On NPR's On Point with Tom Ashbrooke on February 25th, I referred to a list of questions that each investor should ask his or her financial advisory, aka "your guy." These will help ensure your savings are invested to benefit you, rather than the advisor or their company. Here they are. Please, please use them.
Six Critical Questions to Ask Your “Guy”:
1. How are you paid? Fee-only advisers receive no compensation from the sale of investment products. All others do. You can’t count on an adviser who gets a significant portion of their pay in sales commissions. Period. Leave if they are not fee-only.
2. Do you have any conflicts of interest that influence the advice you provide? Financial advisers who are registered representatives get paid to sell insurance or annuity products promoted by their brokers. Ask how they choose the investments they recommend. Ask them directly how they are paid.
3. Will my assets be housed with an independent custodian -- that is, a bank that is not selling the investment products? “Yes” is the only acceptable answer here. Bernie Madoff’s firm did not use one. Enough said.
4. Are your clients similar to me? If your fee-only adviser’s typical client has a net worth of $1 million or more, and you aren’t rich, think twice.
5. What services do you provide? If the adviser’s primary service is investment advice, and you are looking for someone to construct a complete financial plan for you, this adviser is unlikely to be a good match.
6. Do you act in a fiduciary capacity towards your clients? Leave fast if they don’t say yes. You are asking the broker if he or she is obligated to put your interest first, before that of his or her firm. If there is any other answer but a clear yes, grab your wallet tight and leave.