When it comes to financial planning, most Americans take a do-it-yourself approach.
In fact, various surveys and studies over the years have shown that anywhere from 60 to 70 percent or more don’t have a financial advisor.
But does that mean the remaining minority who do hire someone are more confident about what the future holds for them financially?
Maybe. But maybe not.
Most of those people say they don’t completely trust that their advisor is always acting in their best interests, according to a poll by the American Association of Individual Investors.
That distrust could even be part of the reason some people decide to forgo using an advisor at all.
“People see headlines about shady practices that exist in the financial word, and as a result they become leery of working with any financial advisor because they no longer know who to trust,” says Chris Hobart (www.hobartfinancialgroup.com), a financial professional and financial commentator.
It was the shady practices of one such advisor that put Hobart on the path to a career in financial services. His grandmother placed her trust in an advisor who “advised her right out of her life savings,” he says.
“I think it’s important for those of us in the industry to demand more of ourselves, because investors deserve more from us,” he says. “We must call out questionable practices when we see them.”
But what can the average person do to improve the odds that they are working with an advisor they can trust? Hobart suggests a few questions to ask yourself about the person you rely on to handle your finances:
- Is your advisor honest when discussing how they are paid? Financial professionals are paid in a number of ways, but the financial industry hasn’t always been forthcoming about compensation, Hobart says. Some are paid on commission. Some charge fees. Some work based on a combination of commissions and fees. It’s important to know just what you are paying for the services. “Clients often are hesitant to ask how their advisors make money,” he says. “Don’t be. A trustworthy advisor will have an honest, open conversation with you about this.”
- Does your advisor encourage questions? “Any good relationship is built on open, two-way communication,” Hobart says. “It’s your money. You deserve to know exactly how it’s being invested and why.” But a good advisor will do more than answer your questions, he says. They will also proactively provide information to you about your accounts, whether you ask or not.
- Does your advisor know you? Everyone is different, with their own goals and dreams about the future. “The right financial plan for you isn’t the right plan for anyone else,” Hobart says. “Your advisor should offer personalized financial planning that fits your life, not cookie cutter advice that’s the same for everyone.”
“Now, more than ever, investors are demanding honesty from not only individual advisors but also larger financial institutions,” Hobart says. “There is no longer space within the industry for financial professionals who are motivated only by their own financial gains.”