Get to Know XYPN Advisors: Jennifer Harper of Bridge Financial Planning

7 min read
October 29, 2015

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, and Patrick Quinn. Today, we're shining the Member Spotlight on Jennifer Harper of Bridge Financial Planning.

Jennifer Harper, CFP

Jennifer began working in the financial services industry in 2000, earned an MBA from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2001, and became a CFP® in 2006. In 2005, she began developing a financial education non-profit organization, Common Cents Financial Literacy, Inc. to help guide young people toward an independent and responsible financial future. She also serves as an adjunct Finance instructor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

While Jennifer's professional life is solely focused on personal finance, she doesn't believe it’s all about the money! She believes that we need to be good stewards of the resources we have and we will be able to achieve more for ourselves and for others if we are thoughtful and well prepared for the future.

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

JH: As an MBA student in 2000, I started working for a Trust & Investment Department of a bank part-time. That quickly grew into a full time trading and portfolio management position. I enjoyed the work, but wanted more client interaction, so I moved into the wire-house brokerage world for a few years.

After earning the CFP® designation, I returned to the Trust & Investment private banking world. And, ultimately, I’ve decided to build a practice from scratch in way that delivers what is in the clients’ best interests.

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

JH: My background for the last 15 years includes both the brokerage side and the private banking side of the financial services industry. While I’m grateful for my experiences, I always felt like we could and should be elevating our profession by setting a higher bar. Earning the Certified Financial Planner TM designation was my first step in that direction nearly ten years ago. I believe fee-only planning is the next step on that path.

I had been aware of NAPFA and the fee-only philosophy for several years and had always admired it, but had never seen a clear path to going on my own. What I learned through speaking with XYPN initially was that in the last few years a lot of resources have been developed that support this kind of financial planning practice.

So much more is possible today than even 5-10 years ago – it’s an exciting time!

After reviewing a lot of resources, talking to other XYPN members, and taking advantage of a lot of demo sites for technology options, I finally felt confident that I could provide top level service to clients in the fee-only format.

XYPN: Can you describe your ideal client?

JH: I purposefully thought about what kinds of people aren’t being served well by the traditional model. From that perspective, I chose three ideal client profiles.

First, the young(er) professional. For so long, all the attention has been placed on Boomers. Of course they need good planning, but a lot of younger clients have been left out along the way. Unless a younger professional has a lot of investable assets, it can be difficult for them to get the attention of a traditional firm (because generally those firms are looking for commissions on investable assets to fund their work, so no investments – no planning).

Bridge Financial Planning doesn’t have that limitation, so younger professionals are a great fit. (By the way, there are Gen Xers that are closing in on 50. So we’re not really talking about just the freshly hatched!)

Along the same lines, business owners make great clients. Business owners can have very complex planning needs, but may or may not have a lot of readily available investments to manage. A lot of business owners reinvest their cash into their business(es) and may have a large net worth, but relatively low levels of investable assets.

The third group would be do-it-yourselfers. They enjoy managing their own investments and would be hesitant to turn over control of their accounts. But again, they may have complex planning needs beyond investing or may want a second opinion on their asset allocation or risk analysis.

Beyond those kinds of clients, I believe I will be a natural fit for clients looking for a female advisor. There still aren’t nearly enough women or minorities in this profession.

XYPN: What kind of services do you provide to your clients?

JH: Bridge Financial Planning provides comprehensive financial planning & investing for today’s professionals. We can work on an hourly basis for quick check-ups, or we can work on a retainer model to work through planning needs as they arise while building a firm foundation around the clients and their goals. Investments are managed with a focus on providing a risk-adjusted return using low cost investment options.

XYPN: What's your favorite thing about working with Gen X and Gen Y?

JH: I’ve always enjoyed working with a variety of clients – from those just starting out to high net worth clients. In general, a lot of Gen X &Y clients and their families are at a point in their lives where good habits can help them achieve so much! It’s exciting to help someone tap into that potential.

Working with younger clients gives a first-hand view of what it takes to build a financially independent life and not just manage a portfolio. It’s great to have the opportunity to work on both ends of the spectrum. Neither one is better or worse, just different.

XYPN: What are you most proud of accomplishing as a financial planner who works with Gen Y?

JH: I am most proud of starting a financial education non-profit – Common Cents Financial Literacy, Inc. We work with students aged 16-22 to help them get on the right path financially. That is a critical time when most students are developing their independence and starting to be responsible for their own finances in some capacity.

We’ve been working on this for ten years now and are in the process of aligning our curriculum with Department of Education standards and growing our board of directors. We work in schools, youth organizations and faith-based programs to reach the students where they are.

We are fortunate to have a great relationship with the Financial Wellness Center at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the City of Chattanooga, and to have the support of some local foundations like the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, as well as individuals that see the value financial education can bring to our community.

I believe an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If we can stay ahead of the bad habits that are easy to start and rampant in our society, maybe we can help build a better tomorrow.

XYPN: If you could only give one piece of financial advice to your clients, what would that advice be?

JH: Small improvements make a big difference over time. Stay consistent with your plan and you will achieve more than you think possible. If you’re just starting out, just focus on building a habit of saving and keep your goals in sight.

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

JH: I started working on it early this year and launched the practice just a couple of months ago.

XYPN: What's your favorite thing about running your own practice?

JH: Knowing that I’ll truly get out of it what I put into it. That is so encouraging!

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

JH: For ongoing financial planning work, I offer a monthly fee starting at $100/month and no upfront fee with a 12 month agreement. For investment management, I use an AUM fee starting at 0.85%. For hourly work, my rate starts at $175 an hour.

XYPN: What's your favorite piece of technology to use in your business?

JH: eMoney. It’s fairly complex, but I’ve already gotten into a groove working with it. The clients that are using it are happy to see everything in one place and to have the ability to share files securely through their virtual vault.

I like it for its ability to work with simple or complex cases and its attention to detail. From a practice management standpoint, it keeps me from having multiple software solutions that aren’t integrated.

XYPN: What's your favorite thing about XYPN?

JH: Knowing that everyone is pulling in the same direction to elevate our profession on behalf of our clients. While I suppose we are all technically ‘competitors’ in this global marketplace, everyone is cheering each other along.

I loved getting to meet some of the members that have been such a source of knowledge and encouragement this year at the XYPN conference in September!

If you want to connect with Jennifer, you can visit her firm's website, check out her nonprofit Common Cents Financial Literacy, Inc, or connect on Twitter @BridgeFinPlan.

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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