Decisive Path
Take the Next Step

Decisive Path Fee-Only Financial Advisory

Service you can trust; answers you can count on.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: My husband died and I don't know much about finances. I'm not even sure what cash flow and net worth are, or how to plan on my own. What should I do?
A: It's hard to start learning from scratch, especially at such a difficult time in your life. Call or email for a complimentary phone conversation where we can assess your next step together.


Q. What are the areas in which Decisive Path specializes?
A. Decisive Path provides comprehensive, personalized financial plans, on-going financial advice, and financial consulting to individuals at all life stages. There is no minimum account size. Principal Karen Telleen-Lawton particularly attracts Baby-Boomers, women adjusting to changed circumstances and new couples just starting out. She brings to her practice an affinity for health, environmental responsibility, and social or religious-oriented investing (Kosher, Christian, Sharia, etc.)


Q. How are you compensated for investments and advice?

A. Decisive Path is a fee-only planner and only receives compensation through the fixed fees paid by clients. That means the advice you are getting is customized to your particular situation. Fee-only planners are different from "fee-based" and commission-based financial planners because fee-only planners do not receive any payment from the financial product providers to recommend or sell their products.

The advantage to the client not only is knowing the true cost of the advice but also assurance that their priorities are the only ones taken into consideration.


Q. What is the difference between fee-only and fee-based?
A. The fee-only approach offered by Decisive Path and other fee-only planners ensures that advice is congruent with the clients' best interests because compensation only comes from the client. By contrast, fee-based planners may collect sales commissions, mutual fund payments, 12(b)-1 fees, finder's fees, referral fees, and accept vendor sponsorships. Fee-based planners may have ties with insurance, bank, and other brokers which impose sales quotas, product alliances, or hidden fees.


Q. Is there a minimum account size or income level necessary to become a Decisive Path client?
A. There is no minimum account size for Decisive Path's services including Comprehensive Financial Planning, Financial Advisory, or Financial Consulting.


Q. What is the advantage of Comprehensive Financial Planning?

A. For individuals and families who would like to take a serious look at their whole financial picture -- from cash flow planning to insurance and risk management to taxes, investments, and estate planning -- the advantages are substantial. It may help you get established, provide continuing peace of mind, or the confidence to make major changes in your life.

If years have passed since you assembled such a thorough analysis, you may be surprised at what a few adjustments to your plan may accomplish. Changes in your personal financial situation, the tax structure, and investment products eventually render a previous plan obsolete.


Q. What is the advantage of the Financial Advisory Service?
A. After completing a Comprehensive Financial Plan, you may desire direction in implementing the action items or monitoring, course corrections, or rebalancing your investments. Decisive Path does not keep custody of client assets or make discretionary trades, but acts as your partner in accomplishing your goals and providing professional responsibility and accountability.


Q. What is the advantage of Financial Consulting?
A. Financial Consulting is appropriate for people who have a handle on their overall financial picture and need discrete advice on specific topics such as college education funding, dealing with an inheritance, or timing on filing for Social Security.


Q. How much does investment and retirement advice cost?
A. Comprehensive Financial Planning (CFP) contracts costs between $5,000 and $7,500. Financial Advisory begins with this Comprehensive Financial Plan and additionally a contract is drawn up for an annual management charge. The annual management charge for on-going non-discretionary management is typically between $5,000 to $10,000 depending upon the complexity of your situation. If the CFP is more than one year old, an additional charge may be required for review. For a small project, financial consulting services are available at the rate of $175 per hour, with a two-hour minimum. A discounted rate is available for larger or ongoing engagements.


Q. How does your cost compare to other advisors?
A. Decisive Path's fees are competitive. Principal Karen Telleen-Lawton is dedicated to assessing your situation and providing feedback that provides clients with enduring value far surpassing the fee.


Q. Are you a fiduciary? What exactly does that mean?

A. The word fiduciary comes from the Latin fides, meaning faith. A fiduciary duty is the highest standard of care; fiduciaries are required to be honest, trustworthy, and loyal. They must never put personal interests before the duty owed to a client. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) places a fiduciary requirement on Registered Investment Advisors. Decisive Path is a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) with the state of California.

Brokers and dealers are not currently required to act as fiduciaries but are held only to a "suitability" standard: that their recommendations "fit a client's risk tolerance, objectives and financial status."


Q. Who is not a good match for your services?
A. Families with serious debt problems should seek professional credit counseling. Help is available through non-profits such as National Foundation for Credit Counseling or Consumer Credit Counseling. Families with assets greater than $10 million should seek an Investment Counselor or wealth manager with specialized credentials. People who want a "one-stop shop" for insurance, investments, and/or banking may find that with a fee-based advisor, whether independent or associated with a bank or insurance company, fits their needs.


Q. Are there services you do not offer?
A. Decisive Path does not offer expertise in limited partnerships, real estate or specialized tax shelters. CPAs and attorney are appropriate for preparing tax returns and providing legal advice. Decisive Path can recommend an appropriate professional in these specialized areas. The best financial and retirement plans emerge from a collaborative team consisting of the individual or couple, the financial advisor, a CPA, and an attorney.


Q. What makes you a better choice?

A. As a fee-only financial advisory, Decisive Path holds itself to the very highest standards. Each client receives confidential, individual management. The firm's unique approach includes:

  • A familiarity with Baby-Boomers (since she is one!)
  • An emphasis on women adjusting to changed circumstances
  • A knowledge of the issues facing new couples starting out (since her kids are at that stage!)
  • An affinity for applying health and environmental responsibility issues to financial planning if desired by the client
  • Enthusiasm for social or religious-oriented investing (Kosher, Christian, Sharia, etc.) if desired by the client
  • A passive approach to investing that recognizes the long-term nature of accumulating assets and does not try to out-guess the market. Decisive Path mainly recommends no-load mutual funds and exchange traded funds and concentrating on building a diversified portfolio with the proper asset allocation.
  • Transparency in all transactions.
Home | Comprehensive Financial Planning | Financial Advisory | Financial Consulting
About Karen Telleen-Lawton | Professional | Press & Client Testimonials | Mission Statement | FAQ | Contact