In the New Year it is prudent to review your investment portfolio to see if it’s still suitable for you and earning you money.  For the do-it-yourself investor there is a lot of good investment advice and information in finance books, magazines and online, but sometimes it’s difficult to apply the information to your own unique situation.

If this applies to you, or you think you could have made better investment decisions, it may be time to get some personal advice.  There are many ways to get the advice you need depending on the size and complexity of your portfolio and whether or not you want to give up full or partial control.

Financial Advisor Where You Do Your Banking

These specialists have taken extensive bank courses and can prepare a simple financial plan for you, and this may be all you need.

They are licensed to sell mutual funds and can offer a wide range of investments that also include GICs, money market and fixed income products, or a monthly income fund.

Be aware that they are first of all salespeople, and while the advice and account set up is free, they do receive some sort of compensation for the mutual funds they sell you and they will likely be their own proprietary funds.  This also applies to mutual fund companies.

Related: Fee Only Financial Planner Vs. Commission Based Advisor

If you would like to include shares, you can be referred to the bank’s brokerage subsidiary.  A stockbroker offers free advice, but will charge a commission for almost all transactions.

A small investor may not always receive the attention a larger account might.  Most financial institutions have financial planners as well as wealth management services.  Representatives can meet you at your bank branch or your own home, making it easy to set up an appointment.

Financial Planner

Be prepared to dig up all your financial records from banking and investment statements to insurance and pension documents, and give some thought to your future goals and desires.

They need all this information in order to make up a detailed financial plan to clarify your present situation, identify problems, recommend solutions, co-ordinate the implementation of the plan and provide periodic reviews – how detailed is up to you, depending on your requirements.

Some financial planners are paid on commission, some on salary and some on a combination of the two.  There are also “fee only” planners who will charge for the financial plan (how much depends on the complexity) and/or a fee based on the value of your assets.

Find out how your planner is compensated, especially if the fee is related in some way to the kind of investments recommended to you.

Insurance Agent

You can get free financial advice from your insurance agent.  They are often licensed mutual fund salespeople.  They are paid on commission and may offer only a narrow range of products.

Wealth Management

If your portfolio is large, and you would rather “hand over the reins” to a professional, this is for you.  Your investments will be managed according to your objectives and risk profile, and other services are offered (for a fee) such as estate planning and tax preparation.  Fees are generally a percentage based on the size of the portfolio.

Do You Need Financial Advice?

The best professional for you will depend on the amount of money you have to invest and the type of services you require.  It’s important to deal with someone you can trust and feel comfortable with.  Always ask for references and credentials.

Be certain you understand the costs involved and get them in writing.  The key to a successful relationship with an investment manager is to make sure your advisor understands your needs and objectives.  Be prepared to answer questions truthfully and completely.  Otherwise, the advice you receive will be of little value to you.


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