You need to make sure your money works for you so that you can increase your wealth and retire comfortably. People who do not have the time for or the interest in managing their finances should hire a financial advisor.

A financial advisor is supposed to be someone who has your money and your general best interests at heart. Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous people who want to take advantage of you and just want to take your money, instead of growing it. While it may be difficult to know what your advisor’s real intentions are, you should watch out for certain warning signs. These five signs can tell you if your advisor is harming you, rather than helping you.

1. He or she doesn’t have the proper credentials.

Certified Financial Planners and Investment Advisors must follow certain standards and know the right regulations. They must also have the right credentials and must pass a lot of tests to get a CFP certification. If your advisor does not have these qualifications then you need to be wary. Ask anyone giving you financial advice if they have passed the CFP certification exams and if you are still wary, you can always call the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards to check.

2. They won’t put anything in writing.

Advisors promise to act as a fiduciary to their clients. This is not just a verbal promise, but it should also be written down. They need to state that they will disclose any sorts of conflicts of interest, plus disclose how they are paid. If the advisor does not give you this, then you need to be wary.

3. They are paid via commission or you don’t know how they are paid.

The written pledge should also include how the advisor is paid. The best advisors are fee only, meaning they get a flat fee no matter what happens, whether the investments go up or down. If they are paid via commission, then you should run in the other direction. They will likely push the most expensive products towards you, and that is not taking your best interests to heart. If you don’t know how they are being paid, then you should ask directly, or walk away.

4. They are pushy with products, rather than asking questions.

It is normal for financial advisors to show you some products their company is offering. For example, a life contingent structured settlement is a common product some FAs offer. However, if that is all they talk about, then you should be careful. If the advisor is being pushy or only calls you to invest more money into the same products, then they may be doing you more harm than good.

As always, be vigilant, and even if you have a financial advisor, you shouldn’t just sign anything.  A good financial advisor should ask you questions instead of pushing products at you. They want to know you – what your risk tolerances are, your goals, your income, your expenses etc. They want to know these things so they can tailor their advice and financial strategy to your best interests.

5. The advisor cannot show you their financial strategy or back it up with research.

All advisors should have an Investment Policy Statement that shows how they are making investment decisions on your behalf. They should also have a written plan for rebalancing your portfolio in troubled times. Plus, this strategy should be backed with academic research about investing. For example, a life contingent structured settlement is one such way to balance your portfolio.

While no one can predict the market, a good advisor should know his or her stuff. If they are merely making up numbers or telling you that their strategy is a “secret,” then you should find another advisor.

Featured photo credit: life contingent structured settlements via farm9.staticflickr.com

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