Sh*t My Advisor Says

Some investors eventually leave their commission-based advisors and opt to set-up a simple portfolio of index funds or ETFs on their own. There are plenty of compelling reasons to do so; the reduction in fees alone can save investors thousands of dollars a year, and academic research shows that the lower your costs, the greater your share of an investment’s return.

Related: Steak Knives, Yes. Financial Advice, Maybe Not

In my fee-only planning service, many clients end up doing exactly that. I always enjoy hearing the rebuttals from bank and investment firm advisors whenever they hear their clients want to move to a lower cost portfolio. Here I’ve tried to capture some of that conversation with, sh*t my advisor says:

Shit My Advisor Says

Shit my advisor says

Sexism: When my husband told him we’re choosing simple index investing and that I handle the family finances he smirked and said to my husband, “what credentials does your wife have to manage money?”

The real enemy: Our investment company is being vilified when the true villains are credit card companies with their interest rates.

Proof of concept: I have tons of clients with assets over $500,000 so I must be doing something right.

Working for free: My advisor told me she basically worked for me for free for the past eight years and accused me of dumping her just as my assets were growing.

It takes a professional: People think they can trade mutual funds or ETFs on their own but it’s not as easy as you think. Plus, you don’t have anyone like me to call up and ask if you’re doing the right thing. Re-balancing a portfolio is easy if you have the background, but doing it like you’re thinking about (indexing) is very tough without the training and knowledge.

What’s in a fee?: The fees are at 2 percent (Ed. Note: actually, 2.76 percent) because this isn’t just about buying and selling. We created a complete portfolio with you for your tolerance in the market and deal in actively traded mutual funds that most of the time outperform the market.

Nortel: ETF’s aren’t all that great. When you buy an ETF you buy the whole fund. In the late 90’s when Nortel owned 30 percent of the TSX it crashed. If you purchased that ETF you’d be down 30 percent too! But with a mutual fund you can’t buy that much. You are only able to purchase up to 10 percent of any one company. So you would have been fairly safe with the crash of Nortel.

Downside protection: If the market goes down 20 percent your ETF’s will too. You are much more protected with mutual funds.

Apples-to-apples: All of our fees are wrapped up together in our MER. We do not charge account fees, transaction fees, advisory fees, admin fees or fees for our service. It is just the MER.

Clairvoyance: The bond market has likely reached its peak and appears to moving in a different direction. The equity markets are very risky at this time. In my mind the only safe place left is guaranteed deposits.

Final thoughts

I’ve had some fun dumping on commission-based advisors, but the truth is that most of us do need some kind of advice when it comes to managing our finances. But a $250,000 managed portfolio at 2.76% MER will cost you $6,900 per year. That same portfolio of, say, TD e-Series funds costs just $1,050 per year.

What kind of added value do you get from your commission-based advisor for that extra $5,850 per year?

We need to get past this notion that an advisor can add value by picking superior investments that beat the market. The evidence is clear that a passive investment approach that tracks broad market indexes at a very low cost will outperform over the long term.

In that case, investment advice should be ‘commoditized’ enough by now that the lowest cost prevails. A good advisor, then, must provide value in other areas such as financial planning, goal setting, tax minimization, and optimal retirement withdrawals, to name a few. That’s advice worth paying for.

Can you afford to hire an independent, fee-for-service planner to help build you a complete financial plan and give ongoing advice throughout the year on all financial matters, not just investing?

Many advisors are simply salespeople working on behalf of their bank or investment firm. When choosing an advisor, you need to find one who has your best interest at heart, and who can bring something else to the table besides picking so-called ‘winning investments’.

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  1. Elaine Kirkham on June 13, 2018 at 10:00 am

    I had an advisor in the late 90’s. He was handling the proceeds of the sale of our home, until we decided to buy again. He made more money than we did the first year by churning, and from there it all went downhill. We lost most of our money and had to have a big mortgage when we decided to buy again. Since 2005 I have looked after our finances and investing, and have done well!

  2. GYM on June 14, 2018 at 12:15 am

    “Sexism: When my husband told him we’re choosing simple index investing and that I handle the family finances he smirked and said to my husband, “what credentials does your wife have to manage money?””

    Oh my gosh that comment really irks me!!

    The value added from commission based advisor is maybe a free 2019 calendar with your advisors face on it and a free cup of coffee once in a while when you review your losses with your financial advisor (haha) whilst not having a good explanation why the fund isn’t performing as well as it is supposed to.

  3. Owen @ on June 14, 2018 at 6:42 am

    This is great! There is so much wrong with these comments.

  4. Steve Bridge on June 14, 2018 at 8:13 am

    Thanks for this article and sharing these, Robb! As Upton Sinclair wrote, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

  5. Debra T. on June 15, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    As a single parent, I invested monthly in a CIBC mutual fund RESP account for several years before being ‘enlightened’ by my husband about investing & ETFs. There were too many years of low to zero increases. Decades later I’m retired and managing my own self-directed accounts @ CIBC with mostly ETFs. I continue to educate & invest in myself.

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