Most financial advisers can easily make the case for how their clients benefit from the kind of professional, fiduciary perspective the industry prides itself with providing. But when it comes to seeking that same kind of advice for their own planning and investments, many advisers are tuning out.
A proprietary survey of nearly 400 financial advisers, conducted by InvestmentNews Research in June, found that more than half have never been a client of another financial adviser.
Almost a third of those surveyed said they had used an outside adviser in the past but are not currently, and only 16% of respondents are currently using a financial planner to help oversee their personal business and household accounts.
Advisers were slightly more open to other perspectives when it came to their personal investment portfolios.
On that point, 33% of respondents said they had received advice from other people at their firm, and 24% said they had spoken to another adviser outside their firm about investments, while 48% said they manage their investment portfolios entirely on their own.
Though it is tempting to draw parallels between the old saw that an attorney who represents herself has a fool for a client, the reality is financial planning is generally more fluid and nuanced than most specific incidents that might require the services of a lawyer.
“I have a rep that I bounce ideas off, but there is no one that cares more about my money than me, so I represent myself,” said Tim Holsworth, president of AHP Financial.
Despite the lopsided data of IN’s nonscientific survey designed to gauge the general attitude of advisers, the perspectives and rationale related to using an outside adviser run the gamut.
Darin Shebesta, a wealth adviser at Jackson/Roskelley Wealth Advisors, said he is open to the idea of using an outside adviser, but he hasn’t yet found the right match.
“I’ve met thousands of advisers in my 15 years in the business, and none of them stand out as someone I’d want to work with,” he said.
Shebesta’s reluctance to hire an adviser is also fueled by his wife, who has been in the planning industry longer than he has, suggesting the two of them don’t need outside help at this point.
“I’m more inclined to hire somebody but I think she’s more inclined to think we could do it ourselves,” he said. “But I’m open to it and think it’s a great idea. How can we preach to clients about our service having value when we’re not doing it ourselves?”
Cody Garret, founder of Measure Twice Financial, also admits to “difficulty finding an adviser who does truly comprehensive financial planning.”
“At my firm, I provide financial planning without investment management for the families I serve, but I look at everything in their life with a number on it before giving financial advice,” he said. “If I were to hire an adviser, I would value a financial planner who understands my family’s comprehensive financial ecosystem and can provide a third-party review of our money in alignment with our objectives.”
For those advisers who are tapping into the expertise of other advisers, the IN survey showed the biggest benefit by far was getting an objective perspective on investments and finances.
The second most popular advantage was getting expertise that the advice-seeking adviser does not have.
And the third most popular benefit of using an outside adviser was listed as gaining insight into the client experience.
“I relate using a financial adviser to my coaching and nutrition experience, where I only see what I see, and my time and attention and focus is rarely on myself,” said Jess Bost, a financial adviser at Consolidated Planning, who describes an outside perspective as “absolutely critical.”
“I’m juggling so much that to have an outside perspective that I trust is important,” she said. “To have that regular meeting and be able to take my emotions in and trust that they will sift through my emotions and give me the right advice.”
In addition to helping her stay focused, Bost said her adviser has also helped introduce her to new areas of planning and investments.
“It’s been helpful to have an outside perspective because I’m new to the world of understanding cryptocurrencies and I’ve really worked hard to educate myself,” she said. “Instead of me spending hours and hours thinking about it myself, I wanted a plan. And he pushes me and gives me some things to think about.”
If formal advisory relationships are less common, financial advisers say informal guidance is not unusual.
“I use my business partner for help with my planning,” said Nina O’Neal, partner and investment adviser at Archer Investment Management.
“It’s not the same as hiring another adviser, but I definitely have him go over my financial planning and investments with me,” she said. “And I have my investments mostly managed by third-party money managers.”
Paul Schatz, president of Heritage Capital, also benefits from an informal, but fresh perspective.
“My closest industry friend is also my contingency plan if something catastrophic happened to me,” he said. “While we have not formally reviewed each other’s plans and strategies, we are constantly discussing how we invest client money and our own money, as well as our financial plans.”
For those adviser respondents who currently use a financial adviser, tax planning was the most popular aspect of getting an outside perspective, a feature used by 67% of respondents.
Estate planning was the second most popular benefit, used by 65% of advisers using an outside adviser.
Retirement planning and financial planning both came in at 64%.
For those financial advisers who might assume hiring an outside adviser is a redundant waste of time and money, Dennis Nolte, vice president at Seacoast Investment Services, has a direct response.
“If Tiger Woods has a swing coach, hiring outside advisers is permitted,” he said, referencing the way one of the greatest golfers ever seeks to improve his game.
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Andrew is half-human, half-gamer. He’s also a science fiction author writing for BleeBot.