How does he mind the store when away? "When the market crashed [in 2008], my wife and I were in Italy for three weeks. I had with me a netbook and my iPhone. I talked to my daughter every day and, having GoToMyPC, would log in, look at client e-mails and respond then and there," says Keil, who apparently has clients who are conditioned to accepting market volatility. "But I didn't really get that many e-mails. My clients accept my traveling."

Bill Bengen
Bill Bengen, CFP, owner of Bengen Financial Services Inc. of El Cajon, Calif., since 1988, is another advisor who works with just one associate-his wife, Cookie. While he is famous for his ground-breaking research into retirement withdrawal rates, he divides his time between his home in the San Diego suburbs and a getaway place near La Quinta.

Offering comprehensive financial planning and investment management services, Bengen says, "I try to run a low-cost operation that's very personal for my clients. I'm in very close contact with all my clients, not just once a year, but fairly frequently."

Many of Bengen's clients are friends and/or golfing partners. "I guess my practice is like that of the family doctor model from many years ago," he says, as Bengen is even available to his approximately 85 clients on nights and weekends, if necessary.

To make it all work, Bengen uses technology-in particular paperless office technology-and outsources where possible (e.g., accounting, compliance, computer IT). "I outsource everything possible so I can focus on the things I do best and enjoy the most: financial planning and managing money."

Bengen looks forward to modest growth, desiring to increase his $50 million under management to $55 million to $60 million. Above that, he sees the need to expand staff, which, for lifestyle reasons, he won't do. It would also force him out of his home office, which is unacceptable.

In fact, Bengen has two home offices. "For vacations, Cookie and I mainly spend time at our vacation home in La Quinta, Calif., where I also have a home office setup."

Bengen, who holds two engineering degrees from MIT, charges clients relatively low fees. He earns about 60 basis points on his assets under management and his overhead comes to about 15%-18% of his gross, leaving him with annual take-home of approximately $250,000.

Glenn Meyer
At fee-only GDM Advisory Group Ltd. in Jenkintown, Pa., Glenn Meyer, CPA,/PFS, CFP, ChFC, CLU, serves 220 individual clients whose net worth ranges from $200,000 to $20 million. He has just one administrative assistant.

Meyer got his training in big accounting firms, having worked in financial planning at Ernst and Whinney in 1989 and later at KPMG Peat Marwick. "In neither case did I get the support from partners and the audit departments that I'd hoped for," says Meyer, so he built his own practice in 1993. I had to decide whether to grow with employees and partners, or have the freedom of sole ownership. I decided spending time with my family was the most important thing to me."