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Independent Financial Advice

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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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Justin Brand

Every week I’m asked:

How do I check if my investment advisor has given me good advice?

My answer:

How is your investment portfolio performing against the index (or average) of the markets in which you are invested?

And in my experience, the majority of people I ask tell me that they don’t know.

There are other factors that determine good investment advice besides performance. But it surprises me how many intelligent people don’t think to check the performance of their portfolio against the average market return. Especially when they’re paying an advisor a fee for investment advice.

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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: Eric Flexyourhead via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Eric Flexyourhead

Update (June 2016):

Over 11,000 people have read this article, after searching for information on financial advice fees. If you’re like them, and think you’re overpaying for financial advice (or about to), call me on 1300 369 045 or email contact@justinbrand.com.au – and get a second opinion. 

At some point over the next year, you may receive a Fee Disclosure Statement from your financial planner.  If you know what to look for, this statement will help you work out if your financial adviser is worth their money.

As a part of Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) reforms, all financial planners who charge an ongoing fee for their service must give their clients a Fee Disclosure Statement (let’s call it an FDS).  That’s for any advice fee your planner charges you on an ongoing basis, beyond 12 months.

This law is supposed to ensure you are told what you’ve paid for ongoing services and list what services you actually received.

But, the Fee Disclosure Statement is very basic.  You need to ask additional questions to ensure you are not wasting your hard earned money on support that doesn’t benefit you, doesn’t suit your needs or is simply overpriced.

The FDS will give you key information for the preceding 12 months:

  •    Fees you have paid for ongoing service
  •    Ongoing service you should have received
  •    Ongoing service you did receive

So lets look at each section.

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