I’m just asking…

On Friday’s show with Helaine Olen, one of the things we talked about was fiduciary duty.  What is the fiduciary duty of a financial advisor? “To consistently act in the best interest of clients.” And one of the things you get to sort out for yourself when you hire an advisor is how much you are willing to pay for his or her advice – the same way you do if you are hiring any professional.  The difference in the financial world is that you pay for that advice in different ways: sometimes by paying a percentage of the assets the professional manages, sometimes by paying commissions on products the professional buys in your account.  So you can go price shopping for an advisor just the way you do for a car, if price matters most to you.  What I think about when I think about a financial advisor goes beyond money: do I understand what s/he is talking about? Is s/he listening to the answers to questions asked – or do I feel like I do when I get on the customer service line for my computer: the person on the other end is reading from a script and just knows they have to solve the problem and get off the line to reach their quota? Do I know others who have had experience with this advisor? Can s/he give me references? Are they a fiduciary? How do they get paid? How long has their longest client been with them?

We live in a consumer society and we’re being asked to make more decisions that may be out of our area of both comfort and expertise.  BUT we also live in a world that has more ways to find information and ask questions than we’ve ever had.  So go ahead, ask the questions – and keep coming back with the answers you get to join the conversation.  I agree with Helaine – we need to keep talking about our money so we can keep it, grow it and use it.

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