Question: I have been working with a financial planner for a few years and I’m not satisfied. It isn’t so much about the investment part. That’s been OK. But I just don’t feel like he knows I am alive. Is it too much to expect to be able to find someone who will take care of me and my money?
Answer: It is not too much to ask that a financial advisor be a competent partner in assisting you achieve your realistic financial goals.
It is, however, unrealistic to expect a financial advisor to “take care of you.” Your use of that language prompts me to offer three ways you may unwittingly sabotage your relationship with any financial advisor.
So, here are three big things not to do when working with a financial advisor:
1. Believe everything your advisor says. You should never enter into an important relationship (such as the one you have with a financial advisor) without a high level of trust. If you suspect that your advisor might not have your best interest at heart, don’t stick with her one more minute.
A relationship of trust is not, however, permission for you to check your brain at the door. Your advisor should be part coach and part teacher. She should not only help you do the right things financially, but be able to communicate the reason why she is advising these things.
Ask good questions. And if the answer comes back wrapped in technical jargon, ask for clarification. Don’t be satisfied with a foggy, vague answer. Work with your advisor to understand why you are being asked to do certain things. It’s not too much to ask.
2. Believe nothing your advisor says. Once you’ve been burned (or at least disappointed), it may be a long time before you trust someone again. While that emotion is understandable, it is not profitable. If you need someone who can help you with your financial life, then you need someone you can trust.
No advisor is perfect, but many are competent and trustworthy. Keep searching until you find one that seems to be a good fit for you.
If you keep your advisor at arm’s length, never fully trusting him, your relationship will not produce the results you both want and need.
Don’t be satisfied with a trust-less relationship.
3. Forget the difference between delegation and abdication to your advisor. I have long said that my own, totally unscientific estimate of the population that has the time, talent, temperament to do their own financial planning falls somewhere between 5% and 10%. Everyone else (in my humble opinion) could benefit from outside, professional advice.
What you are getting from any professional relationship, however, is assistance, not replacement. I have a colleague in another state who tells prospective new clients, “I don’t want to care more about your financial situation than you do.”
When you hire a financial advisor, you are really delegating certain functions of your financial life to that person – you have made the decision that it is worth the money to buy a portion of their time, talent and temperament to assist you in achieving your financial goals.
But never forget – it’s your money and your life. Ultimately, you will reap the benefits or suffer the consequences for what happens.
You know you have crossed the line between delegation and abdication when you choose to never think about what’s going on with your money, and choose not to meet with your advisor to find out. Stay in touch and stay informed.
I am sorry you’ve had a bad experience, but don’t give up.
Like it or not, your financial future is advancing towards you one day at a time. If you are one of the many who could benefit by getting professional help in preparing for that future, don’t give up.
The search for the right advisor is worth it.
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