Finding the Right Financial Advisor is a little like Dating…
Typically, people will have several relationships before they find the right partner. The process of finding the right financial advisor is similar in that you are hopefully entering into a long-term relationship which benefits both of you.
Before choosing who, you are going to entrust your money with and plan for your future, meet with several, do not just settle for the first one you meet. Even a referral from a friend may not mean that advisor is right for you; do your research. Advisors come in all shapes and sizes, and let’s face it, not everyone is a perfect match so interview a few until you are comfortable with your choice.
Some things to consider before choosing your advisor.
Obviously, you want to choose an advisor the knows what they are doing, so you can be confident in their recommendations. Look for titles like CFP, CIM, CFA. Watch out for less regulated titles that get thrown around such as Financial Advisor and Investment Advisor as these are easy to get, and you may find these advisors to be less experienced and less knowledgeable.
Is the advisor working for you, or a larger corporation like a bank? Independent advisors basically work directly for you; they want to ensure what you invest in is best for you - their employer.
An advisor employed by a larger corporation such as a bank, on the other hand, may have other directives from their employer that are unbeknownst to you. They may push you in a direction or suggest products that are more of a benefit to their employer. It may not seem apparent at first, but if you look at a recommended portfolio, and if every investment is with the same company, you really need to question why you are not holding products from other companies. This would apply to mutual funds and Exchange-traded funds.
Always ask how the advisor gets paid. Most advisors now charge a fee based on the assets you invest with them. Make sure you are comfortable with what you are getting charged, and it is comparable to others. You should have full disclosure on the fees. The same fee on a non-registered investment embedded in a mutual fund will not be deductible, vs a separate fee charged overall on the whole account could be deducted on your taxes. Do not think for a minute that you are not getting charged if a fee isn’t coming out of your account. Mutual funds pay out net of fees; meaning they take the fee out before paying you.
Non-Discretionary vs Discretionary Advisors
Some Advisors can give you advice but cannot make investment decisions for you; you must be consulted on every move in your portfolio. Others, typically known as Portfolio Managers, have demonstrated the knowledge and experience to afford them the fiduciary responsibility to invest on your behalf based on your risk tolerance. If you want someone to manage your money with little intervention on your part, you may look for the latter. If you are more hands on, either will work.
Communication is key to any relationship.
1. How does the advisor speak to you?
If you walk out of a meeting confused, run. There is a saying that if you cannot explain something simply, then you do not know it well enough. If you feel you need a translator, you should probably keep looking. Find someone you feel comfortable talking to.
2. Do they listen to what you have to say?
Some people do not listen well; they are too busy thinking about what they are going to say next, and much of what you want to get across to the advisor gets missed. If they are not listening, they may be more interested in just selling you something than helping you plan.
Making sure everyone is on the same page right at the beginning of the relationship will help ensure things get off to a good start. Have a lengthy conversation about what you expect out of the relationship. This can include frequency and type of communication, your risk tolerance, type of investments you wish to have or avoid, and are financial planning services offered, and is it included with your fee or charged separately. Although rate of return expectations should be determined as a result of a financial plan; talk about it. Sometimes people get upset when they hear others may be getting better returns elsewhere without considering the risks others may be taking to get those returns.
Make sure financial planning is offered as it should form an integral part of your relationship with the advisor and should be part of the fees you pay for their services. Ask for a sample plan and have them walk you through it. This is the blueprint to building your financial nest egg. Plans help in determining the rate of return you need to reach your goals and lets you know if you are on track, or what you need to do to get there. Investing is only one component of the puzzle. Plans should be updated regularly, and if something significant has happened in your life make sure you communicate this to your advisor, so the appropriate changes can be made to the plan.
1. It’s 2021 and everything is online. Once you have narrowed your choices down to 1 or 2 advisors, check them out on social media! Sometimes you get to see a side of people that is not apparent in an interview. If they post a lot of things, you are not comfortable with, it should help you decide. Google them and see what comes up and check them out on Facebook, if they have a page.
2. Industry Disciplinary actions are a big red flag. You can pull up potential advisors to see if there has been any disciplinary action against them and verify their credentials. Here is a list of resources to begin your research.
- IIROC Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada
- MFDA Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada
- FP Canada FP Canada Standards Council
Even after doing your research, if you are still uncomfortable with your options, do not settle, be diligent, the right one will come along.
Bottom line is, it is your money and your future, be careful who you entrust it to. A little research in the beginning may save you a lot of grief and money in the future.