In his latest episode of Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver waded through all the confusing, infuriating intricacies of the financial advisor industry in the U.S. While firms like to paint their advisors as cuddly caretakers of your riches, Oliver pointed out all the reasons you should question their motivations.
In both the U.S. and Canada, the term ‘financial advisor’ or ‘financial analyst’ are mere job titles and are not proof of any actual certifications. And more often than not they’re paid with commissions. In Canada, you can look for professionals designated as Certified Financial Planners (CFP), Personal Financial Planners (PFP) and Registered Financial Planners (RFP) to ensure they’re qualified financial planners and do your due diligence when choosing one.
In the U.S., only a fiduciary, Oliver explains, has a client’s best interests in mind, which is why some have been found to hawk complicated, high-fee products to innocent investors. That’s why in most cases, Canadians and Americans are better off hiring a fee-for-service advisor that won’t try to sell you any products.
So, what does a few percentage points of fees really matter in the grand scheme of things? Oliver makes one point absolutely clear; your returns may reap the benefits of compound interest, but so do so-called advisors. Their fees grow along with your money, after all. Fees, says Oliver, are like termites. They infest your investments and eat away at your future, so buyer beware.
Point is that the financial industry, both in the U.S. and Canada is complicated and if you’re too busy googling pictures of teacup pigs to find out what these professionals are trying to sell you, it can all get away from you.
His last bit of advice? Follow these five steps to make sure you don’t get screwed by the time you have to retire:
4. Try low-cost index funds to avoid getting crushed (literally? Sorry Kristin Chenoweth!) by high fees
3. Be careful to find an advisor who won’t stand to profit from your returns
2. The older you get, adjust your portfolio risk by making the switch from stocks to bonds
1. Remember to pay attention to fees because they make a huge difference