Get to know your advisor.
You need to forge a trusting relationship with your financial advisor, but one with clear guidelines and boundaries that you and your advisor understand and respect. Here are some statements you should not expect (or may not even want) to hear from a financial advisor (and some things they should never tell you).
"I know the future."
Everyone wants to know what will happen next. Your financial advisor doesn't really know it better than anyone else. There is "proven low predictive power" for success in picking stocks or mutual funds, says Fran Kinniry, senior investment strategist for Vanguard Investment Strategy Group. Clients shouldn't expect advisors to know what will happen next in the markets or the economy.
"Whatever you say -- no risk."
What financial advisors can do is guide people to save and accumulate wealth. A key role financial advisors must play in helping people accumulate wealth is to coax them to take on risk. "They should be trying to maximize how much risk you are willing to take," Kinniry says. "The most you can possibly stomach, but not too much risk."
"This is an economic certainty."
Some financial advisors take the easy course of playing on client fears surrounding hot-button issues facing the market, or the opposite: get-rich-quick schemes in real estate or things "no one else has heard about yet." Fear of runaway inflation is one pitch that works well at triggering a wave of investment alternatives like commodities.
"This financial plan should fit you just fine. And Larry. And Jane."
People's lives are complicated. There are many financial issues that can change over time, such as kids' college costs, health issues, job losses, divorces or an inheritance. "The advisor needs to keep engaging with the client, identifying scenarios and outcomes, and providing guidance when things arise," says John Nersesian, managing director of wealth management services at Nuveen Investments.
"Why are you asking for a second opinion?"
You can always get advice from more than one financial advisor, just as you can with a doctor's opinion, and many people like to use more than one financial advisor. "No advisor should be worried about being put in a competitive situation," Smith says. An advisor's willingness to admit they can't handle every financial issue that comes up could be a good sign, Kinniry says.
"Fees are too complicated to explain."
Know exactly what you are paying for, experts say. "You want to pay lowest rate possible," Kinniry says. Fees are one of the only things that are certain in investing, but they are also among the most misunderstood. Expect clear, understandable answers in simple, direct language. And do your best to understand exactly what you are paying for.
"I know everything."
Don't take it as a negative if an advisor says, "I don't know," when you ask for specifics, or "I don't do that." No single advisor knows everything, and sometimes you might need an accountant or a tax or trust lawyer. "The very best advisors and brightest investors are humble enough to know what they don't know," Nersesian says. It might cost more to get specialized advice, but it's often worth it.
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