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This post is a bit of rant that I wanted to get out on the web that will hopefully shed some awareness on something that I run into on a weekly basis. I was at a Personal Finance Coaching Session with a client of mine this week. We were reviewing her success plan and what her next action items were going to be when she asked for a little input on her 403b. She has an advisor from a large financial institution that specializes in insurance and annuities. When we opened up her statements I was taken a back by the allocation, really off guard. Instead of just instantly tearing this thing apart I wanted to see the process and hear the story of how she arrived at this point. My client told me all kinds of little stories about the unresponsiveness of her representative and the extreme lack of education. It even went as far as her telling me that her advisor told her that he would “take care” of the allocation. When I asked about any conversations they might have had or questions he asked to find out about her risk tolerance I was informed that there were no conversations like that. So in an effort to arm you so that this doesn't happen to you I have included 5 sure fire ways to get serviced by your advisor. Oh and in case you were wondering my 28 year old client was invested at over 60% in fixed “guaranteed” vehicle then the rest scattered among equity classes. She has no problem with risk and knows that this is for retirement so I gave her these 5 tips and coached her on what to say and what to consider.
1.) Call often and leave lots of messages. Having come from this industry I know that sometimes advisors can get a little lazy - especially when there might not be any potential for new business. It’s easy to forget to return a call and a left message. It’s a little harder if you are calling everyday asking for an appointment, and not one 3 months away. If you are seriously concerned about your situation they should be able to accommodate you with a meeting inside of the next few weeks.
2.) Ask lots of questions and tell them how you are feeling. Companies are always looking for feedback so they may service you better the next time you use their products or services. Financial services are no different. If you don’t understand an investment choice, a fee, or how your portfolio was designed...ASK! A good advisor will have no trouble answering your questions or at least being an honest and going to research them, then come back to you with the answers.
3.) Be polite. If you have been trying to get an appointment with your advisor or are waiting for a change in your account be sure to use your polite voice. It’s that old adage that you can catch more flies with honey then with vinegar here. I know it sounds awful that you have to manipulate a person that works for you to get them to do their job. Advisors are people too and have a habit of dealing with all their negative sounding clients (which is backwards because if you are upset and trying to get a hold of them it’s probably for something important - I know!) last.
4.) Call again. If you haven’t made it past the gatekeeper or the answering machine then keep plugging away. If you have then be sure to call to confirm. If you’ve met already and are waiting for follow up information or action...yup you guessed it call. Most less than adequate advisors tend to deal with whatever issues are presented in front of them. So keep on the pressure and your wheel squeaking will see some oil.
5.) Be prepared. If it’s a meeting you are waiting for or a question.you have then make sure you are prepared. The better you arm yourself with information the better questions you can ask and results you can guide your advisor too. It’s your money! You should know where it is and what it’s doing.
5 ½.) Make sure they know that they work for you. Don’t get forgotten about or ignored. If after all this you can’t make an appointment or get a little attention then threaten to fire them. If that doesn't work then actually fire them. There are some amazing financial professionals out there who would love to work with you. If you aren’t happy with yours go get another one. There’s no joke or punchline here, if you aren’t clicking with your financial fiduciary start interviewing and finding new a new one.
I hope this list helps. It’s all about taking charge and taking control of what’s yours. You have goals and wants that you are planning and working for and your advisor should be an active part of you getting to see those goals come to fruition. Please don’t just get discouraged and stop trying or forget about it. If you do that it can do a ton of long term damage and at the end of the day it’s going to affect you in the long run and not necessarily your poor advisor.