Paying Your Financial Advisor

Are you wondering what to look for in a financial advisor? Here is some information you need to know when looking for one.

Begin with investigating education and experience. This can be observed with the mere confidence during the initial meetings. One important issue to resolve as well is the payment method. By taking the time to look for these qualities in your possible financial advisors, you can eliminate a lot of anxiety in your financial future.

You will hire a financial advisor to render investment advices and other services. The role of a financial advisor is to help you maintain the balance of investment income and capital gains. Your advisor will also assess an acceptable level of risk by using proper asset allocation.

Financial advisors use several financial vehicles like stocks, bond, options, notes insurance, and other products to meet the needs of the clients. Many financial advisors are receiving payment through commissions. By brokering financial products, they get paid by the company but these types of advisors I do not advise. Fee-only financial advisors offer a more balanced and unbiased planning thus it is becoming more popular nowadays in the financial service industry.

If financial advisors are paid through commission for every product their clients subscribe to, they will likely be recommending changes in your portfolio which are unnecessary. You end up being misinformed due to a conflict of interest to increase their commission payments.

With advisors receiving 100% of their compensation directly from you as client, there are no conflicts of interests between theirs and those of their clients. This is often the problem with financial advisors with biases for the company they work with because of the problem created by commissions paid.
Fee-only advisors will customize an investment portfolio designed to guide the client realize short- and long-term investment goals. In addition, a simplified performance reporting is provided to make accounts monitoring as easy as possible for clients.

Find out how your financial advisor will be paid for his expertise surely is worth the trouble. Many people very frequently make the mistake of ignoring this very vital information. By choosing a scheme that would make your financial advisor as objective as possible, you will never end up regretting your choice.

Find a Financial Advisor That Won’t Charge You

The heavy fees of the credit counselors are forcing the debtors to maintain distance from such firms because they are already facing the financial problems and they cannot afford any other heavy charges of these credit councilors. By considering this difficulty of the debtors, most of the financial firms are now offering free debt counseling services with this good cause to offer their services to make their society debt free. These debt counseling firms are working on nonprofit basis and are providing the most effective advice to the debtors without charging extra money. Now, the debtors can easily find such counseling firms which do not charge even a single penny in offering their services. In this article, we are trying to guide you that from where and how you can find a free financial advisor to get rid of your debts and come back to the normal debt free live without bearing more expenses and complex situations while dealing with creditors.

The most valuable help of the free financial advisors is to repay your huge debts in form of lower monthly payments and on affordable terms. You can now easily search for the online financial advisors and you will observe that there are hundreds of firms which are offering services free of cost. You can also take assistance from the debt relief networks because the have been maintaining up to date record of the credible free financial advisors. These firms are trustable because they have vast experience and quality expertise in dealing such kind of financial matters. These companies do not indulge you in complex procedures in which you have to pay extra payment in the name of various charges. The free financial advisors are also available online and you can personally visit them. You can contact them through their tool free numbers too.

The free financial advisors are not involved in any type of money making motives, that’s why they guide you the way that is most affordable and appropriate according to your current financial situation. Before getting the free financial services, you must make sure that you have selected the most credible and experienced financial advisor, so that you can save yourself from any type of problems that often occur due to inappropriate financial advice

If you have over $10k in unsecured debt it could be a wise financial decision to consider debt negotiation. Due to the recession and overwhelming amount of people in debt, creditors are more than willing to negotiate your debt balance. There are also other debt relief options. Check out the following link to speak with a debt relief counselor for a free consultation.

How to Find Your Investment Advisor

In today’s society, finding an investment advisor that will fulfill your needs can be difficult. In order to find the advisor who is right for you, you must first evaluate your financial goals and think about your reasons for investing. Speaking with a professional and doing research on your own can both be helpful in clarifying your goals, but most people fall into broad categories of either short-term or long-term planners able to afford either high-risk or low-risk options. When saving for your newborn’s college tuition, it’s often recommended that you make choices that are relatively secure, even if they yield lower returns than some stocks. That way, you avoid the chance of the account losing money right before it’s time for Junior to leave the nest. If you are using discretionary income and hoping to increase the sum of funds available for a bigger investment, it’s important to make sure the goal is achievable in the amount of time available. From the business perspective, these responsible goals are referred to as S (Smart) M (Measurable) A (Attainable) R (Realistic) T (Timely) goals, or S.M.A.R.T goals.

Your Financial Goals

First of all, what are your financial goals? Experts suggest writing down your ideal timetable of goals in order to maintain a clear focus. In other words, are you able to set aside this fund for a long period of time? Decades, even? In addition, figure out what you want or expect from your investments. Most people would love to have their savings multiplied, but not everyone can afford to risk losing part or all of that sum. Once you have determined your goals, you should conduct your own research about the experiences of others with certain advisement professionals or firms.


Building from the last point, you will also want to research fees and compare different payment options that would fit in your financial budget. Investment advisors may be compensated with an hourly fee, fixed fee, commission, or a percentage of the value of the assets being managed, according to the SEC. Once you evaluate the alternatives with regards to your financial circumstances and goals, you will be able to effectively decide what type of payment system is applicable and secure.

Strategies & Results

Lastly, it would be wise to investigate the current investment strategies being implemented and to research the results of said strategies. The market is well known for unpredictability, and yet there are broad trends when the economy is more favorable to certain kinds of investments. Savings bonds, for instance, provide long-term security, but other strategies have the potential to yield much higher returns. Many long-term strategies, like for retirement and education, are not without their own risks. When looking for an investment advisor, keep these general tips in mind.

Financial Advisors Fake Research

There’s nothing wrong with being efficient. But when you are being efficiently deceived by the mutual fund industry, then watch your wallet. I can prove to you in the next few hundred words how this deception is happening.

Are financial advisors doing any real research for their fees? Or is there simply the appearance of research? As you will find out, the research that is being done is nothing close to what you’d think you are paying for, and this is greatly hurting your future.

In other words, advisors are trained to make it look like they’re doing real research, but they’re not. It’s not the goal, it’s not what they’re paid for, and this hurts your returns – unless you understand this and know how to deal with this.

A study done by the Financial Research Corporation in 2006 found that most financial advisors typically only read a three-to-five year history of a fund, because it’s what is quickly accessible over a computer screen. So when they’re picking funds for their clients and they’re only looking at the past 3 to 5 years of a fund, this means they’re always searching for the hot mutual funds or the fund of the day, not necessarily what may be best for their client.

It’s disturbing. Looking at the 3-5 year return on a mutual fund is not really research. That may be a first filter, but it doesn’t justify the fees that are charged.

Advisors do this because they need time to find new clients. They don’t have time to spend 3 or 4 hours a day doing their own research, finding out what’s best for their clients, because they have to bring in more clients. Clients assume they’re paying for one thing, but are really getting something very different. In fact, what the client is paying for is an abdication of responsibility.

If a financial advisor doesn’t pay most of their attention to marketing, they don’t survive. So they look to shortcuts to save time. The financial advisor saves time, and you get a sub-quality investment plan.

Let me give you two examples how financial advisors are taking shortcuts which hurt your money.

One: There are independent companies that rate mutual funds and stocks using a star system. One such company rates them as one star is low and five stars is high. Often the only research a lot of financial advisors do is look for the 5-star investments. That pushes the responsibility onto the rating company.

What that means is that financial advisors, the ones you pay to save your future and manage your money, do their research by looking to see which mutual funds have five stars. That’s not research. In some ways, that’s comparable to using whatever fund has the highest commission or fee. To short-circuit the research means you’re able to spend more time getting clients. But it’s not the way to provide stellar results to the clients.

Two: There is another “research” tool, again from an independent rating company, this thing called the style box. What style are you; are you a mid-growth person, are you a small-value person? Looking at the style box to decide where to place a person’s money is not a strategy; it’s a convenience to tell what type of mutual fund you own. So now you can say, “I own a mid-cap value fund. Now I know what I own.” But should you own that? That is another story altogether. A style box is not necessarily helping the client’s money; it’s just making it easier to package products.

“Oh, you don’t have any diversification with international value funds? Well, we must make sure you have some of that.”

Here’s the underlying problem: Many financial advisors don’t even know how to grow money. That’s right. Financial advisors as a group don’t know how to grow money. It’s not really the business they’re in, these financial advisors. They count on their own companies to tell them what to sell or “invest in” for their clients. They count on the mutual fund industry to tell them what to invest in. “Did that fund have four stars or five stars?” Have you ever heard any of the great investors talk about stars or style boxes?

Financial advisors and mutual fund companies are in the same business. And their main business isn’t really growing your money. Their main business is involving you by getting your money to a fund. That’s what many financial advisors are paid to do, that’s what they spend the bulk of their time doing, that’s how they’re recognized, and that’s their every incentive. And that’s why it’s a problem, that they’re not paid based on growing your money, only on acquiring it.

What to Ask Your Financial Advisor

Taking a look at your portfolio and your financial goals at least annually is always a great idea. With the economic recovery underway, it is more important than ever to ask your Financial Advisor the right questions before you set forth on a path for the next years to come.

Officially the recession is over, but as we creep toward what looks like a market recovery, investors are presented with new investment opportunities. When you discuss your investment goals and your portfolio with your Financial Advisor, consider asking questions that can help you understand the economic and market environment today and assess the steps you would need to take to move forward.

1. Am I taking on enough risk, the right amount of risk, or too much risk?

The recent economic downturn has made many investors lower their exposure to risk and relatively riskier assets. Certainly, in 2008-2009, their concerns may have been justified, but now, as the economy begins to recover, investors may want to consider whether their conservative positions are really aligned with their expectations of future market trends and moreover their investment goals. In light of improving market conditions it may be sensible to re-evaluate your appetite for risk and your asset allocations to avoid standing on the sidelines as market opportunities arise. In times of market volatility, a major factor that contributes to the creation of market opportunities, it is especially important to review your portfolio with your Financial Advisor at least once per quarter. This will give you peace of mind at night while your sleep, and also help ensure that your investment portfolio and asset allocation continue to match your financial objectives.

2. What can I do get back on track with my retirement savings and goals?

Regardless of where you stand relative to your target retirement goal, whether you are just about ready to retire or are already there, you need to know exactly how your retirement plan has been affected and what you can do to close the gaps in your current retirement plan – especially with respect to being able to cover your projected expenses with your projected income. Make sure to set time now and on a regular basis to have a conversation with your Financial Advisor about where you are and what you need to do to get back on track and achieve your retirement goals.

Planning for retirement includes a combination of systematic savings, investing, and spending. Depending on where you stand relative to your retirement goals, there may be many strategies that you can take advantage of to stay or get back on track. These can include accumulation strategies or even re-adjustment of how to spread your investment dollars across different assets and asset classes throughout the rest of your retirement years. For instance, people planning for retirement say a few years away can increase their rate of contributions to their employer-sponsored plans such as a 401(k), use catch-up contributions to increase funding into their IRA, or re-think their portfolio and asset allocation entirely. For example, they may want to move funds from investments that aren’t expected to recover soon into other asset classes or investments for increased diversification, such as high-quality dividend paying stocks or stocks that show strong growth potential. For those that are closer to retirement or are already retired, the focus should be around spending habits, managing taxes, and trying to strike a balance between meeting short-term income needs with long-term income needs. For instance, certain dividend-paying investments can provide retirees with short-term income streams necessary to cover their short-term expenses while also providing them with capital appreciation potential to make sure their funds last over the long-haul. You and your Financial Advisor can utilize to balance out of these factors and design the rights set of investment strategies for you.

3. Is my portfolio really diversified – or should I consider other sectors and asset classes?

Asset allocation is certainly the hallmark of sensible and prudent investing. Going back to the recent market downturn, diversified portfolio at large had relatively smaller performance drops than those that were help in concentrated positions in only a few asset classes. Make sure to review your asset allocation strategy with your Financial Advisor to make sure you have hedges in place in case of a sudden and violent market event. For instance, some investments did relatively well during the recent recession such as Treasuries and managed futures. So ask yourself if you have exposure to a broad range of asset classes, because it is the one of the greatest hedges against market volatility.

4. How can I shift my portfolio to be prepared for unexpected cash flow needs?

Make sure not to tie up too many of your funds in illiquid investments. If most of your investments in your portfolio are held in hedge funds, private equity, non-traded reits and the like, you may find yourself in a very illiquid and unfavorable position once liquidity becomes a concern – say you need money for an emergency or an expense. At which point, you may be forced to sell out of these illiquid investments at the worst times to meet your short-term liquidity needs. Factor in your liquidity needs in advance so you may be prepared for unanticipated events such as a major expense, a crisis such as a job loss, or a major event such as business opportunity.

5. Is the timing right to begin planning my philanthropic legacy?

Leaving a legacy may sound like an overwhelming task, but it can be quite simple – at least to start with. Explore charitable organizations that you feel most passionate about and discuss your goals with your Financial Advisor. There are many ways to have your portfolio prepare you to leave a lasting mark on the values you feel strongly about such as education or energy conservation. Basic techniques such as utilizing donor-advised funds, charitable remainder trusts, or family foundations can all set you on track to fulfilling your philanthropic goals.

Finding a Financial Advisor

Retirement often presents us with bewildering choices: When to retire? Where to live? How to occupy one’s time? These kinds of decisions are mostly matters of personal choice, and though you can seek the advice of friends and family, ultimately you’ll need to decide them on your own. However, the financial aspects of retirement – how you will derive income from your assets now that you’re no longer drawing a steady paycheck – comprise one broad area where you should consider seeking professional advice, particularly if your financial situation is complex.

Personal financial advisors are more prevalent than ever, and eager to apply their expertise to your situation. An advisor will sit down with you and look at your complete financial picture: any income you have from investments or pensions, your overall assets, your property, any debts or financial obligations you may still have. A good advisor may further help you make decisions regarding insurance and estate planning, and of course will weigh all the tax consequences. In this way, your advisor will help you formulate an overall plan for income in retirement, for adequate insurance, and for passing on your estate as beneficially as possible.

What should you look for in a financial advisor? First of all, credentials. The field is broad and all-encompassing, and people from many professional backgrounds can hang out a shingle advertising financial advice. One of the most respected credentials to look for is “CFP” (Certified Financial Planner). Earning this credential requires working through half a dozen rigorous courses, passing several exams (including ethics training), and having three years of job experience. Other designations included CPA (Certified Public Accountant), CPA/PFS (a CPA with training in financial planning), ChFC (Chartered Financial Consultant, with expertise in insurance matters), and CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor). But a CFP will generally have the broadest training.

Another major consideration is fiduciary responsibility. Credentialed financial planners are held to a fiduciary standard, which means that they are professionally required to offer advice that is in their clients’ best interest. On the other hand, a broker, who can also offer a client financial advice on which products to purchase, is not held to a fiduciary standard — a broker is only required to suggest products that are “suitable” for a client’s portfolio. There is a big difference between “best interest” and “suitable,” and brokers typically sell their clients the investment products on which they make the biggest commissions, justifying the purchases by stating that these products are just as “suitable” as any other products.

New legislation currently under consideration (as of May 2011) would apply the same fiduciary standard to brokers that is applied to credentialed financial planners. Until that happens, however, don’t seek financial advice from a broker.

Another consideration is how your planner will be paid. If your situation is fairly straightforward and you just need a few sessions with an advisor to tweak your financial plan, then you will likely pay a standard hourly or per-session fee. If your finances need a major overhaul, you may need an advisor for repeated sessions over a period lasting several weeks or longer. Your advisor will likely charge a flat fee for such an overhaul. Or, you may wish to keep an advisor on board for the long term, having him or her review your situation on an annual basis and make adjustments as necessary. For such long-term arrangements, advisors sometimes charge a fee based on a percentage of your assets. And some advisors indeed earn commissions on some of the products they may recommend to you, such as annuities or load funds. This may not be a bad thing, but be sure that your advisor offers a full range of financial products. There is no reason under the sun, for instance, to purchase a load fund (which involves paying sales commission, typically 4.5 percent of the investment), when no-load funds perform just as well and usually better.

Most important, you must feel comfortable with your advisor. You will be disclosing information about all of your financial, estate, insurance, and related matters, some of which may border on issues that are personal. You should not withhold information, as this will make it impossible for your advisor to fashion a plan that is suited specifically to your situation. Interview at least a few advisors before settling on one with whom you feel compatible, and then you’ll be well on your way to a rewarding and worry-free retirement.

Four Steps in Choosing a Financial Advisor

With all the publicity in the newspapers, television, internet, and magazines, we are all familiar with the likes of Bernie Madoff and R. Allen Stanford. These two “financial advisors” are accused of bilking their clients out of $60 Billion and $10 Billion respectively.

What in the world is going on? Who can you Trust? How do you protect yourself? How do you find a financial advisor that you can trust?

How should you begin to protect yourself?

There are several steps you can take to protect yourself? As with everything in life, nothing, including these steps, can guarantee that your financial advisor is honest or will continue to be honest. However, if you follow these four steps you will be better protected from the likes of the Madoff’s and Stanford’s of the world when you choose your financial advisor.

Talk to friends, relatives, and coworkers for names of their trusted advisors. Referrals from other people are the best way to get names of financial advisors. Once you have a name than begin with step one.

Your first step is to go to, the public’s watchdog organization for financial advisors and brokerage companies. FINRA is the acronym for Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. It was created in 2007 with the consolidation of the NASD (National Association of Securities Dealers) and the enforcement and arbitration divisions of the New York Stock Exchange.

On the FINRA site, look at the investor’s section and click on the “FINRA Broker Check” tab. This will allow you to check on both the advisor and the brokerage firm the financial advisor is affiliated with. If there have been any problems or complaints with this particular advisor or brokerage firm it will be listed here. You must do this first even if the advisor has been referred to you. Remember Bernie Madoff and R. Allen Stanford? They did their business exclusively through referrals.

Once you are satisfied with what you have read on the FINRA site your second step is in meeting, face to face, your potential new financial advisor. This is your opportunity to interview the person who may be handling your life savings.

There is an old saying that you don’t get a second chance at a first impression. This is particularly important when you meet with your potential financial advisor. That “gut” feeling you get when you meet and talk with this person will help you decide whether this person is a fit for you.

Ask yourself are they too aggressive? Too arrogant? Too conservative? Too laid back?

Remember this person is someone whom you will be dealing with for many years. It is hard to trust someone if you don’t feel comfortable with them.

The third step is asking this financial advisor for references. Ask them, “Who are three clients of yours that I could talk to”? Now we all know that the advisor is going to give you three people that s/he knows well and gets along with. But that is not the point. The point is the advisor’s reaction to the question. Did the financial advisor hesitate to say okay or did the financial advisor say that s/he doesn’t disclose that kind of information?

There may be a very valid reason for not wanting to tell you because it may be against the policy of the brokerage firm to give out “any” client information. Based on my experience, this is a lame excuse. But what you have done is draw out the financial advisor and the brokerage firm so it fits your needs not theirs.

Maybe you like the idea of their not disclosing any client names under any circumstances. Then again maybe you don’t like the idea of this perceived secrecy. Ask for three client names and their contact information. Call the people. Listen to what they have to say very carefully. Then decide if this is a person you can work with, feel comfortable with, and can hope to trust.