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You have money, and you want it to last through retirement and beyond. What brought you here is a common question asked by people worldwide: Do I need help from a personal financial advisor?
If you’re hoping to get a clear understanding of what a financial advisor is without having to hop around the internet and open ten different tabs, this is the only page you need to look at.
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You’re about to read results from our 30+ years of experience as financial and investment portfolio managers and planners. Our perspective is one of the only private wealth management firms that specialize in helping clients with $5 million to $500 million in liquid investable assets. If you have liquid assets exceeding $10 million and want help now choosing the right financial advisor for you, get this Ultimate Guide.
The remainder of this page will take you through what financial advisors do, decide if you need one, and choose the best advisor for you. You’ll find additional finance-related resources for more in-depth exploration as you go. Read the whole article, or skip to the parts that will help the most using the quick links below.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
What Is a Financial Advisor?
A financial advisor is one who helps you to create a financial plan. They are also categorized under wealth advisors but with a more specific duty. Their jobs will be restricted to helping their client have a properly planned and managed financial life.
What do financial advisors do?
Starting from younger individuals who might need a Robo advisor for financial matters including student load, school fees, and small investment management to more advanced and wealthy individuals who wants to search for a registered investment advisor to carry out jobs relating to retirement planning, financial planning, investment management, and tax planning, financial advisors are everything and more.
For investors with over $25 million in assets, you might wish to request a free copy of our hardcover book The Art Of Protecting Ultra-High Net Worth Portfolios And Estates, Strategies For Families worth $25 Million to $500 Million.
If you are still confused about what jobs financial advisors do, you can search further.
Financial professionals should have expertise in anything related to finance, the stock market, bonds, economic volatility, investing, budgeting, retirement, taxes, debt, and planning. Better financial advisors also bring knowledge about estate planning and inheritance, life insurance, business exits, and real estate investing. And the very best financial advisors – in addition to this expertise – have developed their own strategies for customizing portfolio planning around each client’s specific financial goals and needs. Our firm’s wealth managers reside in this class.
Examples of Financial Advisors
Below are some of the examples and types of financial advisors you will find.
1. Transactional Financial Advisor
Transactional financial advisors shift money around between mutual funds and savings accounts and plug money into various stocks, bonds, money markets, and other investment options. Like a Robo advisor, other such wealth advisors may invest your money in commodities or more specialized investments. Now and then, they’ll give you progress reports. Others sell products with commission-based fees, like life insurance or annuities.
Use this free guide to discover a new way to optimize your investment portfolios’ performance without taking on undue risk: Improving Portfolio Performance, The Shifts Multi-Millionaires Must Make To Achieve Financial Security And Serenity.
2. Financial Advisor Consultants
Transactional financial advisors are not truly advisors, in the full meaning of the word. They are not what we might call consultative financial advisors. Account transactions are not the primary reason most people search for financial advice and services. You seek help from a personal financial advisor because you want to effectively leverage your income, expenses, debt, assets, insurance, businesses, and property to achieve your short and long term lifestyle and financial goals.
3. Wealth Managers
For example, a wealth manager is a type of financial consultant who only works with individuals with a huge amount of assets, unlike a Robo advisor who can work with individuals with low funds. Such clients have unique financial needs that require a different set of financial planning services and skills. Wealth managers typically require higher account minimums for your assets under management. Pillar Wealth Management (rights reserved) requires a $5 million minimum in liquid assets.
4. Robo Advisors
Robo advisors may be ideal for a young person who has little savings or investments but wants to manage their financial affairs wisely. Robo advisors charge lower fees. As you grow older and accumulate more wealth, Robo advisors become less useful. If you are still young and can manage your credit cards, debt, and search for a Robo advisor – you may be on your way to bigger wealth and more advanced financial services.
5. Certified Financial Planner
Throughout your life, you will need somebody to help you manage the wealth you have built up as a younger person. Managing this doesn’t start at management; it starts from properly planning everything that has to do with what you spend and what you earn. Our experts will make that a priority.
6. Registered Investment Advisor
Anyone can claim to be an investment advisor; however, you need assurance that they are not just bearing the name but have gone through the training and tests and have been certified and registered so that you can have something to hold on to if they don’t fulfill their end of the bargain.
7. Chartered Financial Consultants
Sometimes you don’t want everything about your finances to be in a wealth management company’s care. You just want somebody you can call on when you need advice on wealth management. The Pillar Wealth Management (PWM) firm is your go-to company for matters relating to that.
Understanding Financial Advisors and Their Methods
Whether you are a young individual in search of solid advice on how to set up plans for your investments, loans, and debt, credit cards, and other related jobs/services, you may not need a full-fledged wealth management firm. What you should look for is a Robo advisor. For more wealthy individuals, a wealth management firm will guide you and lead you aright.
For more in-depth guidance, get The Ultimate Guide To Choosing The Best Financial Advisor, For Investors With $5 Million To $500 Million In Liquid Assets.
For example, if you want your kids or grandkids to have the best possible education, your money will play a role. If you want to be prepared in case your parents have costly medical complications, your money will play a role. If you hope to start a charitable foundation that funds research into a particular disease, your money will make that happen.
If you have no retirement plan or lack confidence in the financial plan now in place, a professional advisor will have ways to help you get started. If you plan to sell a business or businesses, getting financial advice will lead to better results. Investment advisors begin with relationship-building consultations because they want to know your needs and what matters to you before creating any investment portfolio plans. Then they can customize your financial plan around the life goals and needs you cherish most. Every consultant advisor may have a slightly different process for this. See our firm’s approach to consultative financial planning services.
Achieving great portfolio performance, in retirement, for the rest of your life isn’t easy! Download the ultimate guide
The Fiduciary Question
Here is one place where differences between financial advisors become very, very important. The concept of ‘fiduciary’ dates back to ancient Rome, which defined the term as follows:
“A person holding the character of a trustee, or a character analogous of a trustee, in respect to the trust and confidence involved in it and the scrupulous good faith and candor which it requires.”
The key term is ‘good faith.’ The idea is that the professionals are bound by oath to act on behalf of their clients in the same way they would act for themselves. Therefore, a fiduciary financial advisor pledges that all their decisions, financial advice, services, and recommendations are truly and completely in the best interest of the client, to whatever extent is possible. There is no conflict of interest.
Does It Matter?
Financial advisors who do not follow the fiduciary rule are not Registered Investment Advisors. Those advisors follow what is known as the ‘suitability’ standard. In other words, is their financial advice and the investment plan suitable or reasonable? This is a much broader standard for financial planning services and allows the advisor to recommend almost anything as an investment option, including products that earn them a commission. Your best interests are no longer in play.
For example, annuities are suitable for almost anyone. But they are rarely in a person’s best interest. There are several other unfavorable recommendations a non-fiduciary might advise that could cost you millions.
So then, how would a fiduciary handle questions about annuities? They would explain all aspects of the annuity, identify the insurance company behind it, clearly spell out how it could help or hinder your investing goals, and then offer advice that you could accept or ignore.
A financial advisor does not force a client to make financial decisions. They advise them. A fiduciary’s investment advice will always be in the best interests of the client.
Taxes, fees & non-fiduciary advisors can destroy your portfolio and retirement!
Risks of a Non-Fiduciary Advisor
Here’s a story of a client our wealth advisory firm turned away because accepting them would have put us at risk of not being able to fulfill our fiduciary duty. The question of whether to insist on working with a fiduciary financial advisor is, in our view as Registered Investment Advisors, not even a question. It is far more important than their assets under management (AUM) numbers (what the big portfolio management and financial service firms like to brag about but have little to do with their service quality).
One result of the 2008 recession was that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) mandated financial advisors to act as fiduciaries in their financial planning services.
The abuse of clients by financial advisors – especially the big firms – was so rampant and played enough of a role in causing that recession. This extra layer of accountability was considered part of the solution to preventing another financial meltdown. Those regulations have since been relaxed, so once again, the choice is yours on which type of advisor you want to work with.
Here’s a cautionary tale showing 7 ways a non-fiduciary advisor can permanently derail your investment portfolio’s performance.
Financial Advisors and Investments – 4 Strategy Differences
How do financial advisors decide what to recommend for their clients’ investment portfolios? And how do you find and choose the top financial advisor whose services are best for you? This is where you find quite a disparity among different investment advisors. There is far more to this decision than their fee structure. Here are a few areas where advisors can differ in their investment approach:
Active vs. Strategic Investment
An “active” financial planning and investment philosophy believes that investment experts have the ability to outperform the market consistently. This strategy looks for the highest returns, the best performing funds, and the hidden gems in the stock market that they believe are poised to make big money for your investment accounts.
A better investing plan – get this free guide: Improving Portfolio Performance, The Shifts multi-Millionaires Must Make To Achieve Financial Security And Serenity.
Conversely, the “strategic” investment philosophy has seen enough data to know that over 90% of active managers fail to outperform the market over a five year period and that the numbers get worse the longer you go. Anyone wanting investment planning that spans decades – an overly active strategy will almost certainly lead to underperformance and diminished assets, regardless of your risk tolerance. Why? Because people simply aren’t wired to make smart investment decisions, and wealth advisors are no different. Emotions inevitably interfere, especially when you least want them to, such as a market crash during retirement, right after selling a business, or a large inheritance.
Many investors presume the professional money managers and financial advisors should be better at stock and mutual fund picks, but the data suggests that the vast majority are not. We have found that most financial professionals are decent at knowing when to buy but terrible at knowing when to sell. If this is true, why do so many financial advisors employ the active investment management philosophy? Because they believe they belong to that small, elite percentage, who will beat the market – using your money. They aren’t. It’s little more than baseless overconfidence.
Frequent Activity vs. Less Activity
Another difference between the services of financial advisors relates to levels of activity. Some advisors like to make frequent shifts with their clients’ money, jump on investments and funds that are doing well, and get out of ones performing badly. Buying commodities that are poised to soar. Shedding poorly performing stocks. Other advisors recommend a minimal activity, favoring a targeted and consistent rebalancing strategy over constantly jumping in and out of equities and funds.
Our firm prefers this method in part because the money our clients entrust us with avoids a needless tax bite. Frequent trading triggers more and higher taxes in the form of short term capital gains. Just another hill your investments have to climb over, and our financial planners don’t usually think it’s worth it. As you can see, choosing the right personal financial advisor requires some understanding. Get all the help you need in our free Ultimate Guide To Choosing The Best Financial Advisor.
So, let’s put these first two philosophies together: If you have an active investment style financial advisor who also engages in a frequent activity, not only will you likely perform worse than the markets, you will also pay higher taxes for the privilege.
Is something off with your portfolio or advisor?
Wheeling and Dealing vs. Data-Driven Finance & Risk Management
You’ve seen the stereotypical Wall Street investor: The wild, crazy, impulsive risk-taker who does what no one else has the guts to do, see what they don’t see and comes out the winner in the end. It’s a fun fantasy.
If you talk with a certified financial planner (CFP) who appears to have that sort of philosophy about investing like that with your retirement money, our recommendation – as a fiduciary – is to run fast the other way.
A more trustworthy advisor will utilize data-driven investing tools and risk management solutions that protect your money without shortchanging your future. In your search for a professional financial advisor, part of your task is to find one that agrees and aligns with your values about money and investing. You need to believe in your advisor’s system of personal financial planning and money management services.
Open to Anything vs. Specialization
Some financial advisors put the client in the driver’s seat and just try to steer them to avoid falling off the cliff. But their services and products cater to the client’s interests.
This type of advisor could conceivably invest one client’s portfolio 100% in stocks, another’s 100% in commodities, and another’s 100% in bonds. Their rationale would be that it’s what the clients wanted. They might steer them away from particular investments, but they may not protect the client enough in their portfolio management.
Other advisors specialize in something. This could be a specialized methodology or a specialized class of investment options, such as gold, tech stocks, or energy funds. Some advisors don’t specialize in investment options as much as in types of clients. Some specialize in only creating retirement plans. Others work mostly with business owners, young couples, or individuals in certain careers like teachers or dentists.
Other financial advisors, such as the team at Pillar Wealth Management (rights reserved), specialize in working with wealthy clients who have over $5 million in liquid assets. Putting all four of these comparisons together, our firm strongly recommends you look for a personal financial advisor who:
– Uses a strategic investment strategy, not an active one
– Prefers less frequent trading because of the tax savings and higher long term investment performance
– Has a data-driven system for long term, goal-driven financial planning services
– Specializes in an area of financial planning that is relevant to your life circumstances or financial situation
In general, even the certified financial planners who work at big brokerage firms get most of this wrong. They do their company’s bidding and do not act in your best interests. You are better off avoiding the large investment firms as a source of personal financial planning services.
How to Choose a Financial Advisor
If you’re not sure what types of investment management services you prefer, look for a person or team whose guidance is driven by a clear data-driven investment approach and who you can trust. Look below:
1. Ask yourself if you really need one for your money
The easiest way to get along with a financial advisor is to have made up your mind on whether you even need one in the first place.
2. What financial services do you need? (Is it a priority?)
Are you a student looking for someone to manage small amounts or an established business person and want your investment and wealth to be properly managed? Check out the types of financial advisors further down.
3. Select the type of advisor you want
Choose the advisor that matches the description.
4. How much can you pay for the services?
There are different fees for different services. You should pick the one that meets your budget.
5. Take a look at the advisor’s portfolio (every page)
There is no better way to know if a person is qualified than to look at their previous jobs.
6. Consider several advisors in your search
Don’t just pick the first one you meet; interview others to see how well they work.
Here are 3 guideposts to steer you toward worry-free financial serenity. Keep reading – we have more resources to share to help you choose the best investment advisor for you.
How to Know You Need a Financial Advisor
Around age 55, managing money in your retirement accounts gets even harder. This means that the older you get, the more reasons you’ll have to work with a financial advisor. The less you know about portfolio management, investing, retirement planning, and finances, the more likely you will need help from an investment advisor.
Another reason you might need an advisor is simply that you don’t have time for all this. Here’s a list of complications that tend to pile up as life progresses:
– Real estate purchases
– Multiple 401k and other investment accounts through work and other income streams
– Marriage, kids, eventually grandkids
– Start a business. Or two. Or three
– Sell a business. Or two. Or three
– Estate planning, life insurance, long term care, charitable giving
– Tax planning required minimum distributions, not enough retirement savings.
– More complicated and diverse investments
We could add tax minimization planning, company stock liquidation, asset protection, business exits, and other challenges to the list for affluent clients. 7 more ways a financial advisor helps with tax strategies. The bottom line here is simple: If you have investing issues and aren’t sure how to tackle them, you need services from a financial advisor.
How Advisors Help You Reach Your Goals
Far too many people go through life reacting to it rather than trying to make their future the best it can be. But once you list out some goals, do you have a plan for how you will achieve them?– financially speaking.
Listing goals is the easy part. Making the plan is the challenge. Your long term goals and plans could relate to any of the following factors:
– Making a retirement plan (10 ultra-high net worth retirement mistakes to avoid at all costs)
– College education, student loans
– Estate planning and trusts
– Tax strategies
– Life insurance
– Business – investment, startups, exits
– Real estate
– Earning passive income
– Gaining influence in a particular arena
Smart financial planning also anticipates the factors that won’t go well in the future, but that still affect your finances, such as:
– The early death of a loved one
– Medical crisis for you or a loved one
– Sudden loss of income
– Economic volatility – virtually guaranteed if your retirement lasts more than a few years.
– Meddling from Washington DC
– Pandemics – Covid 19
– Business failure
A financial advisor – particularly one whose services cater to affluent clients – includes these potential future events in their planning process and customizes it to each person’s financial plan. Most people fall far short of their own needs and expectations.
The more time you focus on seriously considering questions like these, the more you realize why you need services from a financial advisor. And if your financial advisor doesn’t know what you care about, they can’t help you get it! To get the best answers to your questions, get The Ultimate Guide To Choosing The Best Financial Advisor, For Investors With $5 Million To $500 Million In Liquid Assets.
So – what do financial advisors do to help you reach your financial goals and dreams? How do they create your plan?
That is THE question to ask any financial advisor you are considering working with. Different advisors use very different investment processes and have different investing philosophies and services, as you saw earlier.
Pillar Wealth Management`s managers have over 60 years of combined experience and a proprietary portfolio planning system, unlike anything you’ve seen from other advisors. To learn more about our 100% customized high net worth investment planning services, begin your consultation with a simple 15-minute conversation.
For a more in-depth exploration, get our free Guide – Outstanding Portfolio Performance: The Shifts To Financial Security And Serenity For Successful Multi-Millionaires.
Ultra-high-net-worth still means something. Let’s discuss what you should expect and deserve.
What It Costs to Hire a Top Financial Advisor
You might be surprised by how many ways financial advisors have come up with to structure their fees for their services. Some of these fees arise because different financial situations can require additional work. For example, when a spouse dies, the process of shifting the surviving spouse’s finances back to ‘single’ status is quite complex – even moreso if they are retired. You have to deal with IRAs, Social Security, life insurance, pensions, banking, mutual funds, beneficiaries, taxes, and all the tasks, paperwork, and the time cost for each of these.
What fees should an advisor who helps you navigate all this charge? Should it be hourly or a flat fee? Should it matter if you’re an existing client?
On a basic level, a financial advisor can charge three types of fees:
– Hourly fees
– Flat fees
But within these fees, much more variety exists.
Two Main Fee Structure Varieties
The two main categories are flat fee and fee-based financial advisors.
A fee-based advisor charges some type of fee but also may earn a commission for selling investment products. Flat fees can mean a flat dollar amount for creating a one-time plan that you go and implement. You can come back for additional services, and pay an additional fee.
Any advisor who charges a one-time, flat fee is not going to be invested in your financial goals on an ongoing basis. This fee structure is limited in its cost benefits and long term value because whatever financial plan you develop will be obsolete within five to ten years. Fees can also be ongoing percentages charged annually, monthly, or quarterly. Both fee-only and fee-based advisors can charge percentages.
In a fee-based situation, your advisor may sell products like annuities or life insurance packages. These often come with commissions on top of the advisor’s regular fees. Other financial advisors make more money on ‘hidden’ costs, such as getting a small kickback for recommending a particular mutual fund investment with a certain brokerage company or banking firm. To be clear – only a non-fiduciary financial advisor would be able to do something like that with your money without disclosing it.
What does Pillar Wealth Management do?
We believe in a fee structure, everyone understands and believes is fair. Pillar’s wealth management services charge a percentage-based flat fee that covers all our services. We are a team of fee-only financial advisors. We do not charge extra costs for extra services.
Even if we have to reach out to specialized professionals like tax attorneys, tax accountants, estate planning attorneys, or insurance brokers on your behalf – there is no extra cost to you. A typical CFP or financial advisor doesn’t offer anything close to this.
As fee-only financial planners, we never charge commissions, and we sell no products. All financial services are included in a simple flat fee. Our flat fee starts at 1% and scales down as your net worth increases. We require a $5 million minimum investment amount for our portfolio management services.
How to Hire the Best Financial Advisor Near Me
The final topic is about how to choose a financial advisor. Some people believe they need to find financial services near them because they want to meet face to face. In our experience, proximity turns out not to be as important as you might think. See 6 reasons why the location of your advisor doesn’t matter. And in the era of COVID-19, consulting with your financial advisor online is safer too.
So how do you find the best wealth management services for your life situation?
Besides following investment advisory services, we have enlisted some things you can do in your search for top financial advisers. First, clarify your own financial situation, your beliefs about investing and money, your long term goals, and what you expect from a personal financial advisor. You can’t know if you’ve found the right investment advisor if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for. See 10 questions to clarify your beliefs and expectations.
Second, find an advisor who is a good match for your financial situation, risk tolerance, and investing preferences. Here are 10 tips for finding a financial advisor who matches with your preferences and needs.
Finally, find a financial advisor you can trust and who offers financial planning services that inspire a high degree of confidence that you will achieve ALL your short and long-term lifestyle and financial goals. You need someone who understands you, cares about what you care about, and will use a well-honed customized strategy to help you achieve it.
Does something not feel right with your investment management advice? Download the ultimate guide
Whether you are a young person seeking help with issues concerning wealth management or you’re a senior looking for much deeper assistance like retirement planning, tax planning, debt management, estate planning and several other related matters, you need a game plan and that game plan includes going on a search for a good wealth management firm. The Pillar Wealth Management firm is your go-to company to search for professionals who can handle everything for you.
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