The two week vacation to Hawaii was perfect except for one thing. My financial advisor from Citibank failed to call me the day a particular deal was closing as previously discussed. This investment offered between a 15% to 20% guaranteed return on the Dow Jones over four years if the Dow closes above the initial strike price plus any upside beyond the guarantee and a 10% downside buffer. I wanted to know whether the guaranteed return was 15%, 16%, 17%, 18%, 19%, or 20% to determine how much to invest. I already made up my mind that I would lob anywhere between $20,000 – $30,000 into this note.
Instead of getting a call on the day of closing, I get an e-mail two days after the close saying he got his calendars totally mixed up. Sigh. At least give a believable excuse! You know like, “I went binge drinking the night before and called in sick on Monday.”
Tim’s lack of follow up is costing me around $1,000 in paper gains in just a couple of weeks as the Dow has moved from 14,300 to over 15,000 at the moment. As an early retiree, I’m investing all the disposable income I’ve got because I’m looking for capital appreciation and income to help replace my lack of W2 income. Leaving cash in a money market account yielding 0.1% is a financial crime I refuse to commit.
Lesson learned. For those of you who are interested in an upcoming IPO and plan on going away for vacation, put in your IOI (indication of interest) before you leave and stagger your order size depending on the final price. My financial advisor might still forget to input the order, but at least there will be an e-mail trail indicating my IOI, and the firm can fill the order in arrears.
THE MAIN REASONS TO HAVE A FINANCIAL ADVISOR
* Investment ideas. There are always interesting investment opportunities somewhere, it just takes effort to look. If you have another set of eyes specifically looking for investment ideas meeting criteria you’ve discussed beforehand, then your chances increases of finding hidden gems. You can ask your financial advisor to send you a weekly e-mail with what went on in the markets, a screen of buy or sell ideas, or big news and analysis. Somebody is always making money on something, somewhere.
* A sounding board. Hopefully your financial advisor is financially astute, and not just a salesman looking to get you into the latest product with high embedded fees. If you have an experienced financial advisor, definitely use him or her to test out your ideas. For example, I made a three minute pitch to buy Chinese internet stocks to see if he had any feedback that I might be missing. He echoed most people’s concerns about corporate governance and voodoo accounting. But he really had no idea what he was talking about, which is fine. Before you buy anything, it’s always good to understand a reason why someone would be selling.
* Learning seminars. My financial advisor at Fidelity where I have my rollover IRA always e-mails me the latest upcoming seminars that are hosted in her office. The latest two are: Lessons From The Downturn and Intermediate Options Strategies. If I want to learn something, get some free food and beverages, and meet new folks, what better way than to attend one of these sessions. Leverage your financial advisor to expand your knowledge.
* Tax and estate planning. Many of us are financially astute in making and saving money, but when it comes to taxes and estate planning we need as much help as possible to avoid getting robbed by the tax man given tax laws are always changing. It’s also recommended to consult estate planning lawyers due to all the law changes. I plan on discussing Rule 72(t) strategies with my advisor later in the month as well as talk about potentially opening up a Fidelity Personal Retirement Annuity, which is not an annuity, but a fund where I can contribute after tax dollars, regardless of my income level and allow the growth to compound tax free. The FPRA is much like an IRA. Financial advisors generally have colleagues in different branches who can help you out on a multitude of financial issues.
* Portfolio Rebalancing. Over time, your investment portfolio can get out of whack due to the growth of your winners. A financial adviser can rebalance your portfolio on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis per your instructions so you don’t have to. Having a balanced portfolio based on your risk tolerance is important, especially during downturns.
* To relax and enjoy life. Most of you with financial means have better things to do with your lives than just watch over your money. You’ve got countries to see, family to be with, inventions to create, and work to do. While in Hawaii I was hiking, playing golf, surfing, scuba diving, eating like a hungry hippo, horseback riding, and watching sunsets over a different cocktail every single day. The last thing I wanted to do was think about whether Apple would beat estimates or sink further below $400. Knowing that a financial advisor has my back lets me relax on the more important things in life. Money is only a means to an end. If something big is happening or a position is blowing up in your portfolio, trust that s/he will let you know and make prudent decisions for you or at least give you a heads up.
MANAGE YOUR FINANCIAL ADVISOR FOR A BETTER RELATIONSHIP
It’s important to set expectations in the beginning for what you want out of a financial advisor. For my financial advisor at Citibank where I’ve developed a relatively meaningful portfolio, my #1 request is to have him e-mail me the prospectuses of all new index or single stock structured products that comes up every month and let me know which one he likes best. Given I plan on investing new money every single month, it’s important to be aware of a steady pipeline of new securities.
For my financial advisor at Fidelity, all I ask her to do is put me on the mailing list for all upcoming investment seminars that are held in her office downtown. I enjoy learning new things and meeting new people. I’m particularly interested in shielding as much of my investments as possible from the tax man, so I’ve asked her to let me know whenever there are any new tax efficient product offerings.
To make sure I know where all my money is going, I simply aggregate all my financial accounts online and check in once a week or so to make sure everything is on track. Sometimes I catch ridiculous bank fees I had no idea I was paying. Other times I just like to make sure I have a comfortable net worth mix. Finally, once a quarter I run my portfolios through the Investment Checkup tab to see where I am under or over allocated for someone with my risk tolerance. It’s nice being in the command center online.
If you want further motivation to save, getting a financial advisor assigned to you for free because you have X amount of money with an institution is a very nice perk. There is something very comforting knowing that someone is watching over your investments, especially when you’re away on vacation. I know many older retirees who dial up their financial advisors just to shoot the breeze because they are bored and want someone to talk to.
If you are not there yet, don’t worry as it just takes time. Financial institutions really do start favoring their larger customers with diversified product offerings, lower borrowing rates, and better service for the most part. You may even get invited to social boondoggles just because they want to keep you entertained. Once you amass a large enough financial nut, just make sure your financial advisor is at least on the ball with what you’re looking for. Now if I can only get that $1,000 in paper profits back.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO BUILD WEALTH
* Manage Your Finances In One Place: The best way to become financially independent and protect yourself is to get a handle on your finances by signing up with Personal Capital. They are a free online platform which aggregates all your financial accounts in one place so you can see where you can optimize. Before Personal Capital, I had to log into eight different systems to track 25+ difference accounts (brokerage, multiple banks, 401K, etc) to manage my finances. Now, I can just log into Personal Capital to see how my stock accounts are doing and how my net worth is progressing. I can also see how much I’m spending every month.
The best tool is their Portfolio Fee Analyzer which runs your investment portfolio through its software to see what you are paying. I found out I was paying $1,700 a year in portfolio fees I had no idea I was paying! They also recently launched the best Retirement Planning Calculator around, using your real data to run thousands of algorithms to see what your probability is for retirement success. Once you register, simply click the Advisor Tolls and Investing tab on the top right and then click Retirement Planner. There’s no better free tool online to help you track your net worth, minimize investment expenses, and manage your wealth. Why gamble with your future?
* Invest Your Money Efficiently: Wealthfront, the leading digital wealth advisor, is an excellent choice for those who want the lowest fees and can’t be bothered with actively managing their money themselves once they’ve gone through the discovery process. You don’t have to be an accredited investor either, as their minimum is only $500 to get started.
In the long run, it is very hard to outperform any index, therefore, the key is to pay the lowest fees possible while being invested in the market. Wealthfront charges $0 in fees for the first $15,000 if you sign up via my link and only 0.25% for any money over $10,000. You don’t even have to fund your account to see the various ETF portfolios they’ll build for you based off your risk-tolerance. Invest your idle money cheaply, instead of letting it lose purchasing power due to inflation.
About the Author: Sam began investing his own money ever since he opened an online brokerage account online in 1995. Sam loved investing so much that he decided to make a career out of investing by spending the next 13 years after college working at Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse Group. During this time, Sam received his MBA from UC Berkeley with a focus on finance and real estate. He also became Series 7 and Series 63 registered. In 2012, Sam was able to retire at the age of 34 largely due to his investments that now generate roughly $150,000 a year in passive income. He spends time playing tennis, hanging out with family, consulting for leading fintech companies, and writing online to help others achieve financial freedom.
Updated for 2016 and beyond.
Photo: Larry Ellison’s mega yacht named Musashi. You know his financial advisor is keeping him up to date on his billions or else!