When a new client walks into Laura Pedroncelli's office seeking financial advice, the first thing he or she is apt to do is pull out a spreadsheet, says the 45-year-old financial advisor. "It comes naturally to them," she says. "Most of them are engineers. They have their theories about investing and saving, and I offer mine, and we usually meet somewhere in the middle."

Pedroncelli is a fee-only advisor for the Sonoma, Calif., branch of First Tech Federal Credit Union, a large credit union with branches up and down the West Coast, and across the South as far east as Atlanta.

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