Is Your Financial Advisor Giving You What You Want or What You Need?
From my 20+ years in the financial planning industry, I’ve found that the best advisors will challenge you. They aren’t just yes men who tell you want you want to hear. Rather, they coach you into making the most strategic decisions that may or may not feel best to you in the moment. The relationship of a financial advisor to his advisees should be similar to that of a doctor to his patients. He or she should identify your financial ills and prescribe you a plan that you will both carry out together, hand in hand.
The reason I’m bringing this up today is because it came up in a conversation I had with another financial advisor recently. In said conversation, I was very impressed by the man’s expertise and concern for his clients; in fact, I was so impressed that I was thinking about working with him in some capacity. But when we got into talking about annuities, our opinions diverged.
He wanted to provide most of his retired (or nearly retired) clients with a guaranteed income stream by placing a significant portion of their nest egg into an annuity. I thought that the guaranteed income wasn’t nearly worth the price they would have to pay.
Now, I am not against the right annuity for the right person, although I do think there are some things everyone should be fully aware of before buying one (click here for our blog about things everyone should know about annuities). And I certainly wasn’t against him or his business. But I did have a problem with his rationale.
You see, when I pressed him about the illiquidity of annuities and the high fees that often drain returns, I could tell he understood quite well that he knew these products weren’t always the best fit for his clients. We went back and forth for a little while with arguments for and against annuities, and—at the end of it all—he eventually settled into a very telling statement:
“Well, Dan, are you giving your clients what they want or what you want?”
When it came down to it, his advice was about the client’s wants. An annuity provides the warm fuzzy of a guaranteed income for life. It soothes fears of outliving one’s nest egg. In most cases, it just gives clients what they want (absolute assurance of income) rather than what they need (slow steady portfolio growth over time). It’s an easy sell that is often hard on the long-term returns.
Going back to the “doctor to patient” relationship I mentioned earlier…
Imagine your doctor says to you, “You have anemia, and you need an injection once a month if you are going to live.” Yanking on your collar a little bit, you reply, “But doctor, I don’t really want to. I’m scared of needles.”
What is he going to say? Is he going to offer you a daily pill and say, “I know this isn’t nearly as effective as the needle, but at least you won’t get the jitters”?
No, he is going to give you what you need, what is best for you.
It’s the same thing with an advisor. And this goes far beyond annuities. What if you want to cash out of the stock market during a downturn in a whirl of negative emotions? What if you want to invest in individual stocks rather than a balanced, diversified portfolio? What if you want to stay in an aggressively invested, risky portfolio much later in life?
I’m not saying your advisor should twist your arm to make you do something you aren’t willing to do, but—as I said before—he or she should challenge you to treat your financial ills, even if it doesn’t pad his pockets, even if it’s not what you want to hear.
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