Question: I retired in 2021 with $1,800,000 invested with a large financial services company. I have withdrawn approximately $100,000 and the account is now worth $1,500,000. My adviser blames the economy and other factors I don’t understand. How should I move forward? Do I need to find a new financial adviser?

Answer: You’re right to be taking a closer look at what’s going on, and yes, you may need a new financial adviser. (Looking for a financial adviser? This free tool can match you to an adviser who might meet your needs.) First, know this: Your performance depends on how aggressively or conservatively you’re invested and how the markets have performed, says Bruce Primeau, a certified financial planner (CFP) at Summit Wealth Advocates.

“Globally, equities and bonds have not performed well the past seven quarters so it’s entirely possible you could be down $200,000 in a $1.8 million dollar portfolio if you’re invested aggressively,” Primeau says.

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

Indeed, timing plays an important role for investors, adds James Daniel, a CFP at The Advisory Firm. “Depending on when you invested in 2021, the drawdown is within range of what we’ve seen since that time with a 60% stock, 40% bond allocation,” Daniel says.

Blaine Thiederman, a CFP at Progress Wealth Management, says you’ll want to “look at the performance of the broader market and compare it to your portfolio. Ask your adviser for a comparison of your accounts performance to the benchmark and if there’s a significant gap, that’s a red flag.”

While poor performance alone isn’t necessarily a rallying cry to change advisers, says Matt Bacon, a CFP at Carmichael Hill & Associates, the fact that your adviser can’t effectively communicate with you might be.

“One of the biggest value adds of having an adviser is in their ability to help you make sense of complicated market events and financial issues,” Bacon says. “If they can’t do this, or at least do it to a satisfactory level, you may want to search out a new adviser that’s on the same wavelength you are.” (Looking for a financial adviser? This free tool can match you to an adviser who might meet your needs.)

Indeed, part of an adviser’s job is to make sure their client understands where their money is and why it’s there, adds Anthony Ferreira, a CFP at WorthPointe Wealth Management. “Your adviser should be able to explain these factors to you in a way that helps you understand how they affect the investment strategy that was recommended,” Ferreira says. “I’ve not met a financial adviser that can predict the future with any consistency, so understanding how different investments behave in different situations is a fundamental tenet of financial advice.”

Before looking for a new adviser, Thiederman says you should have a candid conversation with your current adviser and ask for specifics, not generalities. “If you’re not satisfied with your adviser’s response, consult another financial adviser for an unbiased review,” Thiederman says. “Reevaluate your risk tolerance and investment goals and make sure they align with your current portfolio.” 

It might make sense for you to invest more conservatively, with more bonds than cash, depending on what your annual cash flow needs are, suggests Primeau. “If you can achieve the retirement you want with less risk, then take less risk,” Primeau says. “No need to subject yourself and your portfolio to more risk than is necessary.” 

Furthermore, having some diversified equities is good in retirement so that you can keep pace with inflation, says Mark Struthers, a CFP at Sona Wealth Advisors. “Generally it’s no more than 50% to 60% depending on your goals,” Struthers says, adding, “I’d have your adviser explain the performance, there could be a good explanation for it. They might have paired longer dated bonds, which are considered lower risk during recessions but don’t do well with inflation, with very risky or concentrated equities,”

What’s more important is that your adviser has designed a portfolio to weather the market ups and downs and to support you financially in the long run, says Lea Ann Knight, a CFP at Better Money Decisions. “Has this adviser created a long term financial plan for you? Has he or she discussed your tolerance as well as your ability to stomach market downturns? If not, that might be a reason to search for a new adviser,” Knight says. “Find one that speaks your language and can explain what’s happening in the markets and in your portfolio in terms that make sense to you.”

When looking for an adviser, consider working with a CFP as they’re required to complete certain education requirements, undergo thousands of hours of training and adhere to a fiduciary duty, meaning they’re required to put your best interests ahead of their own.

To search for vetted CFP professionals, visit The CFP Board’s Let’s Make a Plan site or the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, or NAPA. During the interview process, it can be helpful to ask prospective advisers these eight questions, so you can get a better sense of what to expect from your advising relationship. You can also use this free tool to get matched with a financial adviser who might meet you needs.

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

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