There are plenty of resources around the internet for people just beginning to look for financial planners and investment advisors — “Ten Questions to Ask a Financial Advisor”, for example, or “Seven Questions Every Advisor Should Be Able to Answer”, or many others. These are great resources, because if you’re thinking of hiring someone to help you with something as important as your financial future, you probably should have a very clear idea who they are, how they do business, and why you should trust them. On the other side of the coin, it can be difficult for advisors to explain why it’s a good idea to hire us. With the advent of good, cheap index funds and ETFs, and AI-based robo-advisors to select them, some wonder if a human advisor is worth the money. So we have seen an uptick in articles in the financial services press about the things we do for our clients that they may not recognize or appreciate, and why we might be under-valuing our work: “Fifty Things: What a Professional Advisor Does for You”, for example, or “Raising Your Financial Planning Fees”. The general trend, though, has been toward reducing fees rather than raising them; we’ve recently reduced the baseline fees our clients pay, too, so we’re not immune. In this short series, I will lay out the four key categories of work that we do on behalf of our investment management clients — four kinds of activities that are difficult for folks without our training and experience to do for themselves. These four are:
- DISCOVERY: Gathering information about the client’s current situation, future goals, and important values;
- DUE DILIGENCE: Learning everything we can about the investment opportunities available to our clients;
- DIVERSIFICATION: Building portfolios for our clients that meet both their financial and values-driven goals; and
- DISCIPLINE: Creating a prudent plan, and finding ways to stick with that plan even when we feel and urge to abandon it.