Prior to 1975 stockbrokers were called Customers’ Men. Their role was to help clients achieve their financial goals. They did this by performing duties that in modern times are provided by money managers. For example, they helped clients develop strategies and build portfolios. They recommended investments based on company research. And, they bought and sold securities for their clients.
This hundred year-old relationship changed when trading commissions were deregulated. The new regulation created discount brokers and severe price competition between established firms. Stockbrokers could no longer make the money they were used to so they had to change their role. They became salesmen whose primary role was to sell investment and insurance products (mutual funds, annuities) to their clients. They were and still are compensated with commissions that are based on the amount of products they sell. Continue reading →
Here’s how the Labor Department describes the problem. Assume you have 35 years until retirement and your current 401k account balance is $25,000. If your investment performance averages 7% over the next 35 years and your expenses average 0.5% your 401k account balance will grow to $227,000 in 2047. However, if your expenses averaged 1.5% with no additional contributions to your account your account balance would only grow to $163,000. The 1% difference in expenses reduced your account balance at retirement by 28%. And, that is with a paltry starting balance of just $25,000. Bigger 401k account balances are impacted the same way, the numbers are just bigger.
Every dollar of expense is one less dollar you have available for reinvestment and your future use. Therefore it is critical that you obtain the data you need to create an extremely accurate spreadsheet that documents every penny of expense that is deducted from your accounts or billed direct to you. Your measuring stick is the percentage of your assets that are paid every year in the form of expenses to as many as five service providers. Continue reading →
You know what the words investment performance mean, but do you know there are several types of investment performance that have varying levels of impact on your financial health?
Investment performance is the fastest way to achieve optimum financial health. For example, you earn $100,000 per year and you have a 10% savings rate ($10,000). Plus, you have accumulated $500,000 of retirement assets and your investment performance is 10% ($50,000). In this example, your investment performance had five times more impact than savings. Financial health occurs when your savings plus investment performance produces the assets you need to live the way you want to for the rest of your life with no compromises. Continue reading →
First of all, sales reps say you will never pay the surrender charge or penalty for early withdrawal because you intend to hold the investment for at least seven years. That is true on the day you buy the investment – you have no intention of selling it that day. But, it is not true one year later when you determine the investment product (mutual fund, annuity) is under-performing and charging excessive fees. You determine you could do a lot better elsewhere, but you have to pay a 6% penalty (one year has elapsed) to move your assets.
Why are surrender charges just a big number? As you may know, investment product companies still pay the sales rep a 5% commission even though the assets are not deducted from your account. In effect, the product company is front-ending the commission payment to the advisor. The product company needs time to recover the commission payment. Most of the reputable companies charge early withdrawal penalties for seven years. They have that length of time to recover the commission payment and they are protected by the surrender charge if you decide to leave early. Continue reading →
Savvy investors do not buy investment products from sales representatives (reps). They select “real” financial advisors who have the specialized expertise and services they need to help them achieve their financial goals. This is a far cry from reps who want to sell mutual fund products that pay 5% commissions. Regardless of what reps say in their sales pitches, astute investors should know reps, who are paid at the time of the sale, have no economic incentive to help them achieve their financial goals.
If you are a savvy investor you should pay fees to a financial advisor for his knowledge, advice, and services. If you become dissatisfied with the advisor’s results you can terminate the relationship and the advisor’s compensation stops. This is a powerful incentive that motivates advisors to help you achieve your goals. Continue reading →
In a recent Charles Schwab study titled Independent Advisor Outlook Study, 63% of advisors say it will be difficult for investors to achieve their retirement goals. The study cited a partial list of problems that included: A historically high federal debt, high unemployment, and rapidly growing college and health-care costs.
Sitting in the background are additional causes for concern such as rising longevity, the demise of the defined benefit pension plan, and low saving rates compared to other developed countries. One of the biggest issues is the rise of defined contribution plans, such as 401k, that transfer investment performance risk to employees. Many current retirees enjoy the guaranteed benefits of a pension plan. Their children and grandchildren will not be so lucky. Continue reading →
In the good old days, there was a straightforward relationship between investors and stockbrokers who were paid commissions to help investors trade their portfolios. They recommended stocks for purchase and sale based on input from analysts that worked for their firms.
That whole model fell apart in 1975 when brokerage commissions were deregulated. This change spawned a new type of firm that was loosely described as a discount broker. Then, when you needed help on how to trade, you had a choice: the traditional full service brokerage firm or the new upstart discount broker. Continue reading →
In a recent Investor Watchdog survey we uncovered an investor belief that could badly damage their financial interests. Investors did not believe they had a right to ask their current financial advisors specific types of questions.
Investors did not ask these questions for two primary reasons. First, they consider their advisors to be friends and friends do not ask friends certain types of questions. Second, they did not believe they had to ask questions because that was the responsibility of the regulatory agencies. If something flagrant happened, the advisor would be kicked out of the financial services industry. Both of these perceptions are wrong. Continue reading →
Most investors trust their financial advisors. They may even consider their advisors to be friends. They fail to recognize advisors want to be liked. Advisors know investors will tolerate bad results a lot longer if they forge a friendly relationship.
The bottom-line is advisors do not volunteer information that would cause investors to reject their sales recommendations or terminate relationships. It is not in their best interests to provide this information. And, investors who don’t know what they don’t know do not ask critical questions that impact their advisors’ recommendations and results. They have a hard time believing friends will take advantage of friends for money. Continue reading →
Every investor who relies on financial advisors to help them achieve their financial goals should be asking themselves how they can increase their advisor’s accountability for investment performance. Why ask the question? Most advisors go to great lengths to avoid accountability.
Here is an example. You select an advisor who convinces you to invest your assets in five mutual funds. You buy the recommended investments and you experience very poor performance over the next two years. Who is responsible for the bad performance, the funds or the advisor who recommended the funds? The advisor wants you to blame the funds so he can retain his relationship with you. He says it is not his fault the funds failed to deliver competitive performance. I disagree. The funds and the advisor who recommended them are both accountable. You should sell the funds and terminate your relationship with the advisor who sold you the funds. Continue reading →