What is your financial advisor’s most valuable asset? It’s not just investments, taxes, financial plans and saving strategies. It’s not their fancy, high-tech system or other methodologies. These can be taught, learned, or bought in the 20th century. The most valuable asset is something much easier than a tax plan yet much harder to find; it’s trust. Trust is the foundation of a strong financial practice. When you work with an advisor you trust, you know that your needs always come first. In addition, you have confidence that they care about you, your goals, dreams and aspirations.
If you are second guessing your current financial advisor, or thinking about hiring one, here are 7 great topics to discuss.
1. Are you a Fiduciary 100% of the time?
Do you have a series 7 license? If so, when do you decide if you are a part time Fiduciary and how? How are you compensated?
This is an especially important topic to understand and be comfortable with. If you trust your advisor to the core and have 30 years of shared success, the odds are the moral duty to you will supersede their own compensation. However, with the numerous compensation plans and bonus incentives in the financial services world, the mere fact that one can make variable compensation, puts your interests at jeopardy. You will never know with 100% certainty that you are always getting the best thing for YOU.
2. Continuing education.
Has your advisor kept up with the times and trends? Is someone on their team a CFP® Professional that is taking a comprehensive approach to your wealth management needs? CFP® Professionals are trained to help with a variety of life events, like how upsizing or downsizing your residence affects the sustainability of your retirement income plan. Are you having mindful discussions around after-tax returns and ROTH conversions, or just looking at “making money” with a money manager? How do charitable giving strategies and tax planning help protect your long-term family legacy? Are your advisors embracing technology to your benefit? Have they passed on their cost savings from technological advancement to you, or do they enjoy the benefits of their increased profit margins?
Employees of big brokerage firms may be prohibited from implementing a more holistic approach and you deserve to know what else might be available to you.
3. Are you overpaying for optics and branding?
The truth is you don’t need a perceived big brand to be safe anymore. You might be paying for their fancy wall street buildings and middle management overhead.
Big banks make predictions. Historically, predications are rarely accurate. They also tell you about their great research teams and how they can pick the best fund managers. According to a report by SPglobal, most funds lose to their respective benchmarks.
Do you pay for optics and complex funds that get beat by their benchmarks? Beware of the financial advisor who tell you they can “beat the market”. Back testing, proprietary strategies with short histories, and stock junkies come with their own risks that you should carefully dissect.
4. Is the juice worth the squeeze?
If your financial advisor leads with investments, does he earn his fee? Have you received a report that breaks down the performance of your portfolio while under advisement including fees? We are not suggesting you earn 20% or you fire your advisor, but does the net performance after their fees match the appropriate benchmark?
If you have a 100% fixed income portfolio comprised of actively managed municipal bond funds, does it closely mirror the index that can be purchased with lower fees?
5. Do you have a written financial plan?
Where will your income come from? What will your projected taxes be? What is the required rate of return needed to provide a reliable after-tax monthly income stream that goes on past your life expectancy? When should you take social security, and why? How is it taxed? Where does your HSA fit into your retirement plan?
If you have enough money for your lifetime, are you properly investing for your children, grandchildren or your community and legacy goals?
Life changes fast. Is your portfolio properly aligned with your new objectives?
6. Beware of insurance products disguised as investments.
Are you being pitched on insurance products to secure your financial future? Why? Remember the fiduciary discussion?
Peace of mind and safety is an important part of the financial planning process, but not at the expense of your own hard-earned dollars. Insurance solutions are simply a transfer of risk from you to the insurance carrier, and by educating yourself and working with a Fiduciary Advisor, you might prevent financial mishaps.
7. What is your advisor’s succession plan?
The average age of a financial advisor in the US is now 50 years old and that figure continues to rise. Only one in five financial advisors right now are under the age of 40. If your advisor or the advisor you are interviewing is in his late 50’s or early 60’s, which many of them are, does he have a clear succession plan on who will be managing your family’s affairs when they themselves start enjoying their own retirement?
You have had a nice run with your college buddy or your uncle, but they are ready to enjoy the fruits of their labor as well. By aligning with a nextgen advisor BEFORE you retire, you could reduce your stress and uncertainty later in life. Part of your plan should be knowing who will be helping you and your family during your entire retirement rather than experiencing the friction of finding new relationships and building TRUST all over again.
Thanasi Panagiotakopoulos is a financial fiduciary and is the owner of LIFEMANAGED. He holds the Behavioral Financial Advisor, Master of Science in Finance certifications and has over 12 years of experience.
To learn more about Thansai Panagiotakopoulos, view his Paladin Registry Research Report or go to https://lifemanaged.com.
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