Many people hire either the first person they interview or an advisor
who has been referred to them by a family member, friend, co-worker or
other acquaintance they trust. SmartMoney's Chuck Jaffe says this
is a mistake: "His [the advisor's] spiel makes it sound like
he can solve your problems, and you lack the know-how to tell if he can't
and the comparison to any other adviser to establish how you truly feel
You have no clue if he is selling you a bill of goods, a one-size-fits-all
plan that maximizes his take and minimizes your service, or if he truly
is a cut above the other helpers in your area." If you interview
multiple candidates, you can avoid these problems.
Check out the candidates.
Referrals by community members, other professionals, or even someone you
trust are not enough to verify that a potential advisor is a knowledgeable
or trustworthy one. In order to protect yourself and your hard-earned
money, you need to thoroughly check out any candidate you think you might
hire. The SEC recommends that you read the most recent Form ADV of any
The form comes in two parts and contains background information on the
advisor, including past complaints, and information on fees and investment
strategies. You can view the most recent version via the SEC's Investment
Advisor Public Disclosure website.
Do not over-rely on "credentials."
As discussed in a previous blog, while some credentials mean the holder
has gone through an extensive and rigorous test, many do not. There are
numerous new credentials that mean very little in terms of the education,
financial knowledge, or ethics of the advisor. Make sure to conduct your
own research to find out the extent of the advisor's qualifications.
Keep your goals in mind.
An advisor whose client returns show overly "big" returns several
years in a row may signal an advisor who is very good at his job or an
advisor with an inherently risky investment strategy. Take the time to
make sure your new advisor will work well with your goals.