We the investors of the world have provided the funds that corporate America has needed to finance their growth over the past two hundred years in exchange for the right to share in that growth and profits previously only afforded owners. The investor/ management relationship has worked out so well that a whole industry evolved to fulfill the growing number of investors needs for information and advise to assist investors in making sound investment decisions. The Financial Services Industry, which originally was only available to the very wealthy, has grown over the decades to be the provider of investment information to roughly 40% of American families.
Most financial advice for Australians in Singapore are affiliated with large investment firms that funnel the firm’s collective knowledge, information and expertise to their cadre of advisor to pass on to individual and institutional investors. In theory this gave those investors associated with large firms potential for returns that could not be achieved on their own or with an association with smaller or independent advisor.
Thus the Financial Advisor that advised you and me was actually taking the firms “expert knowledge”, adapting it to our sanitation and advising us where we should be investing our savings to achieve our financial goals. We were told that since 1900 if you stayed invested in a well diversified portfolio you would never have less then when you started in any ten year period.
So what happened over the past decade? Most of us lost a sizable part of our savings in the 2001 Tech Bubble only to loose more of our savings in the Sub Prime Bubble. The $100,000 that we had in January 2001 shrank to $60,000 by October 2003 then grew to $80,000 in July 2007 and is now worth $40,000 today. We’re eight years closer to retirement and wondering how we’re going to survive if we ever do get to retire.
Do we just plan on working for the rest of our life? Do we work until we can’t then go in Medicaid and welfare become a drain on the United States economy? Do we take what we’ve got left and develop a strategy and lifestyle that will allow us to live out a comfortable life without being a burden on or children and our country?
I personally think the last option is the best option, but it is going to take an adjustment in our attitudes and lifestyle. One of the adjustments has to be in how we look at the investment markets and out financial advisors. Whether you should change Financial Advisors or not, now is the time to asses the performance of your current advisor and decide if it is time to make a change. I am speaking of a Financial Advisor not an Investment Advisor, there are less then 5% of the world’s population that should be seeking the services of an Investment Advisor. The investment markets are not a place for most of us to turn to make money; they are a place for us to preserve the capital that we have left and grow that capital at reasonable rates of return.
The first step in choosing your new Financial Advisor is for you to decide what you want from your advisor after your attitude adjustment. Here are some of my suggestions:
o Help me preserve the capital I have left and grow it at a conservative rate of return.
o Help me to live within my means and set an investment strategy based on my needs and goals.
o Help me protect my family form the loss of my earning ability or my death.
o Help me and my family achieve our financial goals prior to retirement.
o Help me accumulate enough to enjoy a comfortable retirement.
o Help me assess my need for long term care insurance.
o Help me establish and estate plan.
Once you know what you want from your advisor you’ll need to find a qualified provider. As in all professions the first qualification you need to look for is education. Your potential advisors will have a Series 66 or a Series 7 securities license as well as an insurance license and a variable products license. A Series 66 allows them to sell mutual funds and a Series 7 allows then to sell stocks, bonds, options as well as mutual funds. A Series 7 is a more in-depth course of study then the Series 66, so I’d eliminate anyone who doesn’t have a Series 7 securities license.
Seventy percent of the people representing themselves as Financial Advisors stop their education beyond their licenses and their required annual continuing education. It’s the other 30% of the advisors that you are looking for. These are the people with initials behind their names representing professional designations. At the top of this designation pecking order is the CFP (Chartered Financial Advisor) designation. A CFP is comparable to a master’s degree in financial planning; it takes three years of study and at least three years of practical experience. To find a CFP in your community go to: cfp.net/search. Other designations like the ChFC (Chartered Financial Consultant) and CLU (Chartered Life Underwriter) are focused on specific segments of the financial advisory field. These designations are comparable to Board Certifications in the medical fields, and I personally would not put my finances in the hands of anyone who doesn’t take their profession seriously enough to seek all the education that is available. This search can leave you with a list of three to three hundred depending on the size of your community. I suggest that you check BestofUS.com a website that lists the best of ten professions across the United States. This should help you bring your list down to a manageable number of qualified advisors.