Is Your Financial Advisor Worth It?

As Fools who take control of our own financial futures, we tend to assume that most readers are already investing in stocks, saving regularly, or working toward financial plans of their own design.

Yet we may be wrong. Top financial institutions control hundreds of billions in assets on behalf of clients. Including its Merrill Lynch subsidiary, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) had $1.7 trillion under management from brokerage, money management, and custodial clients as of December. Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS  ) provides brokerage and investment advice for clients whose assets total more than $1.6 trillion. You may be one of those clients.

If so, great! We'd love to know why. For as my Foolish colleague Matt Koppenheffer points out here, Warren Buffett has long counseled against allowing others -- "Helpers," he calls them -- to manage money for fees that cut deeply into investing profits.

Surely the story doesn't end there. If it did, why do so many of us continue to pour hundreds of billions into the coffers of big banks? Have we simply been duped? Or are brokers and advisors adding legitimate value to their clients?

Seriously, I'm asking. Whether you're a financial advisor or broker yourself, or a customer with an experience to share, I want to hear your story. Please vote in the poll below and then scroll down and leave a comment to explain your response. You can also email us at tips@fool.com.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home, portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Google+ or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (7) | Recommend This Article (7)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2012, at 12:18 PM, FearlessTrader wrote:

    I've always managed my own investments, and now that I'm older, it's tough to find a good financial adviser to competently manage our portfolio should I die.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2012, at 12:22 PM, Brent1228 wrote:

    I want out of my relationship with my advisor! The only thing I like about it is the buy and hold focus. But, buy and hold on the wrong stocks??? They are under performing to the S&P. I have my own fund and I have beat them by a significant amount with significantly amount of less $.

    My issue is that I need to grow the cahones and do it! This is for the retirement years and I don't need to mess it up.

    HOW do I get over the fear?!?!?

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2012, at 2:48 PM, clutch410 wrote:

    I have an advisor and recommend getting one. It may be tough to find a good one but if you do stick with them. I used to manage my own finances but I found myself losing more than I thought I should. My brother referred me to his advisor and I am definitely making more and also feel more confident with my investments.

    I think the message i've heard that makes the most sense is "do not step over dollars to pick up pennies." This is what I was doing making my own picks

    Be careful and shop around because there are advisors that aren't worth it, but if you find a good one stick with them.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2012, at 5:09 PM, TMFPennyWise wrote:

    I don't have the confidence (yet) to manage all our investments and my husband has absolutely no interest in it so we have been paying our 'Advisor' to underperform the S & P for many many years.

    Now since I started really paying attention to TMF and SA and reading our monthly investment statements (instead of just throwing them into the drawer), we know enough to be dissatisfied and will soon begin to transfer funds to my online accounts or to ETFs.

    I wish I had paid more attention to what was (not) going on in our accounts in past years and assumed control earlier--mainly because we have allowed a lot of money to go over the dam, but also because I think studying and investing in stocks is fun.

    At least I got my husband to fire our Merrill Lynch stock broker in 2008/2009.

    J.

  • Report this Comment On March 14, 2012, at 12:24 AM, bobbyk1 wrote:

    I had half my money in a managed account at at Fidility.After looking hard at the numbers I determined they were closet indexing me.The fees were low but just not making enough money.Since joining MF I am beating SP 500 handily.

  • Report this Comment On March 14, 2012, at 12:48 AM, BentMike wrote:

    I have a tax sheltered bucket of index funds I am slowly moving to stocks (at Vanguard which treats me well for $7 a pop).

    I have a bucket with an adviser I hired before I knew enough to make decisions of my own. I pay him 1.5% on the value of the portfolio. He gives me other advise not related to that bucket, like get a will, pay down the mortgage with the MM and get a line of credit instead. And he invests in ways I can't.

    I just can't think like he does, but it has been working. I told him to be lower risk and he treated it like we were old and managed for income. In the icky 2000's he got 6.3% a year (before his cut). Beat the heck out of the indexes I kept. He gets into dividends that I can't even find after I know they exist.

    So he does this non-Foolish business and makes it work. I, on the other hand, keep buying stuff because I am convinced, like a Fool, that good governance, a big moat, managers with skin in the game, a real understanding of the company business, and prudent financial behavior, products that are forward looking, and so on, make sense for long holds and low worry. I won't sell in the troughs, because the stuff I own is beat down by speculation and computer trading, not by fundamentals. I will have to learn how to sell on the uptick, but not yet.

    Back to the adviser. I am always wanting to call him and ask him why on earth he bought or sold things. What he does really makes little sense to me. And what I do makes little sense to him. We shall see. I hope I get to really show him up some day, but it hasn't borne fruit yet for me a year into investing on my own.

  • Report this Comment On May 14, 2012, at 12:49 AM, nickrygiel wrote:

    Mixed opinions on this one - I'm a financial advisor and my first experience was negative. It was with a RIA back in the early 2000's - He 'analyzed' my stocks and said that he thought they were good yet never said anything about why they were. He then proceeded to tell me that I needed to add more life insurance - specifically whole life insurance. I told him that the military provides inexpensive term life and as I am single, without any debt I did not see the basis for his recommendation since reading the fine print realized he made a sizable commission on the potential sale. I talked to my Dad afterwards and he said they were all crooks and that he was burned by an advisor/broker working for a wirehouse (he was churning his account buying and selling stocks charging commission.)

    these negative experiences drove me to invest on my own and eventually it became my favorite hobby. I made many mistakes that an advisor may have prevented - but now I'm much better off learning from those mistakes and can effectively advise my clients on what not to do and what to be aware of.

    Regardless of the decision to have a financial advisor or not - every person needs to realize they need to hold themselves accountable for their money and their investments. The advisor works for the client, just like a mechanic works for a customer or a doctor works for a patient. The more the person knows about investing the easier it is to determine what quality level of service the person is receiving and expectations from the very beginning of what he/she wants.

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