by Jack Waymire
Your money is important. You worked hard for it. So how do you find the best financial advisor, someone you can trust, to ensure it is safe and growing toward retirement?
The Internet is a game-changer when it comes to the financial-advisor world. We live and work in an information-based society, so it no longer makes sense to base your financial-advisor selection decisions on a simple sales pitch or a flier you receive in the mail.
The Internet allows you find, research and compare advisors before they even know you’re looking at them. But how can you level the playing field so you make the “right” decision when you select a financial advisor? And, how about making a “safer” decision that reduces your risk of selecting the wrong advisor? The answer is at your fingertips!
You already know that you live in an age where you can find just about anything you want to know on the Internet. You just have to know where to go to find the information and understand the importance of what you find.
Using the Internet to research financial advisors is not a new or revolutionary idea. What is new is using the Internet to control a process that helps you make the right decision to find the best financial advisor.
You are no longer limited to the information that advisors provide you in their sales pitches. When advisors control information, you hear what they want you to hear. It is also easy to manipulate information with misrepresentation and omission because there is no written record of what was said to you.
The Internet provides a level of transparency that is still relatively new to an industry that is used to controlling the information you rely on to select financial advisors.
So, who are the best financial advisors? This is the mystery that the Internet will help you solve. Yes, it is going to take a little time on your part, but a little effort now can pay big dividends later.
There are more than 600,000 advisors and registered representatives in the U.S. who sell financial advice, services and products. Every major city in America has thousands of advisors who purport to be trustworthy financial experts. But, after years of researching advisors, we can tell you that many are not. Only about 15 percent of these advisors are real experts. At least 50 percent are salespeople, and 35 percent are in transition from selling to advising.
Your challenge is to select a trustworthy advisor who can provide high-quality advice that helps you achieve your financial goals.
When trying to select the best, you need to search websites that publish the information you need and not just information that contains hidden risks. You’ll need to use the Internet to validate the information advisors provide you during interviews. You need to watch for red flags and learn how to recognize them.
You win when you control the process.
When I wrote “Who’s Watching Your Money” in 2000-2002, the stock market was in a major tailspin that would ultimately cost investors $8 trillion in realized and unrealized losses. Investors who had been riding the 1990s boom for tech, dotcom and communications stocks were stunned when their retirement and savings accounts were devastated by losses of 50 percent or more. Millions of investors spent years recovering losses only to be hit again by the toxic mortgage meltdown that triggered the 2008 stock market crash and another $12 trillion of realized and unrealized losses.
I remember one friend in particular who spent 18 years in the banking industry accumulating retirement assets in her company’s 401k plan. She decided to join another bank in 1999 and felt relieved when a Dean Witter branch manager agreed to help her invest the retirement assets she had rolled into an IRA. The manager recommended several proprietary Dean Witter mutual funds that were heavily invested in technology-related stocks. She left the meeting feeling her financial future was in good hands. After all, Dean Witter was a brand name, the branch manager was an experienced professional and their slogan sounded right: “We measure success one investor at a time.”
However, when the dust settled after the 2000-2002 stock market crash, she had lost 65 percent of her retirement savings. Retirement was no longer a realistic option. She would have to work another 10 to 15 years to recover her losses. In the meantime, the branch manager had pocketed some sizable commissions and Dean Witter had deducted thousands of dollars of expenses from her accounts.
It was painfully obvious her losses were more than they should have been because she selected the wrong financial advisor.
I decided to write this book after hearing story after story that described how bad financial advice had made bad stock market returns even worse. However, I was also realistic. I knew there was nothing I could write that would impact the business practices of the firms that make up the industry we call Wall Street.
A lot has changed since that book went to press, so I decided to write another book, which is being published as we speak. This book, “Selecting The Best Financial Advisor,” shows investors how to use the Internet to find the best financial advisor, what questions they should be asking and how.
If I was going to help investors protect their financial interests, the emphasis had to be on their selection of financial advisors. You and I can’t change Wall Street business practices, but we can change the way we pick financial advisors.
You have to control the process for selecting your financial advisor. If you don’t control the process, the advisors will.
I will be writing more about this topic throughout the year. I will show you how to find compliance records, recognize red flags and how to whittle your list of “good advisors” down to the one who’s right!
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