How Do I Find a Wealth Management Company That’s Best for Me?
4 Steps to Identifying Your Best Match with a Wealth Manager
You’ve decided to look for a wealth management company because they specialize in financial planning for high net worth individuals and families. That’s the primary distinction between wealth managers and financial advisors.
But there’s a lot more than that to consider.
The 4-step process you’re about to see will help you narrow down your search criteria so you can find the wealth management company that most aligns with your unique needs, goals, life situation, and values.
Step 1: Evaluate Yourself – Know What You Want
You want a wealth management company that offers a customized financial planning process. That means they don’t use the same investment plan with every one of their clients. But before they can customize a plan for you, you first need to know what you need, and what you want.
- Do you have liquid assets above $2 million? Above $40 million?
If you’re in the high net worth or ultra high net worth categories, you should look for a wealth management company that works exclusively with people like you. You will be understood. If you have less than that, then you may want a more traditional financial advisor who works with a variety of net worth amounts.
- Are you age 40 or over?
Some wealth managers prefer to work with people more established in their careers and closer to retirement (or already in it). Others also work with younger investors.
- Do you want to receive ongoing reports and documentation?
Do you want quarterly reports? Annual reports? Monthly reports? Print? Online? Both and all of the above? Something else? Figure out what best serves you and how informed you want to be, then find a wealth management company that offers it.
- Do you trust Wall Street and big investment firms?
Do you want an independent fiduciary with their own investment and advisory processes, or would you rather work with a big firm that relies on Wall Street’s methods? Or, do you not care about this?
This particular question should have an outsized impact on your selection of a wealth management company, because we’re now moving beyond practical details and into questions about your values. Your values need to align with your financial advisor’s values. That way, you’ll be confident that what they’re doing is what you want them to do. You will trust them.
- Do you feel like you haven’t been given the whole picture?
A lot of people go looking for new wealth managers even when they already have one. Why? Because it just feels like something is missing. Are you really earning the best performance? Are your short and long term goals secure and attainable? How do you really know?
Look for a wealth management company that can actually answer your questions and show you how they measure the security of your most cherished lifestyle plans and financial goals.
Step 2: Learn How to Spot an Elite Wealth Management Company
An elite wealth manager will offer much more than promises of investment performance. They will be able to show you – specifically and with lots of data – how they actually achieve it and measure it.
If their method of explaining their strategy relies on the historical performance of the money under their management, look for another wealth manager. That is an unreliable approach, susceptible to the whims of the market, and not bounded by anything firm, reliable, or secure.
Every wealth manager’s literature says somewhere that “past performance is no guarantee of future results,” or something to that effect. They put this there because they’re required to. But then, many still use past performance as the evidence of their competence.
The problem is, past performance IS no guarantee of future results! It’s not just a required phrase. It happens to be 100% true.
So you want a wealth management company that takes a different approach. One that’s well-defined, that updates your plan quarterly, and that you can understand how it works on an ongoing basis.
With this in mind, there are five key qualities that mark an elite-level wealth manager. An elite wealth manager:
1) Measures your plan’s progress with ongoing quarterly stress tests
2) Believes in strategic passive money management, not market timing
3) Keeps your costs as low as possible, year after year
4) Uses performance as only one measure of progress
5) Is a fiduciary and independent advisor, free from conflicts of interest
The values question asked earlier about big banks and Wall Street applies here too. An advisor who works for a place like that will have conflicts of interest, because the advice they’re giving you, and the plan they’re creating for you, isn’t based solely on what’s best for you (the fiduciary standard). It’s also built to be profitable for the bank or brokerage firm.
If your values and preferences assign more weight to other perceived benefits of these large firms, then you still might choose to go with them. But if you want the most unbiased advice possible, you want an independent wealth management company.
Step 3: Acknowledge the Unknown Future
This is the part no one likes, but that no one can deny.
No one knows how the market will perform. No one can foresee global or national events. And no one knows what will happen in their personal lives.
Did Jeff Bezos know he was going to get divorced in 2019 and lose $37 billion?
Do you know what’s going to happen in ten years? Next year? Next week?
No one does. This point must be emphasized for the simple reason that despite its absolute truth, many financial advisors and money managers conduct their businesses as if they can predict the future. Where this shows up the most is in projected rates of return, which are usually based on historical performance.
Consider this reality:
If you spent $100,000 on your kid’s college education in 1995, you could have easily made all that money back, purely from market gains, by 2000, because the market was red hot. But if you spent that exact same $100,000 in 2007, you’d still be smarting from your wounds five years later, and probably still in the hole because of the 2008 crash.
Spend $100k on college in 1995, and make it all back by 2000. Spend the exact same $100k in 2007, and you’re still in the red five years later.
Major financial decisions get made all the time without any way of knowing how it will impact the future. This is unavoidable. But at the same time, you’re not powerless.
An elite wealth manager understands this, and knows how to expertly navigate life’s uncertainties – even in advance. In contrast, a typical financial advisor acts blindsided by the unexpected, and says something like, “There’s no way we could have anticipated that happening when we created your plan.”
To which you would reply, “Really? You didn’t build a plan that anticipates negative life and financial events outside our control?”
Step 4: Empower Yourself with Knowledge about Wealth Management Companies
Bear in mind, what you’re reading here just scratches the surface of how much is at stake when choosing a wealth manager or financial advisor. For a complete guide into all the details in play (if you’re a details person), get our free eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Financial Advisor for Investors with $3 Million to $70 Million Liquid Assets.
Or, if you’re an ultra-high net worth individual, get the UHNW special edition for investors with up to $500 million.
If you already have enough details and want to talk with an elite wealth manager who fits all the criteria you’ve already read about, don’t wait any longer. Get on our limited schedule now.
Button: Start a Conversation
If you want to keep learning more, that’s okay too! Keep reading…
Here are some additional concepts to understand about investing and wealth management companies that will help you find the right manager for your unique situation.
Risk Tolerance Isn’t the Beginning
It doesn’t make much sense to ask a person what their risk tolerance is, absent any context or specificity about their life situation. Risk tolerance arises out of the uniqueness of your life, your needs, your one-time major distributions both planned and unplanned, how long you’ll live, and expected life events.
Even more critical to understand, that risk tolerance changes along with everything else in your life and in the world.
Risk tolerance doesn’t exist in a vacuum. With that in mind, here are the only five things you can control with regard to your finances:
1. How Much You Spend – Your Lifestyle
2. How Much You Save
3. Timing of Major Distributions
4. Your Risk Tolerance
5. How Much of a Legacy You Want to Leave
As your life unfolds, your wealth manager should be constantly updating your plan by working with you and adjusting one or more of these five areas of control.
Yet, far too many wealth managers treat your financial plan like a suspended animation chamber. They put your goals, financial situation, risk tolerance, and preferences in a box and build a plan from that point on. And even though everything around you is constantly changing, your plan sits there, unchanging, ready to be discovered when you unearth it for the first time in ten years.
It hasn’t aged a bit! But you have…
Wealth Managers Should Feverishly Minimize Your Costs
There are at least six major costs that can drain your performance gains if you aren’t paying attention. These costs can reduce your portfolio by millions of dollars if left unchecked year after year.
Elite wealth managers work very hard to keep your costs as low as possible. Others don’t pay it as much attention, and even recommend unwise strategies that drive up your costs (and sometimes also your risk) unnecessarily.
Wealth Management Non-Negotiables
As a high net worth investor, you’ll want to work with a wealth manager who can say ‘Yes’ to the following four questions:
1. Do you have extensive and exclusive experience with high net worth investors?
You want someone who knows and experiences the world as you do. Someone who understands all the complexity of the decisions you face that average people don’t have to think about. And you want that person to have many years of successful experience in wealth management.
Pillar has over 30 years of experience working exclusively with people with over $1 million in liquid assets.
2. Do you customize your investment plans?
The trouble with this question is, everyone will say yes. Understanding the full extent of customization – and how essential it is to maximizing your performance – depends on having conversations with prospective wealth managers.
That’s why we recommend talking to us. It’s not to sell you. We might not be the best match for you, and we’ll tell you that (and often do). But what you will learn talking to experienced wealth managers will expand your mind to possibilities you never knew existed.
3. Are you truly independent?
A truly independent wealth manager will be a fiduciary, with almost no conflicts of interest whatsoever. That means they don’t report to anyone else; they don’t have to follow any guidelines from superiors; they have no quotas to meet; they don’t earn commissions.
They act completely in your best interests, and all their advice is given with that, and only that, in mind. Fiduciary isn’t just a word we can throw around without consequence. It’s a legal classification.
4. Are you a fee-only wealth manager?
Fee-only means no commissions, no products for sale that boost pay, no performance incentives, no hidden charges. Fee-only means you pay a simple and easily understood fee that’s usually a fixed percentage of your liquid assets.
Static or Dynamic Wealth Management
Finally, an elite wealth management company will understand that because your life situation continually changes, so must your financial plan.
An adaptive, strategic plan such as this will be updated every quarter – incorporating into your plan your changing life situation as well as the effects of world events on the market. A wealth manager using this approach will be constantly adjusting your plan to ensure its long term health to the fullest extent possible.
Why Wait Any Longer?
Find out if Pillar is your best match for a wealth manager. Click the button, and start a conversation with an elite wealth management company.