There are plenty of good folks serving as financial advisors, says Mark Roberts, ChFC, FIC, who has worked in the industry for more than two decades.
“Many of my colleagues form pleasant relationships with their clients and seem to really care about the client-advisor professional relationship; unfortunately, that’s not enough,” says Roberts, who founded Affinity Asset Management (www.affinityasset.com).
“Frequently, a new client will come in and discuss how much they enjoyed working with their previous advisor who, too often, seems to have had their priorities backwards.”
Too often, financial advisors are more motivated by pushing products such as investments and insurance policies before deducing a strategy that meets the needs and expectations of a client for his or her retirement years, he says.
“To put it simply, the way many advisors go about building a retirement for their clients is like planning the wallpaper, carpet and other aesthetic considerations for a house before the blueprints have been completed,” Roberts says. “It may seem obvious that you need the blueprints first, but many people – laypeople and financial professionals alike – can get lost in the details.”
Roberts reviews several missteps that are too common among advisors in his industry.
• Your sense of being a priority is directly proportional to your asset size or income. Many firms and advisors have a minimal wealth criteria to judge whether or not you’re worthy as a client. If you meet the minimal criteria, be mindful that you may be getting just the minimal amount of service you deserve.
• The advice you receive leans toward selling you financial products. You want advice that truly has your best interest at heart. Advisors from some large financial institutions may have an ulterior motive with their recommendations – they’re trying to push products. Independent firms and advisors usually do not have this burden.
• Your financial game plan feels fragmented; various advisors do not feel like a team. Tax and legal issues, mortgages, planning services and more – these are areas needing to be addressed, which typically requires multiple professionals. If they’re not all on the same page, your strategy is probably suffering.
• You don’t really understand your wealth strategy. Whether you’re still in your earning years and planning for the distribution years, in transition or finally retired, a basic understanding of what’s happening with your money is highly recommended.
• Your account’s distribution/withdrawals have little or no tactic. Withdrawals from your accounts inevitably weaken them, but there are ways to minimize the cost. Make sure your advisor shows you how to make withdrawals while causing the least amount of reduction to your account.
• You don’t have a tax-reduction plan. There are three buckets to taxation: tax deferred, taxable and tax free. If the bulk of your retirement money is not in the tax-free bucket, then you’re probably paying more in taxes than you need to be.
About Mark Roberts, ChFC, FIC
Mark Roberts knew right out of high school that he wanted to start his own financial firm. He founded Affinity Asset Management (www.affinityasset.com), where he offers advice on retirement tax strategies and distribution that his clients haven’t been able to find with previous financial advisors. Roberts started selling policies for a major insurance company right out of high school to help put himself through college. After graduating with a degree in finance, he dove into estate planning to set him apart from other advisors. However, as changes were made to estate tax laws over time, he shifted his focus to income tax strategies. Roberts’ philosophy is “the blueprints are more important than the wallpaper or carpet.” The wallpaper and carpet represent products such as investments and insurance policies, whereas the blueprints represent the strategies. Once strategies that truly fit his client’s needs are put in place, his firm’s focus can shift to providing clients with the right products. Roberts loves to spend his free time contributing to children’s charities, coaching the sports teams of his kids – Garrett, Paige and Savannah – and bonding with his wife of more than 20 years, Amy.