Question: ​​I’m not impressed with our financial planner. Several of my friends use planners and their assets are about where they were before COVID. I am about the same, though I take $50,000 or so out each year. I think dividends are an investor’s friend, though some planners don’t seem to see that way. Why? Is it concerning that my money has been level for years? Should I go out and tackle financial planning on my own? 

Answer: It’s hard to say whether your adviser is doing a good job without all the specifics, but one way you can start is by gauging your performance against relevant benchmarks like the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA). (Looking for a new financial adviser? This tool can match you to an adviser who meets your needs.)

Furthermore, “your time horizon, risk tolerance, cash flow needs and individual goals drive your investment allocation,” says Marguerita Cheng, a certified financial planner (CFP) at Blue Ocean Global Wealth. 

Robert Persichitte, a CFP at Delagify, notes that you also should think about your overall financial objectives and opportunity cost. “Opportunity cost answers the question good or bad compared to what,” says Persichitte. “Compared to the winning lotto ticket this is a bad investment. Compared to FTX, it’s a good investment.” Reality is going to land somewhere in the middle So make sure to consider all of that as well.

Josh St. Laurent, a CFP at Wealth in Yourself, says it looks at it like this: “From what I understand, you’re withdrawing $50,000 per year and your balance is staying the same, which tells me that your investment portfolio is generating that $50,000 per year and you don’t have to dip into your principal. Do you have a goal of growing the money? If so, for what purpose and by how much?”

Now let’s break down your dividend questions from most specific to most high level. Are dividends good? The answer isn’t clearcut. Indeed, dividends are one of many different strategies in retirement, but they’re not a silver bullet. “Your risk tolerance and goals will drive your investment strategy more than anything else,” says St, Laurent. 

As a stock investor, you get returns through dividends or capital appreciation, says Persichitte. “Some companies … hate dividends, but you can look at historical performance and see that they would have turned a $1,000 investment into over half a million dollars over the course of about 40 years, so there are good and bad opportunities when it comes to dividends,” he says. “Good planners consider a stock’s total return along with the tax implications.”

Why are some advisers against dividends? Dividend stocks don’t always yield the same appreciation as growth stocks which means they could have a lower growth potential. Among other things, dividend payments are aren’t always guaranteed and income from dividends is taxable, which is why some investors try to avoid them.

Another thing to note: “Dividends do receive favorable tax treatment in taxable accounts. … they can be an investors best friend and a company’s ability to pay dividends consistently in a variety of market conditions can indicate a strong, well-run enterprise,” says Cheng. “You can invest in dividend paying stocks, mutual funds or ETFs in taxable, tax deferred and tax free accounts.”

Should you do financial planning on your own?

Maybe. DIY financial planning works better for some than others. Know that, should you take the DIY route, you’ll certainly save money. You’ll also likely want to educate yourself on personal finance issues and make sure you understand exactly what you’re taking on.

Before you consider tackling financial planning on your own, ask yourself what went wrong and what you would have done differently. “Consider all risks and alternatives,” says Persichitte. “With perfect knowledge of the future, it’s easy to pick a winning strategy, but go back and measure how you would have done with a different approach. Measure that same approach during good times like 2013 and bad times like 2007.”

 It’s also important to think about what type of guidance you desire and what value you expect from your planner. “If you’re not impressed with your planner because you feel your investments have underperformed, take a comprehensive approach. I’d encourage you to work with a planner who can ensure that the investment allocation you have aligns with the appropriate level of risk for your situation,” says Cheng.

“Consider a second opinion from a fee-for-service planner who isn’t trying to sell you anything,” says Persichitte. Many fee-only, advice-only planners will even provide a free consultation which might answer some of your big picture questions and help you see if your adviser is a good match or not.

“If you’re not feeling comfortable with your current adviser, I would suggest interviewing others or insisting your current adviser walk you through the rationale behind your current strategy,” says St. Laurent. In addition to asking the right questions (MarketWatch Picks has compiled a list of 8 questions to ask a prospective adviser), make sure your financial planner is a fiduciary who is looking out for your best interests. 

You’ll likely want to use a CFP as they undergo rigorous education requirements, testing, they’re required to accrue thousands of hours of work-related experience and they’re fiduciaries, which means they’re obligated to put their client’s best interests ahead of their own. To start your search for a CFP, visit


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