I’m finally delivering the last installment of MoneySense’s top 25 money tips of all time. This follows parts 1, 2, 3 and 4. Now, without further ado, are the final five money tips, as decided by Canadian financial experts.
Understand how your advisor is paid. In Part 4, some tips were related to finding the right financial advisor. This is an important aspect of completing that task. Some advisors are paid by commission when selling certain products. You can be sure he or she will be looking out for his or her own interests (making money through commission) rather than offering what is truly best for the customer. “[A]sk your adviser to put on paper a complete list of all the ways he or she will derive compensation from your account, as well as estimated amounts… [O]nly by understanding your adviser’s incentives can you judge whether the advice you are receiving is unbiased.”
Consider risk. The article says you should have your advisor put any statements including the phrase “no risk” in writing. Anyone promising high returns with no risk is trying to take advantage. If markets are efficient, any no risk, high return opportunities will be gone long before we regular folk will have access to them.
Ask questions. Ask for credentials. Ask for the fee structure, as we mentioned above. Ask for discounts.
Beware of 10% solutions. I’ve heard many estimates of a 10% annual return in the stock market, but a 5% to 7% return is more likely. The 10% figure that is common excludes fees and was calculated at the height of the stock market book in the 1990s, according to MoneySense.
Write it down. Any investment conditions you would like to set should be written down in a formal agreement. You could call this an “investment policy statement,” and it may outline types of funds (like those containing investments in tobacco, defense contractors, or Japanese auto makers) that you wish to exclude from your portfolio. It should also outline your risk tolerance and your expected returns. “How do you know if your statement is complete? Ask yourself if a new manager who has never met you could, with only that information, handle your portfolio the way you would like. Only if the answer is yes should you be satisfied.”
It took me a while to finish posting the series, but these top 25 tips are excellent suggestions for maintaining personal finances and working with an advisor. Remember that these tips came from advisors, so they may be biased. Some people prefer not to work with advisors. Everyone needs to make a living and it’s often difficult to determine who in the services industry is really there to help the customer rather than their own.
The more educated the customer is, the more of a chance he or she will succeed.
Updated August 9, 2011 and originally published July 21, 2006.