Finding an effective and trustworthy financial advisor to help you invest your money can be a daunting task, made all the more stressful by the fact that most people are not aware of how to evaluate the expertise and integrity of the financial advisors they are meeting with. While a lot goes into deciding who to trust with your money, the following three factors can provide a lot of insight into whether an investment professional tasked with making decisions on your behalf is worth their salt.
1. Are you getting your investment advice from a licensed Portfolio Manager or a salesperson?
Most financial advisers, particularly those attached to banks, are little more than investment salespersons whose job it is to sell you one of the cookie-cutter portfolios provided by the bank. When you invest with such institutions you rarely have access to the licenced portfolio manager actually making the investment decisions with your money. You likely interact solely with a salesperson whose job it is to convince you to buy into these under-thought financial products. When you get your advice directly from a licensed Portfolio Manager you will be getting advice from a person who is trained and licensed to make investment decisions on behalf of their clients.
2. Is your financial advisor fully invested in the portfolio they are selling you?
Most financial advisors do not invest their own personal money in the same portfolios as their clients. Heard about the CEOs of social media and tech companies who say they would never give their kid an iPad? It’s the same situation here. It is all too common for financial advisors to ask clients to take risks that they are not willing to take with their own money.
Don’t be afraid to ask a potential financial advisor how much of their own money they’ve placed in the portfolio they are trying to sell you. If the financial advisor invests in the same products as their clients, then chances are that you are in better hands.
3. Is your financial advisor selling you a cookie-cutter portfolio?
Financial advisors, especially those who work at large banks or large investment firms, are selling you one of many cookie-cutter portfolios created by their employers. Such advisers use risk questionnaires to sort clients into groups that will determine which boilerplate portfolio they will be assigned to. You need a Portfolio Manager who will tailor your portfolio to your objectives. A portfolio manager who can describe to you a well-thought out, specific approach for building the portfolio is going to be the one who acts in your best interests.
In long-term investing, the goal is always to grow capital steadily over time. Whether you are a risk-taker or highly conservative doesn’t change the fact that you want to retire well. Determining quality investments and using a proven buy/sell decision-making model is what makes that happen, not a risk tolerance questionnaire whose results may change if you happened to watch Wolf of Wall Street that past weekend. Asking your portfolio manager about their investing process will shed light on whether you will be paying for expert strategy or a one-size-fits-all product.
When being courted by financial advisors, remember: this is a long-term relationship you will be entering into. Do your research, ask questions, and know which questions to ask.