The Secrets to Finding a Financial Advisor


1. How often do they meet with their clients?

It is important to know how often your financial advisor expects to meet with you. As your personal situation changes you want to ensure that they are willing to meet frequently enough to be able to update your investment portfolio in response to those changes. Advisors will meet with their clients at varying frequencies. If you are planning to meet with your advisor once a year and something were to come up that you thought was important to discuss with them; would they make themselves available to meet with you? You want your advisor to always be working with current information and have full knowledge of your situation at any given time. If your situation does change then it is important to communicate this with your financial advisor.

2. Ask if you can see a sample of a financial plan that they have previously prepared for a client.

It is important that you are comfortable with the information that your advisor will provide to you, and that it is furnished in a comprehensive and usable manner. They may not have a sample available, but they would be able to access one that they had fashioned previously for a client, and be able to share it with you by removing all of the client specific information prior to you viewing it. This will help you to understand how they work to help their clients to reach their goals. It will also allow you to see how they track and measure their results, and determine if those results are in line with clients’ goals. Also, if they can demonstrate how they help with the planning process, it will let you know that they actually do financial “planning”, and not just investing.

3. Ask how the advisor is compensated and how that translates into any costs for you.

There are only a few different ways for advisors to be compensated. The first and most common method is for an advisor to receive a commission in return for their services. A second, newer form of compensation has advisors being paid a fee on a percentage of the client’s total assets under management. This fee is charged to the client on an annual basis and is usually somewhere between 1% and 2.5%. This is also more common on some of the stock portfolios that are discretionarily managed. Some advisors believe that this will become the standard for compensation in the future. Most financial institutions offer the same amount of compensation, but there are cases in which some companies will compensate more than others, introducing a possible conflict of interest. It is important to understand how your financial advisor is compensated, so that you will be aware of any suggestions that they make, which may be in their best interests instead of your own. It is also very important for them to know how to speak freely with you about how they are being compensated. The third method of compensation is for an advisor to be paid up front on the investment purchases. This is typically calculated on a percentage basis as well, but is usually a higher percentage, approximately 3% to 5% as a onetime fee. The final method of compensation is a mix of any of the above. Depending on the advisor they may be transitioning between different structures or they may alter the structures depending on your situation. If you have some shorter term money that is being invested, then the commission from the fund company on that purchase will not be the best way to invest that money. They may choose to invest it with the front end fee to prevent a higher cost to you. In any case, you will want to be aware, before entering into this relationship, if and how, any of the above methods will translate into costs for you. For example, will there be a cost for transferring your assets from another advisor? Most advisors will cover the costs incurred during the transfer.

4. Does your advisor have a Certified Financial Planner Designation?

The certified financial planner (CFP) designation is well recognized across Canada. It affirms that your financial planner has taken the complex course on financial planning. More importantly, it ensures that they have been able to demonstrate through success on a test, encompassing a variety of areas, that they understand financial planning, and can apply this knowledge to many different applications. These areas include many aspects of investing, retirement planning, insurance and tax. It shows that your advisor has a broader and higher level of understanding than the average financial advisor

Financial Freedom: Discover The 3 Hidden Destinations on the Road to Financial Freedom


You’ll often hear people mention terms like financial security or financial independence in the course of everyday conversation. Within my own social and business circles, practically everyone I know desires some level of financial independence or freedom. However, I’ve found that financial well-being remains hidden and out of reach as a result of fuzzy concepts and even sketchier numbers people have in their head about what these terms mean. Therefore, the first thing I want to do here is dispel any myths or misunderstandings and reveal the true meaning of financial independence and financial freedom.

The key thing to understand about financial freedom is this – no matter how much money you earn, it’s vital to understand that you can only ever achieve financial independence through the generation of non-earned (passive) income i.e. a return on a capital sum invested. Or to put it another way, making money work for us, rather than us working for money!

Now, what I wanted to do was figure out ‘what’s the number’? In other words, how much capital do you need to achieve: 1. financial protection; 2. financial security, and 3. financial independence? So, over the course of a weekend I decided to have a go at describing and calculating the hypothetical cost of each of these 3 levels of financial well-being. Here goes!

#1. Financial Protection

This is the minimum level of financial wellbeing and first destination on the road to financial freedom – making sure you and your family are protected no matter what short or long-term financial challenge may befall you or the economy. Here’s how you know you and your family have achieved financial protection:

You have enough liquid capital to cover your basic living expenses for a minimum of 3 months and ideally up to 2 years. So, if your basic living expenses came to $3,000/month, you’d need a minimum of $9,000 and ideally $72,000 in liquid capital.

You have a life insurance policy in place that provides income to your family/dependants to maintain their lifestyle if you were to pass away.

You have disability income protection insurance to protect you and your family should you become disabled in any way and prevented from working and earning income.

The amount of disability insurance you should have is directly related to the amount of money you’ve saved. If you have say 3 months liquid capital saved, then you should really consider having disability protection to cover the outstanding 21 months so that ideally you have a combination of savings and/or disability income in place to cover 24 months basic living expenses. As a rule of thumb, insure yourself for 60% of what your income is. Typically the monthly cost of disability insurance can be about $30(if you’re 30 year old) and up to $100 (if you’re 50 years old) per $1,000 protection.

#2. Financial Security

You will have achieved financial security when through your various investments you’ve accumulated a critical mass of capital, that, invested in a secure environment at an 8% rate of return, provides you with enough cash to meet the following living expenses forever without you having to work again should you chose. For the purpose of this illustration we’re gonna assume some numbers.

Mortgage repayments on your private home until it’s paid off e.g. $1,500/month
Family food needs e.g. $500/month
Utilities, gas and electricity e.g. $250/month
Transportation needs e.g. $250/month
Insurance – health, disability, house e.g. $300/month
Taxes – such as property taxes e.g. $200/month

This would bring your total monthly living expenses to $3,000/month or $36,000/annum. Therefore, you would need a critical mass of capital amounting to $450,000 (which invested @ 8% return per annum would generate $36,000) to achieve financial security.

What I like about this calculation is that it removes fuzzy, subjective meanings of financial security; it distils financial security into a finite number…something which I think is enormously helpful for anyone looking to achieve it!

#3. Financial Independence

You will have achieved financial independence when, through your various investments, you’ve accumulated a critical mass of capital that when invested in a secure environment at a 8% rate of return, provides you with enough cash to meet each of the 6 goals of financial security previously mentioned i.e.

Mortgage repayments on your private home until it’s paid off e.g. $1,500/month
Family food needs e.g. $500/month
Utilities, gas and electricity e.g. $250/month
Transportation needs e.g. $250/month
Insurance – health, disability, house e.g. $300/month
Taxes – such as property taxes e.g. $200/month

PLUS the following 3 additional financial goals:

Provision for your children’s education (substantially or completely) e.g. $100,000 until their 18 and then say £50,000 for 3 or 4 years in college/university = $150,000 or an average of c. $7,000/annum over 21 years.
Provision for basic entertainment needs – concerts, dinner out etc (at least 50% of what you enjoy now e.g. $300/month, $3, 600/annum
Provision for the purchase of new clothing, or 1 or 2 reasonable “luxury” items such as plasma screen TV, car etc. e.g. $5,000/annum

When you sum up these 3 provisions it comes to $15,600/annum. Adding the cost of $36,000 per annum then the cost of financial vitality would come to $51,600/annum. Again, using an annual 8% return on investment would mean you’d need a critical mass of capital amounting to $645,000 in order to secure financial independence.

Financial independence is simply what it costs for you to live reasonably comfortably assuming complete autonomy from work/earned income. In one sense, all you’re trying to do is have enough of a capital sum invested to replace your current salary.

Now, if you will want to really nail the annual cost of financial independence, adjust upwards at an average inflation rate of say 3.5% each year and you’ll know exactly what true financial independence will cost you each year into the future.

Finally, if you’re saving or investing a substantial amount of your current income, then the amount of money you need to duplicate your actual current lifestyle is reduced by the same amount. So, if you’re saving 20% of your salary (say $10,000) than the new number you would need to be financially free would be $51,600-$10,000 = $41, 600.

So, there you have it. We’ve defined exactly what Financial Protection, Financial Security and Financial Independence is in terms of a sum of capital required to generate adequate non-earned income. Put your own numbers into the above process to arrive at the exact dollar amount you require to satisfy your own living expenses/lifestyle requirements. Next time someone tells you they want to be financially secure or financially free, now you can say: “Really, cool, I can show you how much capital you’ll need to achieve that!