As stated in How to Find a Good Financial Advisor and Avoid the Shady, Rob You Blind Mo Fos, finding a good, and most importantly trustworthy, financial advisor is no easy task. Like dating, you will encounter people who will try to take advantage of you. Maybe because you seem naïve, you have a lot of stress and fear, or because they can tell you will just let them take the reins completely.
I spent a year speaking to referrals, reps from large and small companies, those who were quite tenured in the industry, and some newbies. I finally landed on someone I trust. She proved that to me by always being prompt and patient when re-explaining concepts that I needed clarity on. She’s showed me time and time again that she respects me and values our partnership.
It’s been over two years since I started investing with her and I have seen a very healthy return on my money. Additionally, she went out of her way to let me interview her for this article, so talk about going the extra mile for your clients!
Remember, the purpose of Together We Money is to share personal finance resources, therefore I give you someone who I believe is worth your time and attention.
A brief introduction on her credentials:
- Years as a Financial Advisor: Approximately 30 years, started in March of 1988
- Certifications: Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Series 7, Series 65, Chartered Advisor for Senior Living (CASL), and pursing Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CFDA)
- Number of Clients: Approximately 250
- Assets Under Management (AUM): $47 million
What are some misconceptions about what you do?
A lot of people think we are just stock brokers. Yes, we can buy and sell stocks for people, but that’s not all that we do. We will make a financial plan and adjust it accordingly if anything changes to a client’s circumstances like unemployment, a chronic illness, retirement, etc.
Also, when I started in this industry in 1988 there were about 3,000 products on the market and now there are about 20,000, so it’s important to meet with wholesalers and look at industry research often. The stock market and the federal government is always changing, so it’s good to meet with clients on a regular basis to balance what is happening in the economy and their lives.
What makes for a good financial advisor?
A person who listens and gives direct answers. Someone who is honest. I also think integrity is number one. I hope on my tombstone people write she was sincere and had the highest integrity. I always do what’s in the best interest of my clients.
You get the people like the Bernie Madoffs of the world and there are so many of them out there that are Registered Investment Advisors (RIA). They are independents, so they are not policed by a larger entity like a Raymond James, Charles Schwab, LPL, etc., nor an external agency like the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). When you have a Bernie Madoff-like person with their pyramid schemes and whatever, they are not required to be registered with their state, they are only required to be registered with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). Problem is, the SEC does not have the manpower to police them, so they get away with murder. They abuse elders and it’s horrible. People lose their life savings because of something like that. That’s why I like to work so much with seniors because I will work in their best interest and be an advocate for them.
How can someone spot a “Bernie Madoff”?
You have to look at their credentials and question them. For example, I believe Bernie Madoff cleared his own securities, whereas on my business card it will say clearance securities through Raymond James Financial Services. That means there is an internal compliance department that’s working and will hopefully spot some of these things. But you know there are lots of people who fall through the cracks. You just need to make sure they are connected to a larger organization.
What are some of the most frequent questions you get asked?
People ask me silly questions like “Can you make me a lot of money?” They want you to make them a lot of money in a short amount of time. They ask “How much risk do I have to take, and do I have to take any risk at all?”
What are some important questions to ask when vetting a financial advisor?
- How are they paid? If an advisor is not willing to tell you then you need to move on.
- How often would you be able to meet/speak with me?
- What should I do if my financial circumstances change (for better or for worse)?
- How long have you been an advisor?
- How long has [Company Name] been in business?
- What is the philosophy or culture of your company?
- How much money do I need to start? (Some financial firms will place a minimum of $250K and up—how does that help the person who is just getting started?)
What are the advantages of working with an advisor vs. working on your own?
If you don’t want to work with an advisor, that’s fine. If you want to go the Vanguard route that’s okay, that is a do-it-yourself-kit. I tell people, I can decorate my own birthday cakes, I can put up my own wallpaper, and I’m good at it. But I can’t do plumbing and electrical wiring, so I hire somebody. It’s the same thing as investments. If you are really that good then go to Vanguard, but if you want an advisor come to us. We have research at our fingertips that the average person doesn’t have. We also have a team of people who we can call to give us further explanations.
What makes for a bad client?
A person who second guesses what you are recommending them. There comes a point where you have been in the field this long that when they are constantly challenging you, and not in a good way, you dismiss them as a client.
What makes for a good client?
Someone who trusts me is a good client. When I meet with a client for the first time, I want them to get to know me and for me to get to know them. I will do two or three meetings with a client before we make any decisions. I want them to be able to trust me and feel like I have their best interest at heart. I don’t want them to feel like I am pushing them into a corner and forcing them to sign on the dotted line, because there are a lot of advisors out there who do that, and I refuse to do that. A good client will also ask you questions if they don’t understand something.
What are the most common investing mistakes you see?
One thing I see often is when people see their investments going down they will pull out of the market. The best thing you can do is jump in when the market is down. Same thing with buying when the market is high. The goal is to buy low, sell high.
How do you go about choosing products for your clients?
That’s a loaded question because it all depends on how the economy is doing, the research you do, their lifestyle, and how much risk they are willing to take on.
If the average everyday person is looking for a product on Morning Star or Yahoo Finance, what numbers are the most important to check?
Well, you want to look at how many stars they have (three is about average), and look at their ranking in their category, for example Large Cap Funds. You also want to look at the P/E ratio which stands for price to earnings. In other words, what is the public willing to pay for that stock based on the companies’ earnings? You want a P/E ratio that is somewhere in the area of 20 (19-23). That means the stock has some potential.
Do you see a difference in the way men approach you vs. women? I would assume women need more hand holding?
I think that’s a stereotype. But sometimes if the female is older she might have relied on her husband to pay the bills. Otherwise, I think women can handle it, especially younger women because it’s a different ballgame today.
What do you think about the economy overall?
We need to keep in mind outside global threats. Interests will gradually go up. We also need to wonder how the new tax plan will affect corporations. It’s supposed to allow them to use more of their profits to hire more employees and only time will tell.
The political climate with regard to regulations need to be less strict, but the banking industry needs to be more regulated, so we don’t have another banking catastrophe. Having international politics involved is also kind of scary. If I have my clients in really good funds or stocks, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Do you have any opinions about bitcoin?
I don’t want any parts of Bitcoin. To me it’s phony. Because I don’t understand it so I stay away from it. Keep that in mind for yourself too. Never invest in something you don’t understand.