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This Web site contains a compilation of more than a thousand consumer finance  columns written by Tony Novak from the 1980s through 2006, updated and reformatted for maximum usefulness today.  New material was added after 2010.

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Finding a financial adviser

originally posted: 11/22/2006  reposted: 2/18/2011 This post has not been recently reviewed or revised by the author and may be out of date. If you notice an error or are in doubt, please send a new question by email or ask for an update. Email

Q: I am just starting to increase my income and would like to have a good financial adviser for the long term but it seems like all they want to do is sell me insurance and investments. After I buy something, I do not hear from them again. On the other hand, I can't afford a fee-only financial planner who charges only by the hour.

A: Unfortunately the majority of people who call themselves financial advisers are really sales agents who make their living from handling financial transactions for a commission or managing investment accounts for a percentage of the account value. This explains the behavior you have observed. Independent financial advisers who charge only by the hour are more objective, but most require a minimum fee that is out of range for most young people. Consider looking at it this way: fee-only financial advice is about saving money, not spending money. The first two hours of financial advice should net a savings large enough money to pay for the rest of the advisory service for at least another 5 years. An average client winds up saving about $1500 in taxes alone from an initial financial review. There are some advisers (including the OnlineAdviser service) that have no minimum commitment, so your risk is minimal. So you do not immediately see impressive results immediately you can back away with little lost. On the other hand, if you are like most people, the investment you make in planning will return many times over. Also, it seems that you might be over-estimating the cost of hourly advisor. There are some good advisers available at $150 per hour, especially those who do business by phone and teleconference, rather than in person. Trimming the adviser's overhead expense really saves you money, but does not affect the quality of results. The cost of an initial 2 hour review is $300. The total cost of about 10 hours over the course of a year should be easily covered in cost savings as well as increased rate of growth in your net worth.


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