Yes, you read that right - we do NOT use financial advisors! NEVER have!
It may sound impractical, but I assure you - It’s NOT! Amon and I don’t use financial advisors and it was the best choice for us on our journey to financial independence!
You may be a firm believer in using a financial advisor to help you invest. If that’s that case - feel free to use a financial advisor! We’re the first to admit that what works for us doesn’t mean it necessarily has to work for every single other person pursuing financial independence. You have your own unique circumstances along with your own unique investing goals and strategies.
So, if you’re interested in potentially working with a financial advisor, keep in mind your reasons for that while we share with you our eleven top reasons for not using a financial advisor. Hopefully, it will help you in deciding whether hiring a financial advisor is the right choice for you.
1. Education and Credentials
At the risk of offending any financial advisors who might be reading this, the financial industry can be hard to trust. What, exactly is a “financial advisor”? The term is so frequently misused, it’s hard to know what any financial advisor is actually qualified to do.
Consider qualification standards: Hundreds of people call themselves financial advisors when they have no qualifications or formal education in money management. In the U.S., requirements for these jobs vary from state to state. Some states are strict, while some need little more than a high school diploma to qualify as a financial advisor!
Not to mention, there are over 200 kinds of credentials that can qualify a financial advisor. How are you supposed to know which credentials someone should have, without having significant financial knowledge yourself? Should they have ten specific designations or every one under the sun?
This brings me to our second point…
2. They Are Generalists
A lot of financial advisors claim to do absolutely EVERYTHING when it comes to your finances and investment portfolio.
For example, we had a financial advisor say he “specialized” in risk management, stock market options, bonds, currency exchange, wealth accumulation, wealth distribution, estate planning, legacy planning, compound interest, cryptocurrency, and much more . . .
The truth is there isn’t one individual who can manage all of these things thoroughly and effectively. Not only that, but some of the things this advisor claimed were either too basic, largely redundant, or something that no financial advisor should be teaching (cough, cryptocurrency!).
3. How They Make Their Money
Financial advisors are typically paid in one of three ways: 1) taking a commission on products that they sell to you; 2) charging an hourly rate; or 3) taking a percentage of the amount of money they manage for you. Advisors oftentimes combine these payments - making money both through managing your account and selling you products on commission. This is a huge no-no for me! Here’s why.
Financial advisors can buy and sell stocks for your portfolio, and if they’re inclined (and if they work on commission), they could buy and sell certain investments for you simply to ensure those commissions.
Another overlooked point: Many financial advisors don’t just operate within their financial networks. Financial advisors can refer you to all kinds of people (like accountants, attorneys, and real estate agents) who might be paying your financial advisor for referrals. Because of this, it can be difficult to know whether an option is the best one for you or the best one for them.
4. Fiduciary Duty
On that note, let’s talk about fiduciary duty. Someone who holds a fiduciary duty holds a legal or ethical obligation to act in the best interests of their client, with full disclosure and honesty as a center point of the business relationship.
This should be a given, right?
Except it isn’t. Sure, a financial advisor can tell you they have a fiduciary duty. But investments are never guaranteed and numbers can be manipulated to look more positive than they are. It can be really hard to tell whether an advisor is putting your best interests before their own, regardless of their duty.
5. Avoiding Responsibility
It’s really easy to become dependent on your financial advisor. When you’re handing over your financial responsibilities to someone else, you’re never learning how to manage these responsibilities yourself. Not only that, but by shirking responsibility for your own investments, you’re also losing a lot of money in FEES. The fees you pay to a financial advisor may not seem like a lot, but it is a huge amount of money in the long-term. Even a 2% fee can wipe out a significant amount of your future wealth building.
6. We Don’t Have The Time
Do you ever feel like there are just not enough hours in a day? Me, too - and I’m retired!!!
One of the biggest things about pursuing financial independence is that you need to be intentional. You need to be intentional about your spending, about your saving, about your investing, and even about your time.
Think about the time it must take to interview and identify a financial advisor who is certified, who understands your FIRE goals, who charges the appropriate fees, who has a strong track record, who can accommodate your schedule, who can explain things to you in a way that you understand, who you feel comfortable talking to . . . the list goes on.
Most likely, to find an advisor that even remotely matches the criteria you’re looking for, you’ll likely have to interview from a long list. Personally, we just never had the time for that! With all that time and effort we would have used to find a good financial advisor, we were better off just learning how to manage our own investments.
7. Investing Should Be Simple
I believe that investing should be as simple as possible, and you should only make investments that you understand.
Have you ever noticed how so many people that make a living in the financial industry feel the exact opposite? Advisors will often go out of their way to over-complicate the process by exposing you to mind-numbing amounts of products, services, and things for you to invest in.
The idea is that if a financial advisor makes things as complicated as possible, you’ll tell yourself that you can’t make our own financial decisions, and BOOM!!! - a growing client base! Do NOT fall for that! Investing shouldn’t be complicated. Making simple investment plans and staying consistent is one of the best and most straightforward ways to invest, and you don’t need an advisor to do that.
8. They Have the Legal Advantage
When you sign a contract with a financial advisor, they are the ones who draft the contract. And after years of experience writing up similar contracts, they know exactly how to draft a contract that protects them first and foremost.
If you are going to work with a financial advisor, make sure you take a close look at everything you sign. You may find conflicts of interest hidden in the fine print.
A lot of financial advisors will use fear as a tactic to keep you under their wing, and it’s one of the things I loathe the most about this industry.
It’s common for advisors to make you feel uncertain about your ability to invest without them and to make you fearful of looking at other options. It’s a way of keeping you dependent so they don’t lose work.
Someone once tried the “fear approach” with us by comparing a financial advisor to a doctor.
“You wouldn’t perform open-heart surgery on yourself, would you?”
Actually, no. No I would not. If I was given the option of performing open-heart surgery on myself versus having a qualified medical professional perform the surgery - I would choose the qualified medical professional.
But is this really a fair analogy - comparing DIY investing to DIY heart surgery? While it’s physically impossible to perform open-heart surgery on oneself, it definitely isn’t physically impossible to handle one’s own investments.
The point being, a fear-based relationship is not a healthy one. Making important financial decisions can make one feel very vulnerable, and there are always people willing to take advantage of someone else's vulnerabilities.
10. Emotions Get Involved
Similar to the fear-mongering mentioned above, your emotions can seriously muddy the waters when it comes to your relationship with your financial advisor. It’s easy to become close and develop friendships with your financial advisor over time.
This isn’t the best idea. I personally believe that business and friendship don’t mix. Your emotional connection with a person can very easily cloud your judgment when it comes to financial decisions, and you shouldn’t make room for casualness when handling your money.
11. We Achieved F.I.R.E
And my final point as to why we don’t use a financial advisor: We are all about FIRE!
Financial independence and retiring early are simply not concepts that many financial advisors are familiar with. If your ambition is to reach F.I.R.E, a financial advisor can be risky as it’s likely they won’t know how to accommodate your specific FIRE investing needs.
So those are the reasons we don’t use a financial advisor!
BUT, as a takeaway, I have one good reason as to why you might want to consider using a financial advisor: When you’re in a situation where you want to learn from him/her and develop your own investing skills with the aim of becoming independent of the financial advisor in the future. I see this kind of situation as more like personal development, which is always a good option. But, of course, you still have to do your research and find a skilled professional financial advisor that you can trust.
At the end of the day, no one cares about your money more than you do. My advice to you: Achieve financial literacy so that you can understand the best investments and accounts to grow your wealth on your journey towards financial independence.
Our Life in Early Retirement | Financial Independence: 2020 Year in Review