I was talking to a friend recently and she was telling me that her adviser was condescending, spoke with too much jargon, and didn’t appear interested in her concerns. In fact, he became irritated whenever she wanted to discuss them. She went on to say that the only time he called was to sell her something.
When I tried to probe a bit and asked her why she simply didn’t find someone else, she admitted that he was her late husband’s adviser and she lacked the courage to make a change.
Now granted, this is an extreme case. I literally have spoken to thousands of advisers during my career, and most went into this profession for all the right reasons. Still, like any profession, there will be a few who became financial advisers for the wrong reasons and may find a better use of their talents in another profession.
As in any abusive relationship, the warning signs are not always apparent. In fact, abusive behavior in relationships is so prevalent, it can become a way of life.1
If you want to give a difficult adviser the benefit of the doubt, here are 7 pivot sentences you can ask. I’m using the word “pivot” in the sense that these phrases are designed to snap your financial adviser out of sales-talking-mode and into listening-mode. Select the ones which apply to your particular circumstance.
1. I understand that your industry is extremely regulated, and one of the key rules is knowing your client. Before we get into the product, I would like to take some time to explain to you what’s important to me. Is that ok?
2. I was talking to my children, who are concerned about legacy planning. I would like to set up a meeting with my children for you to explain the details of our portfolio, how you are managing risk, and what the tax implications might be when I pass.
3. I’m concerned about my cash flow. Can you help me to determine if my expenses are in line with my income? My concern is outliving my money.
4. I noticed last quarter my portfolio declined 15%. Perhaps we should re-examine my tolerance for volatility?
5. My parents both died with Alzheimer’s. It was terrible. Let’s talk about some options regarding Long Term Care insurance.
6. In six months my daughter is getting married. I want to make sure I have sufficient funds moved to cash to pay for the wedding.
7. My tax bill was huge last year. My accountant said it had to do with all the selling activity. I would like us to set up a meeting with my CPA to discuss your strategy for striking the right balance between appreciation and taxes.
All of the above points speak in a language that your financial adviser ought to understand. If you explain any variation of the above pivot sentences and your adviser still appears flustered, irritated, or uncaring, my recommendation is to find yourself another financial adviser.