Moving your portfolio

If you don’t mind long-distance relationships then Bruce Sellery says it doesn’t matter where your adviser lives.

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Question

My wife and I are moving from New Brunswick to Alberta, but we are not sure what this will mean for our retirement savings. I don’t know if I can leave them with our financial adviser at a mutual fund company or if there are restrictions to move them with us. Where should we start?

Answer

Moving is such a pain in the Astroturf. The purging, the packing, the planning: Ugh. But the act of moving house—especially from one part of the country to another—does provide an invaluable function. It forces you to evaluate what you are going to keep and what you are going to turf, onto that Astroturf. That goes for furniture, friendships and, in your case, financial advisers.

No passport required: Financial advisers can serve clients across Canada

From a regulatory standpoint, you can keep your financial adviser and have him or her manage your account from afar. If you were to move to the United States, it would be a different story, but a move from one part of Canada to another doesn’t necessitate a change. That said I would use this as an opportunity to evaluate if you’re getting what you need from your adviser. If you are and you are both willing to make the relationship work via phone and email, then great: try it out for a year. And if you decide that long distance relationship isn’t for you or if you feel you are not getting value for your money, then you have a great excuse to find someone new. I have written about how to ensure you are getting the best bang for your buck with your financial adviser. Use the criteria I have outlined, or come up with your own, to help you make a decision.

Avoid the “broken telephone”: Reset expectations for long distance relationship

If you decide to continue your current financial adviser relationship then you should discuss how you are going to work together now that face-to-face meetings will be rare at best. How are you going to communicate? When and how will portfolio reviews be conducted? How will you determine if the long distance approach is working or not? It is best to have these conversations in advance, before you run into difficulties.

Moving on: How to find a new financial adviser in a new town

If you absolutely love your current adviser, or if you know this is a short-term relocation, then the long distance relationship might be worth it. But I’d lean towards finding a new adviser in your new hometown to allow for face-to-face time and to take advantage of their local connections to accountants, lawyers and realtors. The paperwork is only mildly annoying and the new adviser will take care of it for you.

If you do decide to move on, take your time with the search. It is really important you find a good match as this person can have a big impact on both your results and your feelings about your results. I have developed a step-by-step guide to finding a new adviser, so check that out first. If you have been happy with your current adviser you should ask for a few referrals. There might someone within his or her firm who works in Alberta who you can add to your interview list.

You will also need to actually break-up with your current adviser so review my tips on that process too. What will make it easier for you is that you can easily use the “It’s not you, it’s me” line with credibility, because you are moving out of the province.

Moving retirement funds: It just depends

You also mentioned that you have retirement funds that you need to think about. Both your current and new financial adviser will have insight on what needs to happen with these, depending on whether they are provincially or federally regulated pension plans, or some other type of retirement fund. There may be restrictions, but as long as you work within the guidelines the funds should be fully portable to Alberta.

One piece of unsolicited advice: Avoid lifestyle inflation

Good luck with the move. As you know, there is extraordinary opportunity in Alberta these days, so take advantage of it. My one caution is this: avoid lifestyle inflation. Leverage what will likely be a higher income to help you achieve long-term goals, instead of falling prey to short-term temptation. Oh, and buy a full Stampede outfit your first year out. It will payoff for years to come.

ask@moneysense.ca

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