If you’re starting out and don’t have a trove of assets, an planner who charges by the hour could be the best fit. These planners are best for when your needs are fairly simple. Typically, hourly planners are just building their practice, but that usually means they’ll take the care to get your finances right. After all, they’re relying on your recommendation to grow their business. Finally, many experienced advisers do hourly work because they enjoy working with younger clients who can only afford to hire someone at that rate.
You might also encounter financial planners who cater exclusively to the rich and refuse clients with less than $250,000 to invest. Don’t take it personally—hugely successful planners would just prefer to deal with big accounts rather than beginner clients. You want a planner who’ll make the time to focus on your concerns and is interested in growing with you.
Google and other search engines let you hone in on specific topics, and many mutual fund companies and financial services firms offer a wealth of free information. A visit to their websites can offer everything from general education on a wide array of products to economic forecasts and economic insights from professional market-watchers. With a just a little effort, you can identify and follow comments from your favorite economists, investment strategists, portfolio managers, or other experts.
The financial services field is constantly evolving and changing. Recent decades have seen the rise of unified managed accounts, the development of exchange traded funds (ETF), the evolution of annuities and insured investment products, and a host of other developments. Change is par for the course as the industry adapts to dynamic economic conditions and changes in what investors want and how they wish to deploy their assets.
What services will the fiduciary advisor provide to employees? Will the advisor provide simple retirement plan advice, or will comprehensive financial planning also be included? Is it appropriate to also offer other financial products and services to employees; things like mortgage advice, income tax planning and preparation, and estate planning? If so, how will these services be charged for and compensated? Will the employer foot the bill for all services, or will some services be considered ancillary benefits that come at an extra cost to the employee?
In 2005, amendments to the Malaysian Insurance Act require those who carry out financial advisory business (including financial planning activities related to insurance) and/or use the title of financial adviser under their firm (which, like in Singapore, must be a corporate structure) to obtain a license from Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM). Some persons who offer financial advisory services, e.g., licensed life insurance agents, are exempted from licensing as a practising requirement.
A growing number of financial planners make money only when you pay them a fee for their counsel. These independent financial planners don’t get a cut from life insurers or fund companies. You might pay them a flat fee, such as $1,500, for a financial plan. Or you could pay an annual fee, often 1% of all the assets—investment, retirement, college-savings and other accounts—they’re minding for you. Others charge by the hour, like lawyers.
You can certainly go it alone when it comes to managing your money. But you could also try to do it yourself when it comes to auto repair. In both areas, doing it yourself is a brilliant idea for some, and a flawed plan for many, many others. Mastering personal finance requires many hours of research and learning. For most, it’s not worth the time and ongoing effort.
Some financial professionals such as investment brokers and insurance agents aren’t bound by fiduciary duty. Instead, they’re only required to fulfill a suitability obligation. While fiduciaries must put their clients’ best interests before their own, financial professionals who adhere to the suitability standard must only provide suitable recommendations to their clients.
Before hiring a planner to help with your finances, make sure to understand what you are paying for. Question the planner about his or her specific training and qualifications, fee structure, and services the professional will provide. Consider developing a list of questions when vetting a financial planner. Finally, check the disciplinary record and references for the planner to make sure you’re receiving the best quality financial guidance.
Financial planners who explicitly provide financial advice and manage money for clients are considered fiduciaries. This means they are legally obligated to act in a client’s best interests, and they can’t personally benefit from the management of client assets. Instead, they are expected to manage these assets for the client’s benefit rather than their own. Fiduciary specifics can vary. Registered investment advisors (RIA), for example, are fiduciaries under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 who advise high-net-worth individuals on investments. They are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or state securities regulators.