8 Warning Signs You Need to Fire Your Financial Advisor

You’ve been working with a financial advisor for some time now, but now you’re starting to have doubts that you hired the right person for the job.

Hopefully, you did a background check on them first, right?

Is that financial planner more interested in helping you achieve your financial dream or just trying to sell you something?

IMG - 8 Signs You Need to Fire Your Advisor

Too often people have handed their money over to a financial advisor without researching whether they were good or not.

Even worse is that when they suspect that they are not getting the service they deserve, they don’t do anything about it.

If you have a suspect financial advisor, here are warning signs that you need to tell them,”You’re Fired,” and move on.

1. They Still Don’t Know Your Needs

If your financial advisor doesn’t take the time to get to know your complete story, how can they possibly make a proper recommendation? Think if you went to your doctor, and before he or she even made a diagnosis, they were already suggesting you have surgery.  Wouldn’t you want a second opinion?  I certainly hope so.  A real financial planner is going to take the time to ask the right questions:

  • How much credit card debt do you have?
  • How is your health?
  • How safe is your job?
  • Do you want to buy a home?
  • Do you have a will or trust?
  • Do you have enough in your emergency fund?
  • How do you plan to take care of your kids’ college educations?
  • When is the last time you checked your beneficiaries?

Your advisor needs to know if it makes sense for you to invest, or if you should first take care of any pressing needs.

2. They Don’t Tell You How They’re Paid

There are many different ways that financial planners make money. They may be commission-based, fee-only, fee-based — or a combination of the three. Asking what the planner charges will help you to know exactly what you are paying throughout the working relationship.  If even after they explain it to you it doesn’t make sense, have them put it in writing.   That way, you erase any doubt.

There is a cost associated with any investment that you make. It is most likely that you will pay the advisor’s fee or commission. The advisor needs to be clear on what it’s going to cost you.

3. Don’t Be Rushed Into Anything

If you feel like you are on the receiving end of a Boiler Room type sales pitch, you need to run — real fast.  When it comes to investing for your retirement, the last thing you want to be in is some investment that does not meet your needs.

You should never  feel pressured to “Act Now” or else.  If that’s the case, the only thing you need to act on is firing that financial advisor!

4. They Want to Put Everything in One Investment

Warning Signs You Need to Fire Your Financial Advisor
Creative Commons License photo credit: jbelluch

While cliche, the old adage “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” has a lot of merit. If your advisor is adamant about putting all your money into one investment, be wary.

Diversification is typically the basic fundamental principle of any investment portfolio.  If an advisor is trying to sway you into buying only one thing, he or she may have dollar signs (i.e. commissions) in their eyes and not your best interest.

5. They Don’t Inform You of Changes

If there are abrupt changes in the holdings of your portfolio, do you really want to hear about it by watching CNBC?  You want to make sure your financial advisor is on top of your investments and looking out for you.

6. They Don’t Give You Legitimate Monthly Statements

I once had a Madoff-like occurrence in my very own backyard. A client of mine had been investing through his 403b plan at work.  He thought he would investing through a reputable company and later found out that the advisor in charge never invested the funds.  He showed me the statement that was produced, and it was one of the best counterfeit statements I’ve ever seen.

Your advisor should send you a monthly statement summarizing all that month’s transactions, including deposits, withdrawals, and current positions held. This statement must come directly from the brokerage firm that’s holding your money, not from your advisor’s office.

They Don’t Send You Quarterly & Annual Reports

At minimum, you should receive quarterly and annual reports from your advisor. Any less than that and I would start asking some questions. These reports explain the return your advisor is getting on your investments, as well as all fees and commissions.

These reports should illustrate all the realized gains or losses (all the money you actually made or lost from selling an investment) and all the unrealized gains and losses (investments you own but have not yet sold and thus that have not yet realized a profit or loss). These reports should also include returns of the overall index. You want to make sure you have a record of everything.

You should also look into getting online access.  That way, you can routinely check your account balances to make sure everything is on the up and up.  Don’t get caught up in the day to day fluctuations, though.

7. Your Advisor Wants a Check Directly Made out to Him/Her

Warning Signs You Need to Fire Your Financial Advisor
Creative Commons License photo credit: dmjarvey

The ultimate warning sign is if the advisor asks you to write a check made out to him/her personally. If the advisor asks you to write him a personal check, that is a clear red flag. Never, ever, write out a check directly to the advisor. Especially, if you are purchasing some kind of investment product.

In my home town, we had a financial advisor who was doing just that.  He had been a financial advisor for many years, and was just recently charged with financial exploitation of the elderly. In one instance, he had gone to one of his clients and was trying to sell her an annuity. She trusted her advisor and considered him a friend, and she wrote him a check. A check directly to him, not the insurance company, in the amount of $20,000. Then he disappeared. As it turns out, she was not the only client  that had been taken advantage of.  Every check is to be payable to an institution.

8. They Don’t Return Your Phone Call or Emails

One rule that I practice is that I return all of my clients’ phone calls or emails within 24 hours. It’s challenging at times, but I put myself in their shoes and know I would not want to wait on getting answer.

I received a new client who was frustrated at her previous advisor.  She had called wanting to get some information on her investments and the advisor had yet to return her call….5 days later.

Is there any question why that advisor got fired?


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Comments | 6 Responses

  1. says

    It’s a shame there are so many shady and incompetent financial advisers out there giving the profession a bad name. You really have to do your due diligence before entrusting anyone with your money.

  2. says

    Thank you for these tips. I left my job and needed to move my 401k. The advisor suggested an annuity. That felt wrong to me, and I ultimately decided not to go with him. Turns out he would have made a fat commission. Now, I will be meeting with a different advisor next week, so this guide helps.

  3. says

    I’m a big fan of doing your own money management. With some research, most people can learn to manage their own money. Assuming you have to pay an advisor 1% each year, the difference between investing $50,000 at 7% versus 8% over forty years means the difference between having $1.1 million or $750k. The fees really add up over the years.

    Of course you could make the argument that an advisor could prevent you from making costly mistakes, so it really matters whether or not you’re up for the task of managing your own money.

    • Jeff Rose says

      @ Chris

      This might sound ludicrous for me saying this, but I wish more people would do their own money management. Yes, that would mean less income for me because that’s primarily how I’m paid (% of assets I manage), but I come across so many people who have no clue about anything of their investments.

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