Do it Yourself or Delegate? Did You Choose Your Advisor or Vice Versa?

Most of our clients are good delegators. They are smart and persistent, and they could manage their own financial planning. But they are busy and their time is valuable. Our clients are not necessarily rich, but they are wealthy; they enjoy living the good life through reasonable means. They have a clear understanding and they... are feeling good about their money, their security, and their advisor.

What these clients have in common is that they chose their advisor, their advisor did not choose them. If I hire a lawyer or a doctor, I am going to check out at least two or three alternatives for each, and I’m going to go with the most comfortable and effective matches. Unfortunately, many people find themselves inappropriately matched with a financial advisor because they are simply an object of their adviser’s sales target.

Start with a little research, so that you can ask your potential advisor the right questions.

• How does your training and life experience make us a good, long-term match?
• What is your core investment philosophy?
• Do you sell products for commissions?
• What are your services really costing me?

Ask yourself, does the advisor’s resume reflect a broad range of personal, technical and entrepreneurial experience? For example, did he or she learn at a large firm and leave to start his or her own firm, in order to take his or her advising and service to the next level? If so, you might find this advisor/business owner’s enthusiasm inspiring.

You can go deeper: you might ask these questions:

• How will your coaching help me understand my money and my future income and security?
• How will your service put me in control of my investments?
• Is your firm’s technology cutting-edge: can you show me the complete picture in real-time on the web and in-person?
• Can I just call you up and talk or meet anytime?
• Will you proactively and efficiently monitor the plan and investments, not wasting my time or trying to sell me products?
• What is your experience?

A big component of successful planning and investing, in addition to the advisor’s technical learning, is experience. An advisor who is a perfect match for you provides the benefit of technical knowledge and experience. As in many disciplines, experience enables a planner to know the rules and apply them using the intuition that experience provides.

When you benefit from an advisor’s knowledge of the tax, planning and investment rules and the successes and failures of other people’s experiences, you and your advisor can tailor your actions to maximize your personal preferences for things like these:

• Early retirement or later retirement
• Nicer house or nicer car
• Larger house or smaller house
• Can I save more now and eventually quit my job to start my dream business?
• Should I fully or partially fund my children’s educations?
• Buy that Bend house or buy the stocks and bonds?
• Own more stocks/less bonds or fewer stocks/more bonds along with things like commodities, gold and commercial real estate held in low-cost index funds?

Since your situation is unique, your plan and investments should be independently tailored and monitored to consider things like your ability to sleep at night, your tax situation, your time frames, and even your probable longevity.

Many analytical people are good at doing some research and attempting to become experts, and some succeed. More are poor at delegating and hiring the perfect advisor, thus achieving mediocre investing and planning results. I have seen this repeatedly over many years, and it is heartbreaking to see what could have been achieved had clients chosen the right advisor earlier in life. Even if you are a do-it-yourselfer, you should have a backup financial management plan if another family member is not ready take over the role. Likewise, your advisor should have a backup plan; what happens if something happens to your advisor?

Many outgoing or expressive people are good at delegating but not so good at doing a little research and choosing their advisor (vs. letting an advisor choose them). If you are a delegator and don’t have an advisor or don’t feel comfortable with your advisor or the advisor’s firm, you should consider doing a little research and choosing your perfect advisor; don’t let him or her choose you!

-- Dave and Patrick