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Financial Advisors

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If you read newspapers, you’re aware that the financial advice industry struggles to manage conflicts caused by ownership, targets and remuneration. Accountants, as a profession, have generally managed to avoid these conflicts by not providing financial advice to their clients. Instead, accountants refer clients to specialist advisers and mortgage brokers.

It seems like a good strategy. Is it really?

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The Importance of an Investment Philosophy

An advisor without an investment philosophy is like a boat without a rudder.

If your advisor doesn’t have a convincing, evidence-based set of beliefs about the markets and how to invest in them, then you risk drifting from one idea to another.

An inconsistent investment approach is a common cause of capital loss.

An investment philosophy should inform an advisor’s decisions about your portfolio, so it’s important you not only understand and agree with their values and ideals, but that you can see evidence of a logical basis for making decisions about your wealth.

If your advisor recommends an investment strategy that doesn’t fit your values or view of the world – and that bothers you – then it’s not the right strategy for you.

My investment philosophy follows:

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Photo Credit: caseygoodness via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: caseygoodness

There are biases that affect the quality of advice we get every day of our lives. And not just financial advice.

When a real estate agent shows you houses for sale, they are working for the seller, not you. This affects which properties you are shown and your ability to negotiate the best price.

(This is why buyer’s advocates have become popular. As you are paying them to find your ideal property, your advocate’s interests are aligned with yours.)

In assessing the quality of any advice, it’s worth considering which party the seller is working for: you or the owner of the product.

There are other more subtle influences on the advice we get. While the medical profession manages potential conflicts by operating under a professional code of conduct, your GP may be influenced to prescribe some brands over others, due to a relationship with the pharmaceutical company (this could be done unconsciously…see below).

 

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Photo Credit: smiscandlon

Have you ever thought about how much you’re really paying for the advice you got from your financial planner? The direct costs are one part – and I think you should look at those closely to ensure you’re getting value – but take a look at the indirect costs.

Keeping costs down are a key to wealth – high costs put your future at risk.

Some of the most significant costs are hidden in your portfolio and are caused by product selection and your advisor’s bias towards actively managed funds.

Although most financial advisors recommend actively managed funds, in reality, the net return of active funds are consistently below most passive investments or index funds.

But apart from the underperformance and additional cost of active funds, there is another cost, which is often overlooked when investors compare active and passive (index) fund portfolios – a cost I’ll cover later in this post.

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Photo Credit: social.englishme

Photo Credit: social.englishme

 

This morning I read an interesting article “7 Ways to Pick a Better Adviser”.

Knowing how to work out a good from bad advisor seems to be the biggest challenge people face in getting financial advice. That’s certainly what most people tell me.

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Photo Credit: Itani stock photos

Photo Credit: Itani stock photos

“He was actually a little uncomfortable and embarrassed”.

Last week I was contacted by Ross, a lawyer in Melbourne, who was concerned he was being charged unfairly for financial advice. He told me that his planner seemed “uncomfortable and embarrassed” about the fees he was obliged to charge.

Ross used the words “fee grab” to describe his current financial planning company’s new policy to charge an asset based fee (brokerage) for switching managed funds.

Financial planners need to charge for their advice and service. But in Ross’s eyes, this fee seemed to be excessive and incidental to the service.  

But this fee is not what gets me worked up. 

Ross‘s financial planner seemed to think this fee was disproportional to the value his company was providing for this transaction.

It’s hard not to conclude that this financial planner is putting the interests of his employer, and in turn his own interests, before his client’s.

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Photo Credit: mtlchiconline

Photo Credit: mtlchiconline

Noel Stevens was dying when CommInsure rejected his insurance claim.  The NSW District Court ruled the insurer was right to turn down the claim.

Mr Stevens passed away, but not before taking Commonwealth Financial Planning to court as he believed he had been given bad insurance advice. The court agreed.

Commonwealth Financial Planning (CFP) appealed the ruling and recently lost when defended by Noel Stevens’ daughter (CFP v Couper). The evidence in this case showed it’s possible to receive insurance advice that leaves you uninsured, where you were previously covered.

This client had no idea his insurance advice was poor. The CFP advisor didn’t know he’d given the wrong advice. In fact, the advisor followed a process you could find in any bank across Australia.

When your advisor is none the wiser, how can you check you have received proper advice?

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