While the average financial advisor with 10+ years of experience makes nearly triple the median US household income, the caveat to becoming a financial advisor is that most don’t survive their first few years, and the pressure of getting all your own clients (and persuading them to actually pay you for advice!).
In this guest post, first-year financial planner Shawn Tydlaska shares his own survival tips for having gotten through his first year, on track for more than $100,000 of recurring revenue(!), which he achieved in large part by heavily reinvesting in himself throughout the first year. Of course, reinvesting means that Shawn spent more than many advisors do in trying to start their advisory firms on a low budget… yet at the same time, by focusing on reinvesting his income as it came in, he was able to do so while limiting his actual out-of-pocket costs.
Shawn also shares exactly what kinds of conferences and courses he put himself through to accelerate his growth, how he structured his marketing (and what materials he takes into a typical prospect meeting today), what he tracks in his business, how he leverages his study group, and more!
So whether you’ve been thinking about going out on your own as an independent advisor but aren’t certain what to do, or you’re already in your first few year(s) and looking for fresh ideas about how to better focus, or are an experienced advisor and just want some fresh perspective, I hope you find today’s guest post to be helpful!
Ok. So I lied. There are actually 13 tips. I had trouble chopping this list down to 12. And I thought 12 tips for the first 12 months was a better hook.
Before launching my own independent fee-only RIA, I read Sophia Bera’s and Andrew McFadden’s guest blog posts on the Nerd’s Eye View blog, which were so helpful in starting my own firm. Those posts inspired me to share my own learnings in this guest post, while things are still fresh in my mind.
My journey evolved from the excitement of the launch, to the landing of my first client, to the fear of not knowing what my financial planning deliverable was, to coming to the realization at around six months that “this is working” and I won’t go out of business, to increasing my fees (a few times), to losing my first client, and to eventually paying myself my first paycheck.
As I write this post, I am actually about 20 months into the business (I know, I started this post about 8 months ago and it took me a while to put the finishing touches on it!) and have worked with a total of 63 clients. I currently have 40 ongoing monthly subscription clients and have done financial planning projects for 23 other clients. I have had seven subscription clients “graduate” thus far, one more will graduate shortly, and I suspended the monthly payment for one client until they get back on their feet. I have $4.3M in AUM, although that doesn’t mean much for me because I don’t charge an AUM fee. My average up-front fee is about $1,200, and my average monthly fee is $235. Thus, even if I don’t get another client, I am projected to generate $110,000 of revenue over the next 12 months. My total annual expenses are about $40,000 right now. About $14,000 of that I would spend regardless of being in business on things like travel, meals and entertainment, my own financial planner (Hi Sophia Bera!), tax prep, a business coach, utilities, etc. I expect my fixed costs will go up as I just hired Liz Plot, AFC® who will be a remote Client Service Associate and she will be working about 20 hours per week. Fortunately, with new clients continuing to come in, my revenue is on track to grow more than enough to make up for that cost!
So here are my top tips for surviving your first 12 months as a fee-only independent RIA, based on my own experience!
1. Invest in Yourself
After being in business for two months, I was getting a decent number of good leads. But I was frustrated that I was only converting about 30% of them into clients. I made the conscious decision to reach out to experts to help shorten my learning curve on two key aspects of my business. (As a side note, in my first two months I received 11 leads from the XYPN Find an Advisor Portal and 17 leads from family, friends, and other professionals. So I was getting pretty decent lead flow.)
When I listened to Nancy Bleeke on the XYPN Radio podcast her approach to sales really resonated me. It was a mind shift to think of sales not as a sleazy or dirty word, but as a process to help prospects make the decision to help themselves (by working with me!). So, I hired Nancy for a few private coaching sessions, and she immediately provided great feedback. She actually took the money I was going to pay her and applied it to her sales training course, where I would learn her entire sales approach. The results were immediate and significant, and my conversion rate increased from 30% to 75%.
The investment for the course was $2,000 (which she has since raised to $3,495, although XYPN members get access for 10% off). Which is tough to swallow when you are first starting out. But sales skills are something you can use for the rest of your life. And the investment quickly paid for itself with the increased number of prospects that agreed to work with me based on what I had learned!
At the same time, I wanted to learn the softer side of the business and I had heard great things about Money Quotient. So I enrolled in their three-day training course in San Francisco. At this course, you learn how to use their life planning tools and you practice them with a partner. I found this experience really helpful, because it taught me how to be a more active listener and ask really good questions. Going through this process really made me appreciate how cool it is to feel like you have been heard. This investment was a one-time fee of $950, and then a licensing fee of $60 per month to use their materials. I really think the future of our profession will incorporate more aspects of life planning, so whether you use Kinder’s three questions, Susan Bradley’s Sudden Money Institute, Think2Perform Values Card deck, or something else, I would put some effort here.
I also attended a few conferences very early on. I launched on May 2nd in 2016, and two weeks later I was at the NAPFA National Conference in Phoenix. As soon as you join XY Planning Network, I recommend joining NAPFA (which is included in XYPN membership), and scheduling a peer interview with Bernie Kiely. He is awesome, and he offered to sponsor me to attend the conference. I had to pay for my flight (using miles) and lodging (slept on the futon of Andrew Davis’s Airbnb), but the conference fee was paid for out of pocket. At this conference, I met 6 or 7 other XYPN members, like Chris Girbes-Pierce, Scott Frank, Justin Rush, Joe Morgan, Gabe Anderson, and Lauryn Williams. I cornered Justin at one of the happy hour events and peppered him with questions about how to run my business. He introduced me to Rhonda Moore (now affiliated with FA Bean Counters) who did my initial bookkeeping for $60/mo. He helped me understand what I can deduct as a business expense, how to track receipts, and answered the many, many other nagging little questions I had.
Next, I attended the FPA NorCal conference at the end of May, which cost $699 for registration (but no hotel cost since it was local for me). This conference is a bit stuffy and more old-school. If I had to do it over again, I would probably skip this one. It is located in downtown San Francisco at the Palace Hotel. One highlight of the conference was getting to meet Michael Kitces in person (who speaks there annually).
I also attended the Far West Round Up at UC Santa Cruz. I had just moved to San Francisco a few months before launching my firm, so I wasn’t very established in the local financial planning community. This was a great chance to network in a very intimate setting as all ~75 attendees attend each session together. At this conference, another mind shift happened. I went from being a financial planner who launched a firm, to a firm owner. It was cool being a CEO and having conversations with leaders in the industry like Tim Kochis and Dave Yeske. I felt really respected and enjoyed talking shop about how we ran our practices. This conference was $519 and included lodging, programming, and meals.
I also went to the XYPN16 Conference in September in San Diego. The investment was $199 for the conference, $399 for hotels, and I booked my flight using points. It was great to meet all the XYPN members from around the country, but I was a little disappointed by the content of the conference itself. I had really high expectations, but the whole first day was a tech demo with no formal content sessions (although that has since been moved to the center of the conference between sessions on the first and last days). The best part of this conference was definitely networking with my fellow XYPN tribe members.
I hired a business coach in February, which was about 8 months after launching. I used Meg Bartelt’s article as a framework for how to interview candidates. One of the biggest things the coach provided me was focus on where to spend my time and energy. He also got me to embrace my CRM, which I wasn’t using fully. And instead of letting myself “get distracted by shiny objects” (like creating webinars, blogging, writing an eBook, pursuing speaking engagements, etc.), he helped me focus on signing 2 clients per month, with the goal to get to 60 retainer clients by the end of 2018 (which I am still on track for). The business coach I hired was Joe Lukacs and his company is Practice Power Academy, and he is pretty expensive. Initially it was $700/month for two 30-minute sessions. Eventually we moved to one 30-minute conversation per month for $350/month. While I am glad I hired him and he did help me a lot, he wasn’t the right business coach for me in the long run. Just like finding a financial planner, it is hard to find a coach you really click with, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with trying one out for a little while. But it was a good learning experience and I am happy that we worked together. (Note: I am no longer working with him, but plan to hire Elizabeth Jetton in the new year.)
Overall, this means that if you’re going to invest aggressively in yourself, you will spend a lot more than $10k (as Sophia Bera did) in your first year to start your RIA. Expect to spend $20k-$25k, depending on how much training you pursue, and the number of conferences you attend. But I found it was quite worthwhile in turbo-charging the growth of my own firm (entering my second year already having a revenue run rate of over $100,000/year!).
2. Speak From the Heart on Your Website
I got this tip from XYPN member Michael Powsner. He and I had a conversation over coffee one week before I decided to join XYPN.
He recommended I take 1-2 days to just bang out the copy for my website. He recommended going somewhere picturesque where you feel inspired. For me I spent one day in Half Moon Bay at a Peet’s coffee shop, and then another day at a Marriott hotel that overlooked the San Francisco Bay.
Create a FAQ page that talks about who is a good fit for your services. I really spoke from the heart and used natural language. I think that this helps prospects figure out if they are a good fit for your firm, and they self-select into engaging with you by signing up for a meeting directly on your website. It’s OK that describing who is a good fit will turn some people off. Because the ones who are a good fit will find what you say really resonates, and be more likely to sign up with you. And those are the people you want anyway!
Create a Services and Fees page that shows what you provide, and how much you charge. This really helps prospects understand the financial commitment before they set up an appointment to have a Discovery Meeting with you.
While we are speaking of websites, make it really easy for your prospects to set up a Discovery Meeting with you. I use Calendly (though there are a lot of other options, too) and have a page where prospects can put an appointment directly on my calendar. Try to remove as much friction as you can, which will enable more prospects to set up meetings with you! Make yourself available when your prospects are. For me, that means opening up my calendar to meetings at nights and on the weekends. It works! Over my first 12 months I met with 101 prospects.
3. Don’t Over-Analyze
Don’t spend too much time trying to develop the perfect process. What you need are clients and a “test lab” to develop your perspective, refine your approach, and see what tools work for you and your clients.
Most of your clients have never worked with a financial planner before – especially if you’re serving younger professionals – so this is all new to them. Which means if you try something new with them, they will have no idea that this is brand new for you too! So don’t be afraid to take risks and ask new questions, try new tools or techniques, and try new deliverables to see what resonates with your clients.
For example, at my last firm, if I told someone to open a savings account at Ally Bank, I would fill out the paperwork, send it to them with sticky notes and a return envelope, fax it in, etc. Now I empower my clients by giving them a task and sending them off to do it on their own. It makes you more efficient, and it empowers them. And the first client I tried it with just accepted it as reality and did it. They didn’t complain that I was giving them “less service” by not doing the paperwork for them now, because they had no idea that I “used to” do it a different way with other clients at another firm!
4. Shut Up and Listen
I had never been in a business development or sales role before. It was really weird to be the one doing the talking during those first meetings with prospects. Initially I was trying to prove my knowledge, talk about my pedigree, and demonstrate my expertise.
But what I found is that prospects already assume you are an expert, because they are the ones who set up the meeting with you. So just embrace the role of the expert and own it. Don’t try to dominate the conversation with bullet points from your resume. Ask good questions and aim to listen for at least 80% of the meeting.
My initial prospect meeting is 60 minutes. Guide the conversation, but give them space to talk for the first 45 minutes, then in the last 15 minutes, talk about your service model and how you can alleviate the financial pains they just shared with you.
Here are some of my favorite questions in the order that I ask them:
- Tell me about why you set this meeting up, and why you reached out to a financial planner?
- What are some of your short-term/1-3 year goals?
- How are you currently managing your finances? Mint? Spreadsheet? Or just winging it?
- What did you observe about money growing up? (my favorite question)
- How do you think that impacts your relationship with money today?
- Is there anything about your finances that keeps you up at night?
- Have you ever worked with a financial planner before?
- Do you have any concerns or fears about working with a financial planner?
After this last question, the conversation normally transitions nicely to a discussion about your services and fees. Most people will say something like, what services do you offer and how much is it going to cost me?
5. Peer Review Your First Few Financial Plans
I had to figure out what my financial planning process was going to look like when I started. I didn’t know what I would include in my financial plan or not. For the first few plans I created I had someone from my study group be my peer reviewer. Thanks, Eric Gabor!
I only charged $200 for the first plan that I did. One of the comments that Eric has made a few times is to remember that I am not running a charity. But I didn’t have a reference point, so I had no idea if what I was producing was valuable or not. I really spent a lot of time on these initial plans. (Tip: remove the confidential info from one of your first plans and keep it at your fingertips to show prospects what a “sample financial plan” looks like.)
Having someone that you respect look at your stuff really gives you confidence before you present it to a client. It also helps make you a better planner, because they can find blind spots in your planning that you may miss.
6. Have a Few Good Pieces of Marketing Collateral
I got this tip from PJ Wallin. XYPN has a thriving community of planners who make posts in their members-only forums. PJ wrote a post about what he would do differently if he started over. One of his comments was to not get too bogged down with making the perfect pieces of marketing materials, and I took that advice to heart.
The three key pieces of collateral I use are my Services and Fees handout, 12 Tough Questions To Ask A Financial Advisor (to use when a client says they are thinking about interviewing other advisors), and a sample financial plan. I don’t know why, but having a sample financial plan was really reassuring to have when I was first starting out. I think it was because I didn’t really know what my financial plan would look like. So it was kind of reassuring to myself that I could produce a valuable deliverable.
Also, part of our job as financial planners is educating people on what “real financial planning” is. If you need some reassurance or feedback about your financial plan, again, have someone from your study group peer-review it.
As the year progressed, I developed a cash flow module and spending plan. I often break this out after I ask the question about how the prospect is currently managing their finances. I show them how I think about creating a spending plan that aligns their finances with their values. The cash flow tab has a great data visualization graph. Here is a link to my spending plan and cash flow template.
7. Measure Your Activity
I heard Michael Kitces and Alan Moore say that in your first year, it is more important to measure activity than to measure results.
I use this Google Doc and I update it every Sunday night. For more details on how I use this doc to track my KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), listen to my interview on XYPN Radio with Alan Moore. It is a great way to track your progress. Also, how do you know what your conversion rate is unless you track it? Or how can you tell if a change had an effect? It’s crucial to track your KPIs from the very beginning.
Here are some of the key metrics that are important to track:
- Number of Discovery Meetings
- Number of “Plan Design” Meetings (Proposal Delivery Meetings)
- Number of Retainer Clients
- Number of One-Time Clients
- Conversion Rate of Prospects to Clients
- Number of Meetings with Professionals
- Number of Meetings with Large RIAs (if I had to do this again, I would focus on NAPFA firms specifically and not just RIAs in general, as they were more likely to give me referrals as a fellow NAPFA member, in large part because larger firms tend to have higher minimums and therefore turn more people away who need to be referred out)
- Source of Your Prospects
- Average Revenue Per Client
In addition, it is important to me to track the total number of lives I have impacted. My personal goal is to eventually touch the lives of 1 million people using personal finance as a tool for empowerment.
Another item I keep track of is the recommendations I make to my clients that have quantifiable value. Like paying off credit card debt, minimizing taxes, reducing investment fees, getting a rewards credit card, or getting out of a crappy insurance policy. This helps me feel like I am worth the financial investment my client is making. I make it a game to come up with ways that I can save my clients more money than they are spending on my monthly fee. On average, I am able to help my clients save $470/month (as compared to my average monthly retainer fee of “just” $235/month), and have helped my clients pay off a total of $400k worth of “bad” debt.
Another thing to track early on is how much time you spend on your financial plans. If someone pays you to do a one-time financial plan for $1,000, keep track of how many hours you put into it. Do the same thing for a comprehensive financial plan. After a while you will get a sense of how much you need to charge. I think a good planner should value their time at least between $150-$250/hour when you are quoting a prospect for work on a one-time project.
It was also helpful for me to see how much time I was spending on my prospecting process. I used to spend about 6 hours on a prospect before they reached their decision to work with me or not. I spent 1.5 hours of face-to-face time, 1 hour of prep before each meeting, 1 hour of writing notes after the first meeting, and another 0.5 hours of back-and-forth communication. Given the lifetime value of the client, I was happy with this investment of my time, since my conversion rate was about 75%.
As of the writing of this blog post, I recently switched to a one-meeting proposal process. Since I have about 8 prospect meetings per month, my new goal is to get a 20-30% conversion rate. That will enable me to reach my goal of 2 clients per month. I also recently raised my fees. So when you combine all those changes, I will be happy with 2 clients per month since my new process only takes about 2.5 hours of my time.
8. Develop a Strong Support System
My wife, Jen, was, and still is, very supportive, both financially and emotionally. She is just as invested in this business as I am, and I couldn’t have done this without her. Each day she is so excited to hear about the progress I am making with my business.
Make sure you and your partner are on the same page because building a business is a slow process. I gave myself a three-year time horizon in my business plan before I would make a post-MBA salary. My initial goal was to net $100k from my business within three years.
It is also important to have a strong study group. XYPN puts every new advisor who is joining and launching their own firm into a “Launchers” study group. Although my XYPN Launchers group was great initially, eventually I felt like I was ready to move on. I kind of regret this decision, though. It took me a really long time to find another one where we clicked, and I felt like I was alone for a long stretch of my first year. Fortunately, now I have a good study group, we meet each week for 90 minutes and everyone is very committed to the group.
Another way to keep the motivation up is to keep track of your accomplishments. Sometimes when you are in the day-to-day grind, it doesn’t feel like you are accomplishing very much. But when you take a step back and see everything you have done for the month, it helps give you perspective. Keep track of things like mentions in the press, the number of new clients, putting on a seminar, giving yourself your first paycheck, when you cross over 10 clients, etc. What I do is write notes on my iPhone and then once a month I upload them to something I call my “rap sheet”, which is a word doc with all my accomplishments.
9. Keep a Celebration Folder (aka “A Smile File”)
I have to give Nancy Bleeke credit for this one. As part of the Sales Pro Insider program, they send you a box of swag. One of the items is a bright yellow celebration folder. You’re supposed to use this folder to collect nice notes from clients, thank you emails you receive, and any other positive feedback you get.
The idea is to bring this folder out if you are having a bad day. I haven’t had to dig it out yet, but I think having a place to collect nice feedback helps with the mental game.
Also, don’t forget to celebrate successes. Sometimes when I signed a new client, I would buy myself something for my office. It could be something as nice as an Apple wireless mouse or a good camera for video conferences, or as cheap as a multi-color office pen from Target.
10. Off-Site Retreat
Many business leaders like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg schedule “think weeks” where they get away from it all to read, think, and plan. I really like this concept, and apply it on a small scale. I spend 1.5 days per quarter working “on” my business and not just “in” my business (see “The E-Myth Revisited”).
In fact, I wrote this blog post on my 4th quarterly off-site retreat at the Portola State Redwoods Park. I left Thursday afternoon, and came back Friday night. You don’t have to spend a lot on lodging. Going camping costs about $40 to reserve the site. But it is important to get out of your home so that you can focus.
My basic agenda looks like this:
- Review your one-page business plan and update your financial projections
- Review your Quickbook numbers for the latest month and quarter, and make sure all expenses are categorized properly
- Read, read, read. I collect interesting articles throughout the quarter, and print them to PDF so I can read them if I don’t have internet access. I also have some business books that I am working my way through. Right now I am reading “The E-Myth Revisited”.
- Set 90 day priorities that will support your 1- and 5-year goals
- Review your Profit First target allocations (see below)
- Then focus on something major you want to work on at the retreat like starting an operations manual, ironing out the details of what the first three client meetings look like, a financial planning concept I want to explore more, or creating a business mission statement
- Set the date for the next retreat
It is really nice to get away from all the distractions around your apartment or home. I find myself always tidying up (that dish doesn’t belong there), which ultimately distracts my business focus. It’s good to unplug and focus on thinking about the business.
11. Set Your Prices Just Beyond What You Feel Comfortable With
Alan Moore said this on one of his XYPN Radio podcasts and it really stuck with me. He said to price your fees at just beyond the point where you feel comfortable. If you know you can sell your plans at $1,000 all-day, maybe you are getting too many yeses and not charging enough for your expertise.
My average fee is over $1,100 for onboarding, and $235/month for the ongoing services. I still get nervous quoting those fees, but I know I provide a ton of value to my clients. Since I help my clients save $470/month, I feel confident charging them at least half that.
But remember to follow your heart and do what feels right. You will be more successful if you try to sell something you believe in, than if you try to sell something that just doesn’t feel right. Initially I tried charging an AUM fee, and it just didn’t sit right with me. I think investment management is a commodity, and I don’t add much value after setting the initial allocation with my client. So I outsource my portfolios to Betterment For Advisors.
At the time I launched, the Betterment platform fee for advisors was 0.25%. If a client went directly to Betterment, the fee could be as low as 0.15% if they invested over $100k, and they could get up to 6 months managed for free if they went to www.betterment.com/planetmoney. As a fiduciary, I couldn’t stomach charging a fee for investment management when they could get the same exact portfolio for cheaper. (Although notably, Betterment has since raised their top pricing tier to 0.25%, and XYPN advisors get access to the platform for only 0.20%.)
Nonetheless, since asset management is included with my services, I simply charge a reasonable monthly retainer fee to cover the value of my time to a point where I feel like I can include investment management for free.
12. Get Involved with Your Local Financial Planning Community
Not only was I a new firm owner when I launched, but I was also new to the Bay Area. So I got involved with my local FPA chapter, and highly recommend that you do, too.
I volunteered for pro-bono events at my local library like Financial Planning Days. I also sat on the board for the FPA NorCal conference as a Speaker Liaison. This gave me an opportunity to network with other professionals and in the case of NorCal, you get a free ticket to the conference worth $699!
Set up meetings with fellow NAPFA and XYPN members. Pick their brains. If there isn’t anyone local, set up virtual meetings. Members of the “secret society of financial advisors” are very willing to help you out, so don’t be scared. If you think about it, there are 75,000,000 Millennials, and there are only 550 XYPN advisors, so it isn’t like we are competing against each other.
A key realization that hit me like a ton of bricks was prospects aren’t asking themselves: “Do I want to hire Shawn or another financial planner?” I believe they are asking themselves “Do I need a financial plan at all?” Once I had that realization, it helped me with my approach to prospect meetings.
When you meet with fellow XYPN members or other advisors, it is also a good way to practice your pitch with live people when they ask, “so what do you do?” The more you verbalize it out loud, the more you start believing it yourself. It just feels real when you say “I provide financial planning for young professionals…” even if you don’t have a single client yet.
13. Pay Yourself – Profit First
I think it is important to treat your business like a business and not a hobby. Thus, you should pay yourself and be proud of that.
Even though I invested in conferences and professional training, I kept my fixed overhead really low, and was fortunate to be cash flow positive from almost the beginning. However, I didn’t pay myself until month 10. I wanted to make sure that my business was sustainable and that I wasn’t going to run out of cash. So, I waited until I had about $20k in my business checking account before I thought about giving myself a paycheck. I didn’t know how much I should distribute, so I did some research.
I read the book Profit First, and the premise is: take whatever balance you have in your checking account, and multiply that by 50% and that is what you should take home as owner’s pay. 15% should go to a sub-account to pay for taxes. 5% should go to a profit sub-account where you will pay yourself quarterly distributions. And then the remaining 30% is what you should use for your operations and overhead expenses. Thus, you pay yourself first and then whatever is left over is how much you should spend on your business expenses.
Then do this every 10th and 25th of the month. I like to keep $10k in my checking account at all times. So my first paycheck looked like this ($20k - $10k emergency fund = $10k x 50% owner’s pay = $5k).
Be proud of your first paycheck. Frame it. Take a picture of it. Go out to dinner to celebrate. You have worked hard and earned it. The system works because you pay yourself first, and whatever is left over is what you use for your operating expenses.
I feel very fortunate to be where I am. In 2017, I grossed $109k in revenue with about $40k in expenses. I had 99 prospect meetings, and am starting off the year with about 40 ongoing clients. Notably, I haven’t even done very much marketing. My experience over these first 20 months was “build it and they will come.” Though I don’t think that should necessarily be your expectation.
What I have had going for me was life experience (I was 34 when I launched), business experience (I earned my CFP in 2009, joined the financial planning profession in 2010, and earned an MBA from a top-10 program in 2015), and lived by a major city. I believe the last point is crucial to your success. There definitely is an appetite and hunger for good financial advice, but with personal finance people often still want to work with someone who is local. I have worked with 63 clients, and only 7 are people who I have never met in person. If you are trying to build a completely virtual practice, I think it can be done, but it will require a lot more time to build your credibility in your niche (blogging, posting to relevant forums, networking with centers of influence, etc.) so people can find their way to you. If you’re in a dense metropolitan area, it can be easier because they’re already around.
The first year is a wild ride. If you are committed to your practice and take it seriously, I am confident you will make it. This is an amazing profession, and definitely worth the effort.
So what do you think? Did you employ any of these strategies in launching your own advisory firm? How did it work out? Any suggestions of your own that aren’t included here? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!