Problems with Financial Advisers: Past Performance Doesn’t Predict Future Performance

A financial adviser once made a presentation to my husband that illustrated how our money invested with his firm (one of the largest financial institutions in the country) would grow over the course of the next 10 years. This projection indicated the trajectory of this growth and even indicated the investment balance each year into the future. This adviser concluded his sales pitch by saying that everything would be fine and he’d take care of our family.

I didn’t like the idea of handing my money over to this guy to manage. He had put together projections using the past performance of certain mutual funds. But past performance doesn’t predict future performance.

The adviser didn’t show him his track record in managing a portfolio or explain his rationale in choosing these mutual funds. I was pretty sure I could identify great-performing funds and then calculate future returns based on those funds’ past performance. Actually delivering returns on investments for the unknown future would be difficult. But picking winners from the past, well, that seemed pretty easy.

Problems with Financial Advisers: Judging Clients

One of the problems that I have experienced with financial advisers is their quickness to judge me and failure to understand my point of view. When evaluating an adviser, I look for someone who offers insights on complex financial problems. I don’t mind being pitched an off-the-shelf product but want to hear why it’s ideal for my unique circumstances. I shy away from those who seem to force an ill-fitting solution as appropriate for every situation (and demean me if I disagree).

Problems with Financial Advisers: Selling to Generate a Commission (Only)

To test the local advisers’ skills and integrity, I worked with my initial contact to execute the rollover of a 401(k) plan to an IRA; and then make investment recommendations that I either approved or rejected. Based on recent successes, the adviser seemed confident of recommended investments and their superiority to other choices.

I didn’t mention to the sales rep that I had a significant amount of money in an IRA in a separate account, possibly available for management for the right person. Again, my goal was to evaluate the adviser’s integrity and knowledge and then possibly expand our relationship.

Initially, I was pleased with the service. The rollover was completed and funds invested. But when another adviser replaced my initial contact, a new and improved recommendation was made. I was happy to test this new person’s investment savvy. But later I felt that the change in investments may have been contrived just to generate a sale. The investment did not seem superior and the adviser did not maintain the relationship.

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