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7 warning signs that you may need to choose a new financial advisor

Female financial advisor in discussion with mature female business owner at desk in office
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Managing your money can be challenging, especially if you struggle with common personal finance tasks, like budgeting and investing. If so, you aren’t alone — nearly 40 percent of people have no money invested, according to a 2021 Bankrate survey. If investing and budgeting are daunting to you, a financial advisor can help.

But financial advisors are human. That means they aren’t perfect and can make mistakes like the rest of us. But that isn’t reason enough to stick with a financial advisor who isn’t doing the best job for you. Here are seven warning signs that it’s time to choose a new financial advisor.

1. They’re unresponsive

We’re all busy, but if you are paying a financial advisor to manage your money, that isn’t a good enough reason for them to be unresponsive. They should be readily available to help with your financial needs. For instance, do they rarely, if ever answer your calls? Do they take weeks to answer emails? It’s acceptable if they take a few hours to respond to your emails, but not if they take a few weeks to get back to you.

2. They don’t check in with you

Perhaps your financial advisor picks up the phone when you call, but do they check in with you? It’s not unreasonable to expect them to call now and then. In fact, financial advisors often send quarterly reports on your portfolio as well as annual reports, like publicly traded companies.

If your financial advisor doesn’t check in, it could be a problem. Clients sometimes break up with their financial advisor if they don’t check in at least quarterly. If you don’t hear from your financial advisor from time to time, it might be time for a new one. Here’s how to select a good one.

3. They’re inattentive

If anything major changes to your portfolio, your advisor should be staying informed and let you know about those changes. If you find out only weeks or months later, it could be cause for concern. A good advisor stays on top of what’s happening in your portfolio and then communicates those changes — or at least those you need to know about — to you.

Here are the five questions to ask your advisor to see if they’ll do the right thing for you.

4. They have high fees

Financial advisors’ fees can vary significantly, but there are some rules of thumb you can often follow. For example, you should look for fees of around 1 percent or less of your assets under management (AUM) for an investment advisor. Some advisors charge a flat fee that tends to range from $1,000 to $5,000 annually. Hourly fees are often in the range of $100 to $400.

Although fees may vary, you should be raising an eyebrow if your financial advisor charges much more than these ranges. If that’s the case, you should compare them to other financial advisors in your area. In many cases, that will be enough to find a better deal.

5. They push you toward certain investments

Some financial advisors have fee-only services, where advisors are paid by clients exclusively. Others run commission-based services that earn them fees from the products that are sold to clients. The latter can be prone to pushing people to investments that earn them higher commissions.

If your advisor seems to be pushing you to certain investments, even if you insist they aren’t what you want, it might be due to the commission rates. If you want a fee-only advisor, you can search Find an Advisor, which is run by the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. You’ll pay a fee-only advisor out of your own pocket but you’ll probably come out farther ahead.

6. You’re unhappy with your portfolio’s performance

Investing can be complex, and that means comparing your portfolio to your friend’s portfolio can be apples to oranges. But if you keep seeing headlines about how wonderfully the market is doing and your portfolio isn’t, it might be cause for concern.

For example, suppose the S&P 500 index sees a 20 percent or greater return over the last year, while your portfolio remains flat. Although every portfolio is different, poor performance is another factor to weigh along with the others mentioned here. If your advisor isn’t treating you right and you see your portfolio has unsatisfactory performance, it could tip you toward looking for a new advisor.

7. They don’t have a good relationship with you

This final point is more about how you feel about your financial advisor than any specific thing they do. For example, do you feel they talk down to you whenever you interact? Do you feel like your financial goals are unimportant to them? Your financial advisor should be someone who will fight for your cause. If you don’t feel like that is the case, it might be time to look elsewhere.

Bottom line

A good financial advisor can make your finances a breeze and help make your financial goals a reality. But a bad financial advisor might end up costing you serious money. Breaking up is hard to do, but your money is too important to be hesitant. If you find that your advisor displays these warning signs, it may be time for a change. Plenty of advisors out there will do right by you.

Written by
Bob Haegele
Contributor
Bob Haegele is a contributing writer for Bankrate. Bob writes about topics related to investing and retirement.
Edited by
Senior investing and wealth management reporter