10 things your financial planner must be telling you
1. Risk capacity matters more than risk appetite. You can be a person with low net worth but with the risk appetite of Captain Magellan. That will not really serve you well in financial planning because here your risk has to be calibrated. What matters is the risk capacity or the amount of risk that you should ideally be taking.
2. How the financial planner will be earning his income and you absolutely need to know this. There are different models but never prefer a financial planner who is acting as an agent for the products. There is a clear conflict of interest. You want the financial planner to be loyal to your long term needs not the principal whose products he is selling. Ideally go for a fixed fee plan.
3. Whether there is any performance related charges in the plan. This is something you must be very clear at the time of signing of the agreement with your financial planner. When you have performance related incentives, the planner is more inclined to suggest more risky strategies to enhance your returns. You don 't need a financial planner who shoots from the hip. Focus on stable growth by paying a fixed fee to your planner.
4. Likelihood of reaching your financial goals is a key input that the financial advisor needs to give. Here the financial advisory must be brutally honest. If the goals are too lofty or if the market conditions are unlikely to be supportive then the financial advisor must make a clear disclosure of the risks involved.
5. Financial planning is a boring and painful job and the planner must not paint it like a fancy job that can do wonders to your portfolio. The planner must be honest enough to tell you that there is nothing like assured returns and nothing like fancy returns. Money is best made in the traditional boring way and that is what you must focus on.
6. Bad times will happen and you need to be prepared. That is the primary warning that your financial planner must give. There will be years of negative returns and there also will be years of flat returns. Over the longer term you need to be prepared for that. In addition, there could be cataclysmic events like Lehman and 9/11 with disastrous consequences. The advisor must prepare you for such eventualities.
7. The responsibility of reaching goals is still yours, so get involved. Rather have this kind of honesty than a financial planner who tells you that he has a magic wand to take care of everything. The most important thing that your planner must tell you is to get involved in the planning and monitoring process from day 1. That is the only way you can ensure that your plan is aligned to your goals.
8. Manage your debt and insurance before your wealth. This is all about getting your priorities right. If you keep carrying high cost credit cards and personal loans then you are never going to create wealth. Get rid of your high cost debt before you start planning your finances. Remember, when you close a credit card on which you are paying 35 % interest, it is like buying an investment with an assured return of 35 %.
9. The biggest risk is not taking any risk and that is what your financial advisor must tell in the beginning. If you want to create wealth over the next 20 years then you need to be invested in equities. By putting your money in liquid funds, you can never create wealth even if you continue to invest for 30 years. Equities are not only wealth creators but also they are more tax efficient.
10. Financial plan is your master document and all else is subservient. It is good if your financial planner sensitizes you to this reality. Once your financial plan is made your tax plan or your holiday plan have to be subservient to the master financial plan. Otherwise the core purpose of the plan gets defeated.
In a nutshell, get a financial advisor who is willing to tell uncomfortable truths. In the long run, they will serve you better.