Investors have options when seeking advice
Whatever your level of investing expertise and experience, your decision to seek professional investment advice should be done very carefully. Determining that you want help is just the first step in a process that should involve defining the kind of assistance you need, understanding how and how much you’ll pay for this service, and feeling completely comfortable with the prospective investment advisory relationship. Finding the right person or firm is not as easy as it sounds.There are a lot of “investment advice givers,” and they come in a wide variety of professional configurations. Brokerages, investment advisory firms, insurance companies, banks, financial planners, and independent advisers or consultants are all out there ready to help you. Obviously, some are better than others.How you choose an investment advisor has been the subject of numerous articles in periodicals and chapters in books on personal finance and investing. Referencing any of these, which pretty much all say the same thing, would be helpful.
Apart from having a clean regulatory history, the standard criteria for an investment adviser look something like this:– Establishes absolute trust. How you do this, without working with someone for a reasonable period of time, takes a leap of faith and/or a very reliable referral.– Has experience and expertise relevant to your investing needs. Try to avoid someone who learned their trade during the “irrational exuberance” of the 1990s.– Can assure you and provide evidence of his complete objectivity regarding investment selections. There should be no conflict of interest – the client’s interests always come first.– Has good communication and educational skills. A good investment advisor should be a good teacher.
In last week’s column I suggested a number of books on investing that I recommend to investors according to their level of investment sophistication. To improve upon the investment advisor selection process, consider these two unconventional ideas: A serious read of one or both of the beginning level books – “Investing for the Financially Challenged” by Walter Updegrave and “Index Funds: Strategies for Investment Success” by Will McClatchy might, depending on your financial circumstances, obviate your need to seek out an advisor. These are very easy reads and, at the very least, digesting their content will enable you to ask good questions and better understand the answers. My second idea is to suggest that you start regularly reading articles by the financial journalists listed below. These are all top quality, experienced providers of a continuous flow of practical advice for individual investors. You can trust them – their objectivity is unquestioned. They can be accessed weekly, free of charge, through their Internet Web sites. If you don’t have a computer, use one at your public library. I’ve been reading these four columnists, which are my favorites, for several years – my files are full of their insightful observations: — Scott Burns, Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.columnists– Jonathan Clements, Wall Street Journal, http://www.sunday.wsj.com– Jeff Brown, Philadelphia Inquirer, http://www.philly.com/philly/business/columnists/jeff_brown.– Harriet Brackey, Miami Herald, http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/business/columnists/harriet_brackeyIf you’re looking for investment advice you can trust, your first stop should definitely include some of the reading material I’ve recommended here. This takes a little extra effort on your part, but the return will be worth it and enduring. If you decide that you need to work with an investment professional, you’ll be much better prepared to develop a quality relationship.
The Investing Wisely column is written by Richard Loth, Managing Principal of Mentor Investing, an independent registered investment adviser. He can be reached by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling (970) 827-5591.
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