Financial planning with the In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida Group.

The decision has been made. I'm going out on my own. Yes, my own financial planning firm. I can see it now. Clients will flock to me from far and wide, seeking wise counsel. All I need is my ADV and a stack of business cards, and I'm set. But first, I must choose a name for my firm-to-be. Ugh.

Looking for inspiration, and maybe an opportunity for creative plagiarism, I turn to the FPA and NAPFA directories, as well as the listing of advisory firms on the SEC Web site. Hey, no need to reinvent the wheel here.

It seems that the names of financial advisement firms, by and large, fit into four broad categories: Proprietary, Grandiose, Geographic and Enigmatic.

Proprietary names are direct and to the point. Your name is Joe Kazoo. You call yourself Joe Kazoo Financial Planning. A guy I worked with for a while, Ed Baldrige, named his firm Baldrige Asset Management. Baldrige is a good name. It works well. Thumbing through the organization directories, I'd say that about one-third of all the firms out there incorporate the name of the principal into the name of the business, all the way from Aaron Wilbanks RIA of Oklahoma City to New York's Zweig Consulting. I like the simplicity of a proprietary name; unfortunately it simply isn't going to work in my case ... Wild Financial Planning? I don't think so. Wild Investment Management? Worse. Darn those Bavarian ancestors of mine.

Then there are the Grandiose titles. Those usually end in the word group, as in Allied Consultant Group, or Consolidated Financial Group. Sometimes you'll also see the word associates, as in George C. Campbell Associates or Georgina A. Worth Associates. Rule of thumb: Any firm with the word group or associates is some goof, often named George or Georgina, who works out of the kitchen in slippers and pajamas. I do that myself sometimes. Some days, I don't shave, either. But I just couldn't call myself a group and look in the mirror and not laugh. I might as well call myself The Three Stooges Group.

The next category is Geographic. My friend Chris Jones calls his outfit Keystone Financial. Get it? We live in Pennsylvania, the Keystone State. Cambridge Financial is another Geographic name. That one is pretty famous. There's also an Oxford Financial Group, in Indiana, not England. And there's a Scarsdale Investment Group, sort of like the diet, and a Swarthmore Financial, and a Bretton Woods Financial Group, too. Here, once again, I don't exactly luck out. I live in Allentown, and big thanks to Billy Joel, people don't associate Allentown with wealth. Quite the contrary. Calling myself Allentown Wealth Management wouldn't be quite as bad as Bangladesh Wealth Management, but it isn't going to bring in hordes of clients, either.

Finally, we have the Enigmatic names. Those are the ones that make you go Huh? Whaa? What in the world did this guy have in mind? The organization directories are absolutely filled with these. My faves include the Seattle firm of You Times 2 LLC and the San Diego firm that calls itself 4 Square Services. But my very favorite is a South Dakota fee-only outfit that calls itself Tan-i-lag Planning & Investing. I just love the hyphens.

I figure that I could make financial planning history if I could somehow incorporate elements of all four categories-and hyphens-into my new firm name. Let's see, how about ... The Depressed City Wild Financial Planning and Parsley In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida Group. Has a ring to it, don't you think?

Russell Wild is a fee-only planner in Allentown, Pa. He is starting his own firm, the true name of which he cannot reveal for fear of being ridiculed.