In the wake of all the accounting scandals, you might be looking at your financial advisor in a whole new way. However, any time is the right time to evaluate your financial advisor to make sure she is earning her fee. Here are signs that you might need to move your money elsewhere:
1. You've had a major life change. The advisor you had before you opened your own business might have been great, but that doesn't mean she knows what a business owner is up against when saving for retirement. Or, you feel like you understand saving for retirement, but you really need help with estate planning.
2. You don't understand your investments. Seeing good returns on a statement isn't enough. Carol Fabbri of the Denver firm Fair Advisors says you should be concerned if your advisor talks down to you: "If an advisor truly understands a topic they'll be able to explain it to you. If they won't, either they don't get it or they want to give the impression that it is very complicated."
3. Your investments do not suit your stage in life. Younger investors can be more aggressive and can handle more risk in their portfolios, but older investors need to focus more on preserving their money. For example, if you are a year from retirement and you find out your financial advisor has put all your money in stocks, you have every reason to doubt the wisdom of your advisor.
4. Your advisor is MIA. An advisor should at least check in to make sure your investments are on track and suit your life goals. For example, Ryan L. Pitts, a financial advisor with Waddell & Reed, says, "I make sure that I reach out to my clients at least 10 times per year, as well as give them the opportunity to meet once a quarter to review and evaluate their current position."
5. You're too chummy. If your brother-in-law is your financial advisor, then you should change. A dip in market or a small mistake might result in a chilly atmosphere at the Thanksgiving table. The same goes for friends because, once money and friendship mix, your friendship might suffer.
6. It seems too easy. A meeting with a financial advisor will require a little work. A good advisor will recommend that you improve your record-keeping skills and will advise you on what documents to keep and what to toss. You should also be learning a little something about finances along the way.
7. Your account isn't keeping up with the competition. Compare the returns of your investments to the returns of similar investments. Lagging investments indicate that your advisor might not be putting in enough effort.
8. Your advisor keeps pushing a specific product. Has your advisor suddenly been "all annuities, all the time"? A fixation on a particular product might be a bad sign, especially if the advisor earns commissions from sales of that product.
9. You don't get statements on time. A good advisor will send out statements on a regular basis. These statements should also be prepared by a firm that is independent of your advisor.
Before you start transferring your money, step back and look at the whole picture. If the entire market took a hit in an especially bad year, the problem might not be your advisor. An advisor cannot guarantee a return. And, if an advisor does guarantee a return, you should be suspicious.
If you worked for several years and have saved some money, you need to know how best to invest that money. If you are retired, and have a pension and / or 401K plan, you need to be sure your savings and pension are invested wisely to guarantee a worry-free future.