In my limited five year foray into personal finance, I have encountered many a financial advisor. Some that work directly for the banks, some that work for wealth-building personal finance companies (usually requiring you to have lots of assets before they even take you on), and some that work for smaller financial firms.
They all seemed very nice to me, some of them more pushy than others. I share my experience with the three financial advisors when I first started my interest in personal finance in a previous post. They had varying knowledge on finance advice, it seems. It also seems very difficult to navigate the personal finance industry, it seemed that even those IN the industry didn't seem to understand it. How I came about finding them is an interesting story too. For the most part, they found me, and not the other way around.
One financial advisor told me that he wouldn't get any commission from my buying the mutual fund. I trusted him 100% but later on found out that a 3.45% MER was deducted from my mutual fund contribution annually. It's really difficult to figure out who to trust with your hard earned money. Finding a financial advisor that you can really trust can be an enduring process to say the least.
You want someone who you can depend on and know that they're not there to gouge your wallet and reap commissions and MER's off you, but that they're there to support you in growing your wealth and be accountable for a sagging and lack luster portfolio, if any.
Here are some tips on how to find a good financial advisor:
- Don't choose a friend or relative or family friend– if things go sour, or you want out, you may feel obliged to stick it out with them just out of guilt. Not taking action because of guilt= bad thing. Unless you feel comfortable telling your friend/relative/family friend that you're not happy with the way your money is going, I would stay away from this
- Know what type of financial advisor they are- Certain financial advisors make money from commissions when they sell you a mutual fund, and other financial advisors charge a fee for service (so you will receive non-biased information)… but usually these financial advisors deal with HUGE portfolios.
- Make sure you feel comfortable with them and can trust them... meet them in person a few times before you hand over your money for them to invest with
- Make sure they understand your short term, medium term and long range goals and help you with them (e.g. that they don't encourage you to lock your money in an investment for five years when you know you might be needing to withdraw the money soon for a down payment). This example should give you red flags that your advisor isn't there for your best interests
I hope those tips help you. Personally, I choose to go at it alone- at least if I want to blame someone, I can blame myself and I am accountable for my own actions. No one cares more about your money than you! I still have a small amount left with a financial advisor (because I am locked-in with said mutual fund until 2012), but I cut most of my ties with financial advisors by switching to BMO Investorline from Investors' Group and more recently, closing one of my RRSP accounts by using the Home Buyer's Plan.
Readers, have you had good or not so good experiences with your financial advisor? Did you end up sticking with the same advisor even though in your perspective, they weren't handling your hard-earned money that well? If so, why?