12 Things Your Financial Advisor Doesn't Want You to Know

Finding the right financial advisor could help you optimize your wealth. But here are a few things they won’t typically tell you.
Updated Feb. 2, 2024
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Finding the right financial advisor could be key to optimizing your wealth. Learning how to invest money and plan for the future can be overwhelming, and having a professional to talk to could help you make better decisions.

Unfortunately, not everyone in the industry will steer you in the right direction. While there are certainly some great financial advisors, even the most honest and trustworthy might have their own personal biases. Before you hire one, there are a few things you should know that they probably won’t mention.

They are probably learning as they go

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The financial advisor you‘re talking to might not be as experienced as you think. While every state has different certification requirements, there is no degree or specialized program required to be a financial advisor. Ask for their credentials before you make a decision. If they have a CFP, CFA, or a CPA designation, you’re more likely to be in good hands.

They get paid to sell you more products and services

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Financial advisors make their money in many different ways. If they get paid on commission, they’re likely to try selling you products and services you don’t need. If you notice an ongoing push for you to buy products or services near the end of the month, that’s a sign the advisor is looking to pad their paycheck.

Similarly, if something doesn’t earn them a commission, they might not recommend it, even if it’s an investment that could prove lucrative for you. Understanding what a financial advisor does can help you decide what services you need.

There’s a reason they want to see all your assets

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Much like you’re researching potential financial advisors, they are also checking you out. They’ll look at your bank statements, pay stubs, outstanding debts, and investments. While this helps them see how they can help you, it also gives them a way to sell you more so they can make more money.

They can’t legally make any promises

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No good financial advisor will promise you a specific return on your investment. Not only is that unethical, it’s also illegal. It’s perfectly acceptable if your advisor is positive and optimistic about your investment, but be wary if they start promising you actual numbers.

You may be able to negotiate your fees

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Before you settle on a financial advisor, you should do some price and rate shopping to see what the average costs are. After researching, you can present your advisor of choice with the information and see if there is any wiggle room in their fees. While they may be unable to budge, some financial advisors will be able to charge you a lower fee than initially quoted.

The hard sell usually only benefits them

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While you shouldn’t think of your financial advisor as a salesperson, selling you things is part of their job. And if they hit you with aggressive salesmanship, that’s never a good sign. Financial planning takes time. If your advisor is pressuring you to move quickly on something using the hard sell doomsday approach, that’s a definite red flag.

Good news isn’t always good news

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Some things that may seem like good news aren’t always good news. Promising above-market high returns, for example, may not be wise since your financial advisor cannot predict the future. A good financial advisor will know this and should present you with an accurate assessment of the potential risks and rewards of an opportunity.

You might not actually need them

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While some people prefer to let a financial advisor handle their assets, you might not actually need one. Many of the best investment apps, free online articles, and robo-advisors can help you manage many of your investments all on your own. Of course, advisors might not tell you that since they might lose you as a client.

Fee-based payments can save you money

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A fee-compensated financial advisor takes a pre-stated fee for their services. That can mean charging a flat retainer or an hourly rate for their advice and services. In contrast, a commission-based advisor’s payment is earned entirely based on the accounts they open and the products they sell. As a result, they may try to convince you to buy services you don’t need.

Heavy activity helps them make money

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Pay attention to your portfolio. If you’re being charged fees for multiple transactions, especially month after month, you may not be in the best hands. If the transactions aren’t actually helping your portfolio grow, your financial advisor may just be moving your money around to help them make a commission.

Stocks might not be safe in the long run

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You’ll see plenty of evidence showing that stocks are less volatile over longer periods of time. What you won’t hear, however, is that they might not have a higher return than other investments, especially over long periods of time like 20 years. In some cases, you could even lose money with stocks. At the very least, they may not outperform other investments.

The level of attention you get might depend on how they get paid

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The days of trading commissions are coming to an end. Brokerages are moving to an assets under management (AUM) approach based on the number of assets you have with a financial advisor. Unfortunately, this can result in you getting less attention from your advisor than they might give a client with more assets. If you get quarterly newsletters, annual updates, or statements regularly, that’s a good sign that your financial advisor is keeping you up-to-date.

Bottom line

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If you’re looking for a new financial advisor, we recommend meeting several before you make a decision. Research the different types of financial advisors and narrow in on those that fit align with the services you want. Don’t be afraid to ask your financial advisor questions or walk away if they don’t seem like a great fit. It’s important to feel good about the person you hire to manage your money.

FinanceBuzz is not an investment advisor. This content is for informational purposes only, you should not construe any such information as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

Author Details

Jessica Wick Jessica Wick is a content writer living in (and loving!) the Pacific Northwest. When she's not balancing the family budget and finding ways to save money for trips, she's writing for work, reading for fun, spending time with her friends, or traveling with her husband and daughter.

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