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How to Get Your Money's Worth From an Adviser

A good investment pro should have these 17 traits

By Paul Merriman and MarketWatch

(This article appeared previously on Many retirees, perhaps most, have one or more financial advisers. They may include insurance agents, bankers, brokers, financial planners and fee-based investment advisers.

These professionals must all be paid in one form or another. And one way or another, you are the one who pays. Therefore you have a right to ask — and a right to know — whether or not you are getting your money's worth.(MORE: Finding an Adviser Who's Right for You)

I'll focus on how this question applies to investment advisers. But much of it can apply to other types of hired financial help.What Makes a Good Adviser

In my 2012 book, Get Smart or Get Screwed: How to Select the Best and Get the Most From Your Financial Advisor, I devoted a chapter to what investors can and should get from an adviser. This discussion is adapted from that chapter.

I hope that you have or will develop a relationship similar to the one I have with my own adviser. He's 30 years younger than I am, so he's likely to be around to take care of my family long after I'm gone. He and I know each other well, and I know I can count on him to take care of my investments so I don't have to spend any time worrying about them.

Obviously, I have a very high level of confidence in my adviser. I was in the advisory business for many years, and I know that he fully deserves it.But how will you know whether that's true of your adviser?

17 Traits That Define Excellence 

As you work with your adviser, think about the following points that, in my opinion describe excellence. I think you should be able to take these traits for granted from any adviser you hire.

It goes without saying that your adviser should be competent and ethical and, whenever a conflict might arise, can be counted on to put your interests ahead of his own. For starters, he (or she, but I'll use "he" for simplicity's sake) should be truthful and honest with you at all times. He should actively earn your full trust, not just assume that he has it.(MORE: What a Financial Gerontologist Can Do For You)

Here are 17 more key traits:


1. Your adviser should conduct himself in a manner that makes you comfortable opening up to him and telling him everything.

2. Your adviser should be able to win the trust and confidence of your spouse, partner or other family members.

3. Your adviser should treat you, your time and your objectives with respect. He should be willing to answer your questions on any financial topic. He should listen to you and treat your fears, desires and questions seriously. When you are talking or meeting, he should give you his full attention without distractions relating to other clients.

4. When your adviser doesn't know something, he should be comfortable acknowledging that and willing and able to work with you to get whatever answers and help you need.

5. Your adviser should treat your confidential information as private. He should not divulge confidential information to you about other clients.


Paul Merriman Read More
By MarketWatch
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