley, CA 94546 natalie[at] (510) 728-3578 and Lisa A. Schneider 90 New Montgomery, Ste. 1020 San Francisco, CA 94105 Schneider.8[at] (415) 781-1181

We have a phenomenal financial planner in SF. He is incredibly kind and understanding and has a background in counseling so he is more than just a guy to manage your financial woes (or triumphs if you are lucky!) He has helped my husband and me tremendously to focus on our expenses, long term goals, college, etc. We have a blended family so our financial life is chaotic and Ira helps us to sort it all out. Also his background in education has been icing on the cake as we negotiate schools for our kids etc. He's a real gold mine of great information. He is with an organization whose mission statement is to help people and not charge them gargantuan fees so you will find them reasonable and ethical. His info is
Ira H. Fateman, CFP., M.Ed. SAS Financial Advisors, LLC 582 Market Street Ste. 1604 SF, CA 94104 415 738-6452 fax 415 921-6528 ira[at]
Happy with our advisor

After much research and many interviews, I found a wonderful financial planner whom I can highly recommend. Her company, Sierra Pacific (see below), is an independent, fee-only, financial planning and asset management firm. She will consult with you on an hourly basis, and her fee is comparable to what I found others charging. She will not try to sell you anything, but will make recommendations based on an objective analysis of your situation and what your needs, goals, and expectations are. I found her to be extremely knowledgable, easy to work with, and gracious. She can also manage your assets for you. Her name is Janet Wan and her company is Sierra Pacific Financial Advisors. Website is: Phone 510-438-6878. Though they are located in Newark, if that is too far for you to go, she has an office in Oakland where she will be happy to meet you. lark

June 2006

Has anyone used Buckley Financial planning in San Ramon? can you comment on your satisfaction with them or recommend someone else (preferably in Oakland). I don't need someone to manage assets but someone to hear our goals (on verge of buying bigger home, have baby, retirement and college planning) and help us determine how to make it all happen with our income. Thanks Melanie

Call Jonathan DeYoe at (510)898-0432. He's not only smart, but he's as honest as Abe Lincoln. Easy to talk to, won't pressure you at all and will just tell it like it is. I have all my retirement with him, this guy is sharp! Larry

May 2006

We need a trusted, successful portfolio/money manager to help us manage our investments. I should mention that we don't have millions of dollars to invest, but we do have a good amount of money that we need to be more proactive in investing. We live in Lamorinda, but location isn't a big deal. Thanks in advance for your consideration. Anon.

I can highly recommend Jonathon DeYoe of DeYoe Wealth Management. He is a wonderful, honest, talented financial planner with great ideas . He is an outstanding human being, with great integrity. His number is 510-898-0432 and his email is jonathan.deyoe[at]

May 2006

We were dumped by our financial advisor when he left AmEx and would like to use the opportunity to find a new one who is independent and in the Oakland/Berkeley area. There was a consistent recommendation in the archives for a guy named Rick Prime but someone said he charges $1800 which is more than we can afford (we're more in the $500 - $700 range). We aren't wealthy, but have found that financial planning has really helped us make the most of what we have so we'd really like to find someone we trust and would like to develop a long term relationship. Personally, we actually really liked our AmEx guy but he went independent and probably has some no-compete agreement and can't solicit us. Too bad. Lynn

We\xc3\x82\xc2\x92ve been working with Bruce Meyers at RBC Dain Rauscher (formerly Sutro and Company) for the last seven years. We don't have millions to invest either but it has really helped to have someone like Bruce advise us to make the most of what we do invest. He handles all of our investments (various IRA\xc3\x82\xc2\x92s, custodial account for our daughter, checking/money market account, other investments, etc.). He also helped us set up our 529 plan and purchase life insurance policies at really good rates. He\xc3\x82\xc2\x92s a totally low pressure kind of person and I\xc3\x82\xc2\x92ve never felt pushed to do anything like purchase specific stocks and then be unpleasantly surprised with commissions or fees. I also call him constantly about any question that may have financial or investment implications so we\xc3\x82\xc2\x92ve gotten lots of advice over the years. He can also provide referrals for relevant people like estate lawyers, accountants, etc. Feel free to talk to him over the phone or meet him in person and decide if he\xc3\x82\xc2\x92s the right fit for you. His phone number is 510-267-8900 and just ask for Bruce Meyers. He\xc3\x82\xc2\x92s located at 1999 Harrison Street in downtown Oakland but he has clients all over the Bay Area. Good luck! bschi

Hi Wendy - Julie Asti created a financial plan for us awhile ago. Sounds like our situations are similar. My husband and I were wary of financial advisors because we didn't want to be sold anything - we just wanted some help getting our finances in order. Julie was recommended to us by some good friends who knew her personally. We found her to be straightforward and easy to work with. She charged us a flat fee to create a plan for us. She does manage money, but since our money is mainly in 401(k) funds and IRAs, she suggested having periodic meetings to rebalance our accounts instead.

From the description of what you're looking for, I'd recommend giving Julie a call. She let us have a free initial meeting to see if there was a fit, which I'd suggest you do. She's upfront about what she charges and never tried to sell us anything or push her advice. Good Luck ~ Formerly financially frustrated

We used Julie Asti to help us do some specific financial planning. We were thinking of having a baby (now pregnant!) and wanted to see what would happen to our financial situation if I quit my job to stay home fulltime.

Julie helped us organize our financial situation and ran various scenarios to see what the effect of my loss of income might be on taxes, budget, savings, etc. The information she provided helped us make informed decisions. Before we met with her, we were just doing 'back of the envelope' calculations that didn't cover the whole picture.

We are really pleased with the advice she gave us and will use her services again in the future. Heather

May 2006

Does anyone have a fee-based financial planner to recommend? We're looking for someone to do a financial plan for us, billed on an hourly or project basis. I've been through the archives and have contacted a few individuals, but so far everyone is either affiliated with a brokerage firm or requires at least $500,000 to invest--which we don't have. :) We're really just looking for someone who can, for a fee, evaluate what we've already invested to date in 401Ks, IRAs, and mutual funds, and then help us develop a strategy going forward. From looking online, we found Julie Asti and Jill D. Hollander in the Berkeley area--does anyone have experience with either of these individuals? Or perhaps someone else you would recommend? Any advice appreciated. Wendy

I think you will be very impressed with James Simos, Infinity Financial Servcices ( What you've described is my situation; James has been very helpful and supportive. Good luck!

Hello Wendy, My wife and I are working with Jarrett Topel in Oakland. We did a financial plan with Jarrett that helped us look at what it will take to pay for college for our two children and to be able to afford to retire at age 60. We really liked that the plan gave us recommendations on how to invest on our own, or with his help. Jarrett did not charge us for the first meeting and we talked for about an hour about what we were looking for and what he offers. Jarrett is located on the Oakland/Berkeley border and his number is 510-655-4400. Hope this helps! Mark

April 2006

We are looking for someone who can offer financial planning advice to my 75 year old mother. She is single and lost a large portion of her modest savings in the stock market crash a few years back. After a series of poorly planned real-estate investments, we fear she is poised to make another mistake. Ideally, I would like for the two of us to meet with someone together. jessica

I had a very good experience with Robert Anderson at Anderson and Drossel, on Bancroft Way in Berkeley. It is a small socially responsible firm that works on tax planning, estate planning, wills, trusts and probate work. I had a small job but Robert Anderson spent a lot of time with me working through exactly what I needed. The fees were also very reasonable. Contact details at website

April 2006

After several years of sporadic and ineffective discussions about how to budget and save money for big items (first house, retirement, daughter's college) we're ready to shell out money and meet with a professional to try and whip our finances into shape. We live within our (modest) means but have no master plan for when we'll be able to buy a house, or what our real plan is for retirement or college. We in our mid-30s and have a small amount of savings and investment, but I get spooked that most financial advisors are either about managing wealth (I wish!) or getting out of massive debt (thankfully not). Website recommendations from the past few years are focussed on different issues. Any recommendations for an advisor who can sit down for a reasonable fee for one or two meetings to go over income, current assets, and spending habits to help figure out a financial plan?
trying to be responsible

My husband and I have the greatest financial advisor. His name is Robert Horowitz, C.F.A. His office is located in Corte Madera (Marin). Telephone: (415) 927-7871.

He is well-educated in his field and has excellent work experience--Political Science (BA) and Columbia Business School graduate (MBA); worked for Charles Schwab. He charges around $150/hour for consultation but is willing to do a flat fee for an overall plan.

What we appreciate about him: he is very insightful, doesn't beat around the bush or string you along. He describes his approach as ''big picture'' and ''investment-oriented''. We also appreciated his sense of humor (not a bad thing to have when working with finances). He took a look at our financials and made some concrete suggestions for how to realize our goals. We have checked back with him a couple of times regarding our progress and plan.

You can reach him at (415)927-7871 or email him at robert[at] His website is Good luck!
On a better financial track

March 2006

I'm looking for advice about what kind of financial planner/advisor I need, as well as specific recommendations if you have them. I am new to this, so I'm uncertain about what the different categories of planners might be, where to find them, and how much I should expect them to cost. My husband and I will be finishing our educations soon and (hopefully) starting jobs in a new city. We need someone to help us with the basics, like how much house we can expect to afford on our anticipated salaries, saving for retirement, college (we have 2 kids under 3), etc. In addition, we were hoping to have my husband's mother move along with us to the new city - she currently lives in another state. We need advice about the different scenarios we are considering on her behalf, such as selling vs. keeping her home, moving in with us vs. buying her own place, taking care of our kids full-time vs. part-time vs. not at all, retiring early vs. continuing to work in the new city, and so on. I know this is a lot of advice we would need from 1 person, and I'm wondering who that person would be. In contrast to what (little) I know about some types of financial planners, we would not necessarily be needing to open specific investment accounts with the planner, and might not have an ongoing relationship with him/her in which s/he would be doing investing for us over many years (esp. if we move away from the Bay Area). However, it's possible we would make 2-3 visits if we could afford the fees. So, what type of person do I need? How much should I expect to pay? And whom do you recommend? Any tips would be greatly appreciated. Signed, Graduating Soon!

You need a financial planner that you pay by the hour (If they try to sell you Annuities, Load Mutual Funds, or anything other than Term Insurance as part of the plan or commissioned 529 plans RUN, DON'T WALK, in the opposite direction.) A great place to get referrals for financial planning is You can search for what you are looking for geographically. Be warry of free financial planning. By the way, GOOD FOR YOU for doing this now. Congratulations and best of luck.

Try Evelyn Duka! She's in Walnut Creek, is calm in the face of the storm of information swirling around finances and is very good and clear! She can be reached at (925) 979-2350, and her e- mail is eduka[at]

Jan 2006

What I am looking for here is any recent recommendations for a TRUSTWORTHY Financial Advisor who can basicly take over on the accounts that I currently have (if that's possible) that include IRA's, a 529, mutual funds and life insurance. Certainly, I am interested in someone who can also ''advise'' for the future. Thanks in advance.

I can highly recommend Peter and Emily Morfin in Kensington for both tax help and financial planning advice. They are ethical and straight forward. I have referred others to them who have been happy as well. Their number is: 525-0814 anon

This recommendation is for all the folks who need financial planning and/or tax help. We are more than pleased with our money guy, Bill Lentini of WEL Enterprise, Inc. He did all the work to turn my husband's business into a corporation, and he does all of our personal tax stuff, too. All we do is mail him the receipts, and he takes care of all the work. We just started financial planning with him, so we're not that far into the process, but we're happy with his work so far. His staff is wonderful, and his office is fabulous! They are welcoming of children and even have dogs and fish for entertainment. We have friends who go to Bill, also, and they are very happy. His office is located in the Castro District in SF. 415-252-7552. Their website is Dawn

Jan 2006

We are looking for a reliable and knowledgeable finanical advisor who is expert, not only in retirement issues, but also in the broader range of financial issues that include planning projects, maximizing investment opportunities, and managing household cash flow. We are solidly middle class, and while we noted some recommendations in the archives, most are quite dated. Any recent recommendations?

Please contact Aaron Winer, who spends a lot of time first getting to know you as people and finding out about what your values and goals are before administering the advice. This may have to do with the fact that, previously, Aaron was a swim coach, and so has had experience helping people bettering themselves. He has an office in the city but also has clients in East Bay. aaron.d.winer[at] 415-538-0010

Oct 2005

I have inherited some money, enough that I don't want to stick it in the bank to earn no interest for the rest of my life, but not enough to buy a house. I'd like to find a financial advisor who specializes in socially responsible investing. I looked into this years ago, but I never had enough money to make it worth paying someone else to take care of it, and I don't know if the people I talked to back then are still in business. I checked the website and found very little on the subject. Any suggestions? anon

I very highly recommend Peter Cole. He is extremely knowledgeable about socially responsible investment practices, he is patient and caring. He is very consciencious about making great investments that also don't involve a lot of fees - something that is easy to overlook. To top it off, he used to be a psychotherapist and is very understanding about couple dynamics when it comes to money. And, works with many self- employed individuals. He is based in Sacramento, but has family ties in Berkeley and makes trips to the Bay Area to meet with clients. I hope you'll call him - 916-444-1122.

I recommend talking to Jarrett Topel in Oakland. He is very knowledgable about ''socially conscious'' investing. He is a Certified Financial Planner, and his first appointment is free. His number is: (510)655-4400. He also told me about a web site which has lots of information about these types of investments which is: Good luck. Tracy

You might like Marjorie Bennett with Aegis Capital Managememnt (510) 655-9333. She has years of experience with socially responsible investing, and even donates a portion of her own profits each year to worthy causes in the Bay Area. She has an added plus for someone in your shoes, in that she understands the emotional issues that often accompany inherited wealth. A Happy Client

August 2005

I've read through most of the posts regarding financial planners, tax advisors, accountants, etc., but was wondering if anyone can recommend a good, honest, financial planner, accountant, or household budget advisor. I am NOT looking for someone that can turn our $50K in savings (which we don't have) into millions or sell us additional life insurance (which we do have). Rather, I'm looking for some basic advice ... how to develop and maintain a realistic household budget living in the Bay Area as a one-salary family. Ideally, this person could also offer advice at tax time, as well as offer advice on establishing savings plans for emergency funds, kids' education, stock options (have them, but they aren't worth anything as of yet), 401k and other retirement planning, mortgage refinancing options, etc. Basically, a ''handy person'' (Jane or Jack-of-all-trades) focused on finances. Any suggestions or recommendations, especially those based on personal experience, would be MUCH appreciated.
Anon - Good With Other Things, Not $$

We've worked with Patricia Jennerjohn at Focused Finances, and I can highly recommend her. She help us put together a financial plan and also helps us with our taxes. She can be reached at 510-763-3851, and her office is located on 14th street in Oakland.

August 2005

I'm looking for a financial advisor for my elderly parents who need immediate, short-term help sorting out their finances. My 74-year old father needs to enter 24h-care living center due to his progressing Parkinson's Disease. He doesn't know how to best arrange his assets to cover the cost of the senior care center, cost of living for Mom, write a will, etc. Can anyone recommend a good financial advisor? Or do we need some sort of attorney since writing a will is involved?

i recommend james b blume on shattuck ave 510-549-3534. he has helped several people in my family of all ages. cleops

May 2005

Hello, I'm looking for any recommendations for a personal financial planner. My husband and I are trying to decide if I should go on to a Psy.D program, or if it would be financial suicide (we just bought a home, and we are wanting to have a child in the next year) for a young, middle class family. Investing isn't something we are doing much of at the moment, so an investment advisor wouldn't be of much help. Any suggestions? Thank you in advance!

I heartily endorse Mary Kay Wright, an American Express affiliated Financial Advisor. My husband and I met with her today for our first session, and we couldn't be happier or more relieved. Mary Kay does life planning, not just number crunching, and is brilliant. Please feel free to contact me directly if you want more specifics. Her number is 925.952.9810 (Walnut Creek) Sienna

I want to recommend a really good financial advisor who cares about his clients. If you need sound investment advice, or you don't know where to start, contact Ryan Gomes at He is very knowledgeable about today's investment climate, and unlike other advisors, he is extremely service oriented ryan.gomes[at]
satisfied customer

March 2005

Hello: We are a middle class family w/ 2 kids and both are self employed. Looking for a well respected, honest, reasonable, knowledgeable financial planner. We need help w/ retirement planning, college funds,and a road map for the next 10-15 years etc.. Thank you

I highly recommend Jarrett Topel in Oakland. He is a certified financial planner with American Express, and he is very knowledgeable. I attended one of his retirement seminars at UC Berkeley and went to see him shortly thereafter. He put together a comprehensive financial plan for me that spelled out how I should position my retirement assets, the best ways to save for college for my kids and how much I need in cash reserves and insurance etc. The best thing is that even though i'm not one of his biggest clients, he never makes me feel like i'm bothering him when I call him with questions. His number is (510)655-4400. Good luck. Tracy

Check out Robert Green at Cojo Bay Advisors He took in to consideration our full financial picture, 401K choices at work, employee stock option program, Bay Area housing, etc. Then helped us with balancing our investing while maximizing our use of the benefits available through our jobs. Put us in a college savings plan that had reasonable fees (not all 529 plans are created equal). A lot of the advice received was geared toward making the best choices within our means.

In our situation we had the benefits through work to consider but Rob runs his own small business so will know a lot of what is available to you in your specific situation. It is a small firm but really great advice and guidance, Kara

March 2005

I'm hoping to start a very expensive graduate program at UC Berkeley in the fall and would love to talk to a financial advisor that specializes in helping a student find loans and grants as well as navigate the process overall. I remember seeing someone years ago when I went to undergrad and with his help my parents ended up paying almost nothing for my costly school. MBA bound

I would like to recommend my financial advisor, Mark Porter who is with American Express Financial Advisors in SF. Many of his clients are teachers, retired people, and other working people with families. I don't know if he has worked with grad students specifically. He is friendly, personable, and--most important in a financial advisor--not pushy. He can be reached at 415-743- 9886. Kira

Jan 2005

We are seeking a financial counselor who can help us with personal financial decisionmaking including buying a house, planning for time off to raise children and balancing financial security with quality of family life issues. Someone with some real estate and tax background would be helpful. Investment advice, while also useful, is secondary to getting the big picture. Thanks. KD

My financial planner is in Walnut Creek and her name is Linda Valentic. She is absolutely amazing and I've been recommending her for years and always hear positive feedback about her. Her number is: 925-746-7717. I think she'd be perfect for what you described that you need. Good luck! Abby

I highly recommend financial advisor Tatia Mackinnon. She works for American Express Financial Services in Walnut Creek and is great with the issues you mentioned (making decisions that take into consideration your needs as a family). Her phone number is (925)476-4790. Tatia is top rated as a financial planner in the country. You will not be disappointed. Good Luck

What you need is a personal financial consultant, rather than a financial planner. Sandra Richman at Finanswer is the big- picture financial expert who is excellent at helping couples set financial goals, work together to make informed decisions, balance priorities, and put their entire financial house in order. Thanks to her assistance, I am financially secure and live a balanced life. You can reach her at 510-251-2061. Also check the Finanswer web site at

My husband works with a financial planner in Oakland who is excellent. He specializes more in comprhensive financial planning than just investment management, and it sounds like that is what you are looking for. He started out as a tax preparer before earning his CFP designation. His name is Jarrett Topel and his number is 510-655-4400 Jarrett works through American Express, and his first appointment is always free. Good luck. Tracy D

We have an AMAZING insurance agent who helped us with a number of insurance and estate planning needs including life, auto, disability (including foreign travel), and for our business equipment and computers (including full replacement cost with NO deductible or increases in premiums after you make a claim!) She even helped us strategize and do research on refinancing car and student loans even though we didn't use ''her people'' to finance those loans. She is a State Farm agent named Jill Cash, and has an office on Telegraph near Ashby. She's worked some miracles for us, but not just that, she's a wonderful listener, takes her time with us, and has an incredible sense of humor. All of her advice is free, and she offers itgenerously. We will never use another agent! Her phone number is 843-8300. Rachel

2003 - 2004 Recommendations

Oct 2004

I am trying to find out how to repair my credit in the most efficient way possible. I've read how-to books, but would like to work with a financial consultant to make sure that I am making the best choices. Any recommendations? Anon

I highly recommend contacting Sandra Richman at Finanswer 510- 251-2061. She is an awesome personal financial consultant. She blends down-to-earth practical advice and guidance with insight on how emotions sometimes get in the way of best intentions. She's not an investment advisor--instead she works with people who want to manage their personal finances more effectively. For me, she's been a gift. I got out of debt and started saving, and learned how to be my own best financial friend. Mara

April 2004

Hi, my husband has some stock options with a start up company and it might go public soon. Anyone has any suggestions on what to do about it? or, does anyone have any recommendations on a good financial advisor or tax accountat who specializes in this area? thanks in advance! sandy

I think Rick Prime may be just what you are looking for. In fact, he has hands-on experience with pre-IPO option issues. Before he started his financial planning practice, Rick was the chief financial officer of several small technology companies and personally experienced pre-IPO option investment and tax issues. He still acts as a CFO for a venture-backed technology company, and now he also refers to himself as a ''CFO for families''. Rick is an Investment Advisor with Financial Network, an ING Company and is studying to complete his Certified Financial Planner candidacy.

I disclose that I'm married to him. He is very down-to-earth and unassuming, and with two children of his own, he has a real- life, contemporary understanding of the myriad of issues and choices families face as they plan beyond their own financial futures. You can reach him at primer AT or 510 384-1009. cwilson

March 2004

We're looking for someone to help us develop our financial strategy regarding savings, investment, and retirement. I've checked the archives but don't see anyone who fits all our criteria. We want to find out which vehicles we should use, in what order of priority. We want to know which investment property (in our area, state, or out-of-state) is more favorable, and how to evaluate which investments in our own home---what kind of remodeling---will have a positive return. We're not looking for an ''advisor'' to invest our cool million (which we don't have), but for someone with deep experience to help us develop goals and a strategy that best fits our needs. Can one person do all this? Do you know her/him? Many thanks, Denise

We're using Rick Prime for our financial planning and we're very happy with his services. Like you, we don't have a cool million to invest, either. We just wanted someone to take a look at the assets we had, see where we could be getting more out of them, and help us plan for the future. We are also evaluating a remodel project. He was very savvy and gave good recommendations for our retirement, kids' college funds, and insurance. We highly recommend him. You can contact him at primer AT Good luck. Bobbie

Oct 2003

My wife and I are looking for a financial planner (or an accountant???) to look over our shoulder and see if we are making any major gaffes in our retirement, household budgeting, tax, and college savings planning for one & maybe another child. If its useful information, our net worth makes us the poster children of ''middle class'' -- and so would like to work with someone who is comfortable with that.

We are looking for a some fresher recommendations than are currently posted on the archives. Based on some initital research, it would seem that we want a fee based planner -- that we compensate on an hourly or project basis versus having someone manage our assets or try to sell us financial products we don't want or need.

We live in Oakland, but would be willing to work with anyone good nearby. Any recommendations would be much appreciated. Steve

Scott Danielson of American Express Financial Advisors in Walnut Creek is EXCELLENT. He has helped me with all of the subjects you want to address and has made many adjustments to my frequent changing needs...whether it be changing jobs or having a baby. He has kept me on track for meeting my financial/retirement goals. I can't recommend him highly enough. His direct number is 925-476- 4724. Good luck. Michelle

We used Scott Miller at Retirement Benefits Planning in Alamo to help us with our financial plan. We too are the poster children for middle-class and felt very comfortable with our advisor. Scott gave us a few service options also. We opted to take his recommendations and invest our money ourselves which was a less costly option. He is very knowledgeable and I've recommended him many times. Here is the website Jennie G.

We used an AXA planner in San Rafael. AXA creates a whole package that spits out from the computer, based on the masses of financial info you give them. I also recently met another AXA person named Darcy Herberick, that I was impressed with - didn't want to sell you a lot of stuff once your financial profile was complete. She can be located at the AXA office in SF - 415-276-2192. Our package cost about $2000 to create and it gave us loads of info on retirement, insurance and college for kids. Lisa

Re: financial & investment advice -- I would recommend Richard Magarian, in Berkeley, (510) 549-0507. Very experienced advisor; also a parent, so sensitive to those issues. Plus, a very nice person! Mary Carol

March 2003

We are looking for someone who can give us, for a moderate fee, a financial check-up. Not tax services, not stock picks, just someone who can help us define our goals, assess what we have, evaluate our current practices, and tell us whether we're on track to meet those goals, or do we need a radical fix or what. I have checked the website, and haven't found exactly what we're looking for, although I have noticed that in the past few months there have been similar requests posted. Have any of you who posted for this type of service found the perfect person?? RL

yes, i know of someone who i can highly recommend- his name is jacques bolivar - he's a certified financial planner and is in the east bay- he helped me define my financial goals in terms of the immediate, the near future and the future- he's very down to earth, easy to talk to and knows his stuff extremely well. you can contact him at jbolivar13 AT helaine

We've been using Bak Chan with American Express Financial Advisors for 7 years. We think he is terrific. He is located at One Kaiser Plaza in downtown Oakland and can be reached at 510-891-7050. debbie

Kathryn Amenta is a financial counselor in San Francisco. She has years of background in business and has helped me tremendously with my finances. I can't say enough postive things about her. Her office number is 415-333-6972. Liza

Hi, Heather Hutchinson assists us with our finances not just because she is a good friend but because she is able to help with both planning and money communication. I did not realize how in debt we were until she put it all together and helped make a plan. She just started her own business, has a varied background and is willing to travel. Give her a call.
Heather Hutchinson Hutchinson Financial Management 540 East First Street Napa, CA 94559 Phone (707) 251-9712 Fax (707) 251-9716 heatherhutchinson AT

we've been wondering about the same issues for our 2 mo. old. This is probably more like sharing information than advice, but here is what we have been doing. we took the approach of interviewing several outfits: Merrill Lynch on University, Amercian Express Finanical Planning in Oakland and a State Farm rep in Bkly. The Merrill Lynch rep offers an anlysis of your asset holdings, takes your risk profile and comes up with a plan. The Amex person acts more as a broker but had lots of useful advice. The State Farm rep offers products mainly limited to State Farm and tends to try to sell more products than you may need. We have not made a decision yet how we will structure our financial planning for education yet -- 529, Coverdell (sp?) or Roth IRA or just setting money aside -- nor which outfit best suits our purpose. But we learned so much from talks with each rep. John Dyer at Merrill Lynch was very helpful. We are also in the midst of sorting out a will or living trust. Cal faculty/staff have part of the legal fees covered in their plans. Oh, finally, I also talked with a brokerage firm rep in NY that manages some of our mutual funds. I found it hard to work with someone only over the phone when there were so many issues to work out. Plus, the fees were a little high for what we were getting.

2002 & Earlier

October 2002

We're looking for someone to evaluate what we've already invested to date in 401Ks, Roth IRAs, savings accounts, etc. and help us get a game plan for future retirement contributions and including college savings for our kids.

I checked the website and called a few of the folks that were recommended-- a number of them aren't available or won't work with us unless we have $500K or more to invest (we don't).

In introductory meetings with advisors at Merrill Lynch and Fidelity, I've been told I need to move over all of my money from all of our different accounts before they'll start to analyze our stuff and advise us-- this still won't include current 401K accounts (for which we need lots of help, as we've seen the principal on them dwindle greatly!), since those can't be moved over. How frustrating!

I feel like we're pretty saavy and really know how to save on our modest income, but need some help picking the specific investments (i.e. which exact mutual fund or bond), not just being told that we should do ''good asset allocation with some money in bonds and some in growth and income'', etc...

Last, but not least, I'm okay with paying a fee (as opposed to purchasing load funds), but how do I know I'm getting my money's worth? I have asked so many people if they can recommend a good financial planner, and all I ever get is a resounding ''no''. There's got to be somebody good out there that is willing to help investors that have $25k-$50K to invest!


I am a financial planner and what we focus on is planning. We also do mutual fund investments (according to the most recent Morningstar and Lipper rankings we are the #2 fund family) and insurance, but we do not require you to invest with us. Many of my clients have their investments away from us (say, in their 401(k)), and that is okay. What we do is put them on a course to achieve their financial goals, whether it is retirement, saving for college, saving for a new home, knowing if they are properly protected, etc. We also make sure they and their portfolio are properly diversified according to their objectives.

For a written comprehensive financial plan, we charge $400. This covers virtually all of your financial needs (except, say, large estates or business valuation). You can also purchase an individual module (retirement, survivorship needs, education funding, accumulation goal, asset allocation) for $125 if all you need is help in one or two areas.

I'd like to recommend DeHaven Sanson at Washington Mutual in downtown Berkeley. He's at 548-4042 or 2150 Shattuck; I opened a 529 college savings plan with him. I found him to be very friendly and knowledgeable and he described himself as being ''conservative'' in his investments. What I liked most was that he didn't talk down to me, even though he could have since admittedly I have no idea what I'm doing, and he took the time to talk with me for as long as I had questions. Jill

I think you will have a hard time finding individuals who give free or cheap advice who aren't also selling something. Consulting an independent financial planner, even just for one-time advice, is likely to be pricey given the relatively small amount you're talking of investing.

There are many sensible books in the public library. On the web, two good resources are and

Vanguard is hands down the best deal among the mutual funds -- on their big index funds, for instance, the expense ratio is about .28 of one percentage point -- a mere quarter of the fees that the next cheapest firms (e.g., Fidelity, T Rowe Price) charge. My Berkeley finance professor said, ten years ago, that it amazed him that everyone didn't put their money with Vanguard. If all you want is an index fund (stocks and/or bonds), and your focus is the long-term, why pay a penny more in fees than you have to? (I have no connection to Vanguard!)

You mention that you've watched your 401ks dwindle -- so have most people lately. If your true desire is do better than the overall market, no financial planner can deliver that, whatever their promises.

(Re that 401k: If you are holding shares of the company you work for, consider selling them. Nobody should have their job -- their biggest egg-- AND the rest of their eggs in the same basket.)

If you don't have Roth IRAs, you probably should -- but I won't go into the details here. Clear explanations of the Roth abound.

Given the amount of money you have to invest, it will be hard to place it in lots of different funds or accounts -- no matter who you go with, accounts below some minimum balance typically incur extra fees because they are relatively costly to manage.

Investing is a headache, but I wouldn't sweat too much about investment strategy. Decisions that affect the difference between what you earn and what you spend will almost certainly have a far bigger impact on the size of your eventual nest egg than any investment strategy you choose today. (Assuming that you don't take wild risks!)

So, surf/read (the cheapest way to find out about different types of tax-deferred or tax-free accounts), think long-term, think Roth IRA, and check out Vanguard once you decide how you want to allocate your money.

Good luck. eirik

I would greatly recommend Raphael Gilbert, MBA. Raphael is a financial planner with Lincoln Financial Advisors. He doesn't charge for an initial consultation and is willing to help people in your financial bracket. After the initial consultation, fees are on an hourly basis, depending on the amount of time and analysis you require. You can reach him at (925)275-0300 X 217 or e-mail at rggilbert AT lnc DOT com Carole

Sept. 2002

Has anyone had experience with _______ as a financial planner? I would appreciate any feedback regarding her or anyone else with whom you have had good experience. I am looking for an all-around advisor regarding my investments, retirement planning, and saving for college. I am looking for someone who will pay attention and be proactive regarding my portfolio.

I don't know about _______, but can tell you that it is important that your financial planner be a certified financial planner. I can recommend my husband: he is a CFP with the Merrill Lynch Private Client Group. He provides comprehensive financial planning for clients for whom he manages assets. ( Minimum investable assets = $500K). He can be reached at 415 955 3787. Valerie

Sept. 2002

Looking for an easy-going, professional person (Oakland/Berkeley preferred) to help direct us in investing for retirement, our child's education, insurance and general savings. Someone that is familiar with the needs of a self-employed small business owner would be great. We just need someone who won't make us feel lamer than we already do for being so behind on this. Nic

If you are interested in socially responsible investing, I recommend Lincoln Pain at Cambridge Investments in Walnut Square in Berkeley (510-549-8780). Lincoln has never said anything negative about my husband and I being organizationally challenged. He is also very good about explaining things to us in a way I can understand. He likes to talk, so at times I have had to redirect the conversation, but in all he is great. You can email me for questions (m.maitino at Maria M.

My wife and I use Ned Comar at American Express Financial Advisors (925-937-0500 x240). They are out in Walnut Creek, but since we only go out there every 6 months or so, it's not that big a deal. He's very down to earth, interested in understanding our goals, very non-judgmental (like you, we felt like we were way way way behind in getting going on our planning). He generally charges an annual retainer, which will include preparing a financial plan and then giving advice based on it. We definitely feel like we're getting our money's worth. Feel free to email if you have any questions. Michael B.

June 2002

I am looking for a financial planner who will not try to sell me things and can give me some good ideas about managing existingdebt and planning for the future.

You want to make sure that you are dealing with a certified financial planner. The CFP license ensures that people know what they are doing, and that they are governed by an ethics board. Go to (there is a referral service on it) or for general CFP requirement info and to check if someone has CFP marks go to Valerie

I recommend John Girton, at Girton Capital Management, Inc., which is a money management firm, and registered investment advisor. John is very personable and easy to work with, and is good at explaining investing. John was formerly Director of Research at Van Kasper & Co., which is now Wells Fargo Securities, is a Chartered Financial Analyst, and has been in the investment business for over 20 years. Girton Capital will manage your assets for a percentage of assets under management, at a custodian such as Waterhouse, or will help you with your investment and retirement planning (but not tax preparation) for an hourly fee. His firm specializes in investment research and analysis, particularly in socially responsible stocks. You can contact him at or 415-927-4484 AKD

Many years ago, my husband and I worked with Christina Heck Ahlstrand (CFP, Registered Investment Advisor). She was very helpful and had nothing to sell us. I highly recommend her. Her phone number was 510-733-0213. She was in Castro Valley but met us at an Oakland office. Nancy

June 2002

I have checked recent discussion and the archives and am hoping for additional recommendations. Looking for an easy-going, professional person (Oakland/Berkeley preferred) to help direct us in investing for retirement, our child's education, insurance and general savings. Someone that is familiar with the needs of a self-employed small business owner would be great. We just need someone who won't make us feel lamer than we already do for being so behind on this. Nic

If you are interested in socially responsible investing, I recommend Lincoln Pain at Cambridge Investments in Walnut Square in Berkeley (510-549-8780). Lincoln has never said anything negative about my husband and I being organizationally challenged. He is also very good about explaining things to us in a way I can understand. He likes to talk, so at times I have had to redirect the conversation, but in all he is great. You Maria

My wife and I use Ned Comar at American Express Financial Advisors (925-937-0500 x240). They are out in Walnut Creek, but since we only go out there every 6 months or so, it's not that big a deal. He's very down to earth, interested in understanding our goals, very non-judgmental (like you, we felt like we were way way way behind in getting going on our planning). He generally charges an annual retainer, which will include preparing a financial plan and then giving advice based on it. We definitely feel like we're getting our money's worth. Feel free to email if you have any questions. Michael

August 2001

Any recommendations for a good experienced financial advisor? Basic family goals with a very average income (nurse/single mom) re: retirement, college, IRA. Would like someone who is somewhat easy-going and will not gasp in horror that I have not done this yet (!) But competence would be the first choice quality. Thanks.

My husband and I used Edie Barschi to develop a financial plan this summer and found her very thorough and helpful. She is not cheap if you pay full price, but does do some sliding fee scale work. We think her advice has already saved us and/or helped us earn on our investments far more than she cost. She is in Berkeley at 510-486-0846. Caroline

I would highly recommend our current financial advisor, who specializes in retirement and asset management, focusing on conservative portfolios. We've been down the big company, fancy offerings road to advisors, and found them to have many brochures and print outs to offer, but very little personal attention and advice. So now we are working with a small firm and getting the attention and expertise we needed. The name of our advisor is Edwin Stephens. He is the principal of the Stephens Group of financial advisors. They do financial planning, medical, healthcare and business insurance, and absolutely do retirement planning and asset management. They also partner with a full service brokerage firm and an excellent estate planning law firm. (we're working with both of them now) Edwin will be happy to come to your home for a meeting, and his first consultation if free of charge and without obligation. Edwin is very knowledgable, and patient, and has been very helpful in helping us identify, plan and now execute on our financial goals. You can contact him at 415-550-8515, send email to steph.grp at or contact me if you would like more details. Jana

My financial planner is Jim Parenti in San Ramon, who I found on recommendation from a friend whose mother had formerly worked for him. He is absolutely wonderful, also a CPA and a tax attorney, very very personable, and ridiculously trustworthy. I go to him for my taxes, and since he has most of my investments, I don't have to get the paperwork together. We spend 1/2 to 1 hr of the tax appointment catching up on how things are going personally, and he'll ask how much risk you want to deal with, when you want to be able to use the money (ie.. you don't want to invest in high risk stocks if you're planning to buy a house in 2 yrs). I was very nervous when I first went to him, but feel completely comfortable now and my investments have done very well with virtually no work on my part. Limitations: he will suggest mutual funds from particular groups of mutual funds that he has researched and feels do a good job (he'll suggest particular funds depending on your investment needs). He will be happy to invest in other funds for you, or particular stocks if you want, but he is generally pretty convincing that this group works pretty well if you're a relatively inactive meddler in your own financial affairs (though he will eagerly and completely answer any questions or skepticisms you may have). Possibly I could be earning more on my investments if I were a little more actively following and changing, but this works well for my level of time available. Also, I don't think he personally is taking more clients (he's very clear that he doesn't want to work 24 hours a day, and is comfortable limiting his income by limiting his clients). I know one of his other associates, who I also work with if Jim is not available; the other person is a former IRS tax guy, and understands the details of that. They may have another person or two. Also, San Ramon is a pain in the neck to get to if you live in Oakland or Berkeley. His support staff are also wonderful. Jim's number is 925-743-2700.

July 2000

My husband and I used Peter Morfin of Morfin Financial Services (510-525-0814). Last year we purchased a house, had a new baby, and had some other issues, and we found Peter to be very helpful and informative, and price was reasonable. Kristina

Morfin Financial Services Peter does my taxes, and I just signed up with Emily and Peter to manage an investment portfolio, BUT neither of them is an accountant, per se---otherwise, they're great. victoria


i am looking for someone who can help me get our finances in order. I don't think this would be a financial planner, but it might be. It might even be an individual member of the digest that is good at making their money work. I know we make enough money, but I can't figure out how to use it effectively, and, every month, we barely have enough to get by. It's ridiculous! Can anyone suggest someone who could help us? Toby

To the woman who wants a money organizer.... Paul Minsky, PhD specializes in money issues in his practice. I believe he calls it the psychology of money and helps people get 'unstuck when it comes to overspending, couple differences, investment concerns, inheritance issues, savings or lack of etc. HE is teaching a class at UC ext. on money issues. I believe he has offices in Oakland and S.F. He can be reached at (510) 524-0700. good luck BB.


Anyone out there know of a financial advisor who is expert on socially responsible investment and won't charge the earth? I don't have a lot of IRA money, but think I should be making a better return on what I do possess, and investing ethically is equally important to me. Thanks for your help. Melanie

There is a company in Oakland called Progressive Asset Management. They do a wide range of socially responsible investing. Their number is in the phone book. We've had a few investment accounts with them over the years from Mutual Bonds to a Stocks and Bonds account. There must be others too. Check them out. June

The dean of socially responsible investing here is Roger Pritchard -- (510) 527-5604. He cofounded one of the first socially responsible investment funds around 1980 and now gives private investment and business advice from that perspective. He also throws a great Christmas party for friends and clients! Timothy

Roger Pritchard, in Berkeley, is good for helping think about money, especially when there are strong personal issues and feelings involved. He also assists small businesss get on solid functioning ground. (12/99)

I highly recommend Audrey Grubman for financial planning services. We've been seeing her for about 3 years and she is excellent. She tailors her services to what your needs are from full financial plans and portfolio management to hourly-based consultations. She has been very helpful to us in managing stock options and putting together a strategy to handle tax issues associated with them. She has a CPA that works with many of her clients for taxes. Her standards and integrity are extremely high. She loves what she does and is very good at it. She is not a salesperson trying to pitch products. Her company is Grubman Financial Consulting and her phone number is 510-883-1350. Kathy

We love Ann Hubrig at EH Associates on Solano (just below San Pablo).


I can recommend Damon Becker of Lincold Financial Advisors Corp. He acts as a 3rd party advisor and you pay a yearly fee based on a sliding scale -- it's affordable and worth every penny in my opinion. (I don't believe he does tax returns, though) He's at (510) 275-0300 ext 254. Alison

I have been consulting with a financial advisor in San Francisco off and on for quite awhile. Her name is Fran Ravel, Fran Ravel Associates-- 415-552-7029. Her office is near civic center. SHe is very knowedgeable and works in a variety of ways. She has helped me clarify my financial goals, think differently about savings for my daughter's schooling and other things. I highly recommend her. Alice