Do you count on financial advisors to guide you with wise advice for your personal money matters? Giving that sort of control to someone can understandably be scary.
To feel more confident in your decision, you'll want to know that your advisor is qualified and working in your best interests.
While recognizing these issues with complete certainty may be challenging, there are some red flags that you should watch for. If research into your advisor uncovers one of these warning signs, it might be time to find someone else, or at least to start asking tougher questions.
Here are some of the key warning signs:
- Absence of credentials. Everyone wants to believe that their financial expert is proficient and experienced. One sign that this may not be the case is an absence of professional certifications, such as CFP, CFA, CPA or ChFC designation.
- Take the time to learn more about these designations and exactly what your advisor had to do to earn them.
- If you only want tax advice, a certified public accountant (CPA) might be the best way to proceed. For investment advice, a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is most likely a better choice. If you need a complete financial plan, a CFA, certified financial planner (CFP), or chartered financial consultant (ChFC) will probably be best.
- Lack of Time. If your financial advisor can't make the time to have a minimum of one thorough meeting each year, you may have a serious challenge. When it comes to getting financial advice, you and your goals are all that matters.
- Things can change over time; a financial advisor must be updated if he’s going to be effective. If your advisor doesn't have time to meet, does he really have enough time to do all the other things he should be doing?
- Poor Communication Skills. If your financial advisor really knows her stuff, she should be able to explain financial concepts and strategies with relative ease. If you can't understand her explanation, perhaps she just doesn't understand well enough to explain the concepts to you.
- Over-Promising. Promises of significant returns should raise a red flag. An advisor can talk about possible returns provided they don't make any guarantees. While confidence is great, honesty is even better. Big promises can mean a potential scam or that a financial advisor that is less than honest.
- A lack of real transparency. Your advisor should always be forthcoming about the types of investments and the fees and commissions involved. People in these professions can earn significant commissions if they push certain products. Are those products in your best interest?
- Request to see all the fees that you're being charged for any applicable transactions, and ask about the commissions. Ethically, advisors should do what's in the client's best interest.
- Excessive selling. If your advisor is attempting to sell you on a complicated option deal that you're struggling to understand, is it really right for you?
- The financial plan an advisor follows should be tailored to your goals and your level of comfort. Don't allow your advisor to push you into something that's not right for you. If he's following the plan he laid out for you from the beginning, he shouldn't have to talk you into much.
- Disorganized. A lot of record keeping goes along with being a financial advisor. If your advisor isn't organized, then he should be able to hire someone that is. This is your money we're talking about. You need those records for the IRS, at a minimum!
None of these warning signs is necessarily a deal breaker, but they are definitely things to watch out for. Most importantly, be sure you feel confident and comfortable with your advisor. Remember that we're talking about your money here, so keep your eye on it!