Sometimes it is easier to learn which advisors you should avoid versus learning how to select the best advisors. This can be tougher than it sounds because good and bad advisors look and sound a lot alike. Bad advisors are not bad people. They may have great personalities and are extremely likeable. Unfortunately, these character traits have nothing to do with competence or ethics.
Some of the most dangerous advisors are likeable and they possess exceptional sales skills. They are very skilled at convincing people that they are real advisors who put their client’s financial interests first.
So, who should you avoid getting financial advice from?
- Someone who lacks experience though multiple business cycles. Anybody that tells you to hang tight though a market correction better have been through one to know what it is like to be scared stiff. It is human nature to be afraid of losing. It helps if your advisor can give you tips on how to survive the carnage. It’s even better if he has a plan to help you rebuild. Of course, best of all, it would have been nice to not lose so much in the first place!
- Someone with very little life experience. How can someone give you advice if they have never experienced unemployment, divorce and death? You need someone to help you prepare for potential misfortunes. It is also important to have somebody who knows how to handle good fortune. Knowing how to handle money in good times is equally important. Young advisors should be teamed up with an experienced advisor who can help the Padawan learner become a better money Jedi in the future while still helping people now.
- Bankers, Insurance agents and Registered Representatives that are captive to one financial institution. Do not assume banks are trustworthy sources of financial advice and services. Banks sell investment and insurance products to generate more revenue streams from their customers. They have staffed their branches with many low quality reps who are paid commissions to sell the products that make the banks the most money. You will notice that turnover is extremely high because the high-pressure sales tactics they use do not allow for proper relationship building with clients. Should you buy investment products from the insurance agents who want to sell you car or life insurance? Of course you shouldn’t. These are completely different skill sets. But, the insurance companies view everything they sell as just one more product and one more way to generate additional revenue streams from their customer bases.
- An advisor that is not a fiduciary. The fiduciary standard requires your money steward to hold your assets in trust and manages the assets for your best interests, not their own. Although not a guarantee of bad financial advice, advisors who are not fiduciaries have a strong potential conflict of interest. There is no universal designation for the financial practitioner. But one thing is certain, you want an advisor who puts your interests ahead of their own.
- An advisor that doesn’t follow a model that wealthy people use. All financial planning should be based on a successful model, not on pushing financial products. Otherwise, you end up with a “hodgepodge” of different financial products that do not work together to reach your objectives. Beware the planner who prepares a computerized plan and then wants to charge you to invest your money. It’s the hottest scam out there right now. These guys make their money by charging fees to place your assets with a money manager, not by coordinating all of your assets to work together in harmony.
No one likes feeling like they might be taken advantage of and the financial services industry preys on the unsuspecting public.
However, there are pluses to working with a financial advisor. Good advisers help their clients stay the course, helping clients manage the psychological roller coaster ever-present when markets swing wildly during economic tumult. There are plenty of great advisers. But you have to look carefully for ones that aren’t just paid a commission to sell you products.
Much like you’d go to the doctor for health reasons—you may want to build a relationship with a “money doctor”. Financial advisors often have the knowledge and experience in working with all sorts of financial products and services that you may not have the time to devote to learning. A great financial advisor will have many years of handling different sorts of complex financial and life situations and can use that experience to help you address your own unique needs and wants.
However, in the end, the conflicts of interest in dealing with an advisor are a huge distraction from getting the financial help you need to be successful. If advisors are not making money for their company, they are not an asset to the firm. This means if they are not gaining clients and bringing in money management fees and commissions, they will surely lose their job.
This means that “sales skills” are the premium at financial institution, not necessarily financial acumen. And, the customer is the one who always pays the price.
I understand that people choose salespeople that they know, like, and trust.
However, when choosing a financial advisor, that just isn’t enough anymore.