Get to Know XYPN Advisors: Dan Johnson of Forward Thinking Wealth Management

5 min read
March 17, 2016

XY Planning Network is buzzing with more activity than ever. We're proud to provide a turnkey financial planning platform to nearly 120 independent and corporate firms.

But who are these fantastic financial advisors? We’d love to introduce you to some of XYPN members who are doing big things in the financial planning world. You can get to know them and their practices — and hear a bit about why they love being a member of the network.

In the past, we've put the spotlight on PJ Wallin, Eric Roberge, Andrew Novick, Patrick Quinn, and Jennifer Harper. Today, we're shining the Member Spotlight on Dan Johnson of Forward Thinking Wealth Management.

Dan is a Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®), and truly a forward thinking advisor who is on a mission to help clients accumulate wealth, not fees.

XYPN: Can you tell us a little bit about your professional background?

Dan Johnson

DJ: My background is a bit different than most financial advisors. I spent over a decade in city management and economic development, located in west Michigan. I enjoyed the work, but to advance (read: make more money) you had to move every few years.

This was great when I was single, but not when married with two young sons. Several friends of mine were financial advisors and they continuously pestered me to join their ranks.

My wife and I decided we wanted to move back to Akron, Ohio to be closer to family and friends -- and I made the jump to being a financial advisor.

XYPN: Why did you become a fee-only financial planner?

DJ: I spent the first five years of my career at Merrill Lynch. One thing I learned there was I wanted to eventually own my own firm. About five years ago I joined a small investment firm and I was the succession plan.

After several years it was apparent my vision for the future of the firm was completely different than the owner. I came across XY Planning Network and realized everything I wanted my firm to be was possible and realistic. I saw that I could get the support I needed to run a fee-only, virtually-based, financial planning focused, lifestyle practice.

But I also do some things differently. My firm runs on a model supported by and used by many forward-thinking advisors, but there are some aspects that are unique to Forward Thinking Wealth Management.

XYPN: Can you describe your ideal client?

DJ: I work with many families who have loved ones with special needs. I entered this area after seeing more and more clients who had kids, grandkids and siblings with special needs while working in my old firm.

Being a CFP® was not sufficient training to best serve these families, so I also spent two years being trained by an advisor out of Chicago who had always focused in this area.

I really enjoy working within this niche because the clients are very serious about planning. As I tell them, they are focused on real stuff. They could care less about shorting oil or going long on Lumber Liquidators.

Their focus is to plan for two generations. They care less what Cramer is screaming about on CNBC.

There are some tough parts about serving this niche. First, it is very emotional.

The stories are both amazing and overwhelming. When my sons were younger and we needed a babysitter we called our neighbor’s older children. The only qualified babysitters for some of my clients may be palliative nurses from the local children’s hospital.

There are other stories that put things in further perspective, like the client whose daughter is on the severe end of the Autism spectrum. Her parents are hopeful she will be able to go the bathroom on her own by the time she is ten.

XYPN: How long have you owned your own practice/firm?

DJ: I officially launched my own firm on February 23rd, after joining XY Planning Network in November of 2015.

XYPN: What's your fee structure like? How do you charge clients for your services?

DJ: I run a flat-fee practice. I charge the same amount regardless of asset size.
My whole investment philosophy is based on three things:

  1. Control the fees you pay an advisor.
  2. Control the costs you pay for investment products.
  3. Manage for taxes within your taxable account as much as legally possible.

Do these three things successfully and clients will significantly increase their odds of a successful retirement.

There are other advisors out there who run a flat-fee model -- but there aren’t that many of us (yet!). I firmly believe the compensation model in our industry is broken. The majority of the industry is paid for something completely out of their control – the performance of the market. I have created my firm based on clients paying me for my knowledge as a CFP® and my compensation model is similar to how CPAs and attorneys are paid.

XYPN: How was XYPN helpful in establishing your firm?

DJ: The internal resources available through XYPN were great guides to let me know what things I needed to get in order, where to go for them, and the information in the forums was tremendously helpful too.

I also was able to get in contact with a couple of XYPN members local to me: Justin Rush and Trace Tisler. Both let me pick their brains through my prep process.

And the best part? Having a compliance consultant do all the heavy lifting for me. I cannot imagine having to do that on my own or even finding the right outside counsel for it.

Plus, who doesn’t like the XYPN t-shirts?

But no launch is perfect, and there were some things that I should have done sooner. I could and should have signed up for DocuSign and get my archiving system squared away.

Other things like turning on my website had to wait until I was officially legal. One of the best things I did before launch was have a reporter friend of mine write a press release for me.

My biggest piece of advice: if you can do things ahead of time, do it!

Going forward, I will continue to lean on XYPN for keeping me up to speed on what is going on in the financial planning world. Otherwise, I will have to change my firm name from Forward Thinking to Status Quo!

I will also continue to use the “freebies” and discounts they provide. In the meantime, I hope my fellow XYPN members never hesitate to reach out if I can ever be of assistance. There is more than enough business to go around for fee-only CFP®s and I am happy to help as much as I can.

If you want to connect with Dan, you can visit his firm's website, or connect on Twitter @FlatFeePlanner.

Alan Moore

About the Author

Alan Moore is the CEO and Co-Founder of XY Planning Network—a support ecosystem dedicated to helping fee-for-service advisors start, run, and grow their own financial planning firms and serve the clients they want. His favorite part about his job is dreaming about possibilities for what's next, knowing his stellar team will either tell him no or Get Sh*t Done to make it happen.

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