What To Look For In An Effective Financial Adviser
“I’m sorry, I can’t decide on this right now, I need to talk to my financial adviser first.” How many shitty, pressured situations can you think of that this line would get you out of?
If You Don’t Want To Be A Full DIY-er
I’m a DIY kind of person. I think it’s important to be able to do something before you trust it over to another person. Certain things that you absolutely cannot do for yourself you should at least know a lot about it – knee operation, a transmission rebuild.
I am, therefore, a fan of doing your own financial analysis. I believe that you should be the CEO and COO of yourself, you, the company that you are. I’ve mentioned this before and I don’t recall where I picked up this concept but I love it. Your household is just like a business and it needs a leader and someone who will make the right decisions in it.
Just like doctors, there are good financial advisers (FA’s) and shitty ones. From personal experience, the ones that make money by selling you things or make commission on products that they recommend to you will likely not be good ones. Is that true across the board? No. Is it gonna be easier to just look for those who charge a flat monthly or annual or hourly fee? Yes.
The Role of An Adviser
A good FA should be your liaison, your ombudsman. I think of mine as my consultant. I will go through life making various decisions and if it’s something that would affect my finances I run it by my fantastic financial adviser. For example, I recently got an opportunity to switch into an HSA in my company and I recently decided to purchase a condo. Both of these were fantastic opportunities for me to work with Andrew and discuss various options. He showed me how each decision would change my retirement date and my overall financial standing.
Certification is important. Not absolutely, but I think in sea full of people who claim to be able to tell you what to do with your finances a title like CFP sets you apart.
How To Pay Your FA
Fee structures that I have come across are as follows: monthly or annual fee, fee based on whatever percent of products they sell you, AUM (a percentage of assets under management) and hourly. I personally prefer and recommend the monthly fee.
The initial consultation should be free, maybe 30 minutes to chat, so that you guys can see if you can communicate well. A pushy FA should be avoided. There will usually be an upfront fee for compiling a full financial picture. From then on you would pay the monthly fee. At any point if you feel your adviser isn’t doing any work you can stop making payments.
But remember, the best adviser will prevent you from making very costly mistakes. They will advise you to get a pre-marital agreement, they will make sure that you have a healthy emergency fund and they will keep you from selling all your investments when a market bottoms. So, even if you pay 1-2% of your net worth to your adviser you likely will save quite a lot more over the years.
My Experiences With Advisers
#1. The first one I worked with found me… already a bad start. He sent out some flyers to our medical school so I went and met with him and he tried to sell me on life insurance and some other things. I had no clue what the shit he was talking about so I never got back to him.
#2. The second one was the guy that was doing my taxes. Somehow he convinced me that for $375/hr he could consult with me on my personal finances. Nah, not really. I spent a total of 2.5 hours with him in different sessions and it wasn’t a good use of my money.
#3. The third guy sort of found me, too. He lived in my condo building and was just super friendly. Then we started hanging out. Then he offered to help me with my finances. Then he sold me on a lot of expensive mutual funds which had 4-5% of purchasing fees and 1-2% annual maintenance fees. Then he tried to sell me on whole life insurance which really has no place in my life at this stage in my career. I “fired” him but it was a bit of an ugly process. However, I learned a lot from him. I would have gladly paid him hourly to advise me but he wasn’t interested in that.
#4. The fourth guy was awesome! Very calm and cool, knowledgeable and not pushy. He charged an annual fee of $2,500. We worked together for one year and then he moved on to a bigger firm where they charged 1.25% of assets annually (AUM). So I didn’t continue my work with him.
#5. I then did the DIY for a couple of years and was very happy. However, I realized that I wanted to focus my energy on other things so I found Andrew early this year and have been very happy with him.
A good place to start in my opinion is the XY Planning network.