Six Things Bad Financial Advisors Do

A good financial adviser can add tons of value to your financial well-being and can enhance your quality of life. “Good” can be a subjective term, in this case good denotes someone who is qualified to help you and whose personality gives you the confidence to follow their advice.

In evaluating the latter, here is a list of six things financial advisers do that might mean that they’re not the right advisor for you.

They Ignore Your Spouse

While this can occur with both male and female advisers and the ignored spouse can be either the husband or the wife, most accounts of this type of behavior tend to be with male advisers all but ignoring the wife. There have been several accounts in the press lately of widows leaving the adviser who served them while married for just this reason. If you are working with an advisor who ignores you, insist to your spouse that you switch advisers, any adviser worth their salt should be upfront that he or she serves the interests of both spouses equally. (For more, see: How Financial Advisors Mistreat Women (And What Women Can do About It and What Women Want from a Financial Advisor.)

They Talk Down to You

Not all clients are financially sophisticated, or for that matter, even take an interest in their financial affairs. Still, it’s the duty of the adviser to explain to you why he suggests a certain course of action or a particular financial product in a fashion that makes sense to you. If this isn’t the case be assertive or switch advisers and never let anyone you are paying talk down to you or make you feel stupid. (For more, see: Why Clients Fire Financial Advisors.)

They Put Their Interests Before Yours

This is perhaps most common in dealing with financial advisers who are compensated all or in part via commissions from the sale of financial products. Are they recommending mutual funds, annuities, or insurance products that pad their bottom line but might not be the best product for you? You need to ask questions and understand how your adviser is compensated and if this results in conflicts of interest for them in advising you. (For more, see: What You Need to Know About the Fiduciary Standard.)

They Won’t Return Your Calls or Emails

A good financial adviser is probably busy, but if you are not important enough to them to rate a response in a reasonable amount of time this isn’t right. While most advisers can tell a story about a client who calls every day my experience is that most clients make reasonable requests and deserve a prompt reply to their questions. If someone who you are paying to provide you with financial advice won’t reply to your calls why keep paying them? (For more, see: Tips for Resolving Disputes With Your Financial Advisor.)

They Suggest That You Don’t Need a Third-party Custodian

Can you say Madoff? If you ever find yourself in a meeting with a financial adviser who suggests that you shouldn’t have your account with a third-party custodian such as Fidelity Investments, Charles Schwab Corp. (SCHW), a bank, a brokerage firm, or some similar entity your best move is to end the meeting, get up, and run (don’t walk) away. Madoff had his own custodian and this was a centerpiece of his fraud against his clients. A third-party custodian will send statements to you independent of the adviser and usually offer online access to your account as well. Ponzi schemes and similar frauds thrive on situations where the client lacks ready access to their account information. (For more, see: How do I Know I Can Trust My Financial Advisor?)

They Don’t Speak Their Mind

An important aspect of a healthy client-financial adviser relationship is honest and open communication. This goes both ways. Clients might express a desire to make a particular financial move or to invest in a particular stock or mutual fund to the adviser. A good adviser will tell the client if he disagrees with this suggestion if that is the case and the reasons why they disagree. To not do this is doing the client a huge disservice. At the end of the day it’s the client’s money and they can do with it what they wish. But a good financial adviser will never tell a client what they want to hear just to keep earning fees or commissions from them. (For more, see: Shopping for a Financial Advisor and Why the Best Financial Advisor Might be You.)

The Bottom Line

The six characteristics outlined above are of course not exhibited by all financial advisers but rather are in my opinion the six worst characteristics that an adviser can have in dealing with a client. If your adviser exhibits any of these traits on a consistent basis this might be a sign that it’s time to find a new financial adviser. (For more, see: 7 Steps to Evaluate a Financial Advisor.)

By Roger Wohlner | October 21, 2014