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Question: I had the worst financial planner in the world. He made more money in the time that I had him than I did! How do I recover from this? Should I just DIY my finances going forward?

Answer: Having a negative experience with one financial adviser doesn’t necessarily mean you should abandon professional financial guidance — there are plenty of good planners out there, and you can use this free tool can match you to an adviser who may meet your needs. That said, you have to vet any adviser you might hire, and DIY is absolutely the right route for some. But “first, you’ll want to evaluate what went wrong,” says certified financial planner Ryan Haiss at Flynn Zito Capital Management. 

Have an issue with your financial planner or looking for a new one? Email [email protected].

Ask yourself things like: “Did you have a 10-year relationship with an adviser who sold you high commission products that blew up? Did you start working with them in 2021 and own a portfolio tilted toward fixed-income and value stocks that lost money in the 2022 bear market? In one case, the planner profited unfairly at your expense. And in the other, the planner may have done all the right things investment-wise but failed to communicate clearly about how markets behave. Or you may be blaming the planner for coincidental bad timing on an entirely appropriate investment strategy,” says certified financial planner Jim Hemphill at TGS Financial.

It’s possible you have these feelings because you received poor advice or there was a lack of transparency or high fees. “If these items were part of the problem, you’ll want to get a second or third opinion from a financial adviser that’s certified, reputable and a fiduciary,” says Haiss. Note that many planners will give you an initial free consultation. You can use this free tool can match you to an adviser who may meet your needs.

Going forward, Hemphill recommends three things. “Set realistic expectations. No adviser can protect you from financial market volatility except by placing you into assets without investment risk, which in the long run won’t earn competitive returns,” says Hemphill. 

Next, work only with an experienced, credentialed and objective adviser. One bet is a fee-only certified financial planner, or CFP. In addition to completing education requirements, thousands of hours of work-related experience and passing exams, certified financial planners are also held to a fiduciary duty. This means they’re required to put your best interests ahead of their own, which limits the possibility for conflicts of interest. Fee-only financial advisers are only compensated by you, the client, as opposed to fee-based advisers, who might earn commissions from institutions when recommending or selling financial products.

Experience matters too: Hemphill says you’ll want an adviser who’s been in the role for at least five years. And be sure to ask anyone you might want to hire these 15 questions to vet them.

The third thing Hemphill suggests is clearly defining the scope and purpose of the financial planning engagement. “Do you want someone to run an investment portfolio? To advise you on setting up a tax-efficient capital accumulation program? To help you to successfully transition from full-time work into retirement? Those are different tasks that require different competencies,” says Hemphill.

In terms of recovering from the loss, it would be wise to work with a financial planner on a holistic, comprehensive financial plan that tackles your long-term financial goals. From there, you’ll be able to make decisions about how to best manage your portfolio based on your risk tolerance and avoid falling victim to the same scenario again.

Of course DIY-ing your finances is always an option, and it can be the most affordable and best one. Just be ready to do the work:  “Managing your finances requires time, effort and ongoing education. You have to be willing to put in the time and make sure you’re up to date on all tasks a financial adviser would normally handle for you,” says Haiss.

Have an issue with your financial planner or looking for a new one? Email [email protected].

Questions edited for brevity and clarity.

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