I've been using the same financial planner as my mother — starting when I was about 23, just out of college. The advisor was with a small firm that I went to for more than five years. I wasn’t investing anything, but decided I needed to do more. When she moved on about six months ago, they put me in touch with a new person I didn’t know. She’s been great so far.
My mother first discovered the firm through my grandfather. They pitched him and he thought the place would be good for her because they have a more hands-on approach, and offer one-on-one service. This was about 10 years ago.
In the beginning, I met with my advisor one-on-one. We talked about where to invest, though most of this information was over my head. She gave me materials to read about different types of investments and strategies, how much risk to take, etc. I skimmed it, understanding maybe 20 percent of it. But I left feeling that I could trust her. And if my mom could trust an advisor with her money, I could trust her with mine.
Even when they’re trying to handhold, I feel financial planners don’t necessarily grasp what their clients really understand. Advisors may think we should do something for a reason that’s obvious, but it isn’t always obvious to the client. At times, my advisor did a good job of explaining. But more often, I would have liked her to explain things in more layman’s terms than she did. Things like the difference between a Roth IRA and a regular IRA — she assumed I knew. Occasionally, I would say, "Can you explain that more?" and she would try. Sometimes I would get it, sometimes I wouldn’t, but I felt bad asking her again. You think you’re an idiot. Really, she should just have done a better job. My mom had similar issues with her.
I emailed her on and off, maybe once a month unless there was a big expenditure e.g., last year when I was working toward buying a house. But I only saw her once a year for a two-hour update. Since it was hard for me to get away during the work day, we usually met at her house. I would visit her for Saturday morning meetings at her dining room table since she lived two blocks away. I’m probably one of the lower clients in terms of how much money she handles, but she paid me a lot of attention, even so. Plus, I could log in and see my account.
She put me in a mix of stuff — mutual funds, Roth IRA, regular IRA. My mom pays a fee of a certain percentage of her assets. I won't share what that is, but I don’t pay a fee because my total investment is under $100,000.
When our advisor left, the firm reached out to my mom as she’s the bigger client. We didn’t know the new person at all, but she’s done a good job — maybe to make sure we don’t leave. My wife and I are buying a condo this year and she has helped us with the process of making a down payment, explaining it well.
At first, my mom was thinking of going some place larger where she says the fees are lower. If she were to move, I’d go with her. But we decided to give the new person a chance. My mom has had numerous lunches with her; I haven’t met her in person so far, but have had many conversations via email. She’s very responsive.