Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

The wrong kind of financial advice

When your planner steers you toward expensive investments, stop and ask the right questions.

By The Mole, Money Magazine's undercover financial planner

(Money Magazine) -- At some point during his sales pitch, a financial pro is going to tell you that you should hire him because he can put you into the very best investment products.

What he really should say is that he can put you into the very best investment products that he can make money on.

The Mole is a certified financial planner and certified public accountant who thinks you should know what goes on behind the scenes. Want to make contact? E-mail themole@moneymail.com.
CDs & Money Market
MMA 0.23%
$10K MMA 0.22%
6 month CD 0.33%
1 yr CD 0.55%
5 yr CD 1.24%

Find personalized rates:

Rates provided by Bankrate.com.

Start with fixed income: Recent two- to five-year certificates of deposit from credit unions and small banks yielded from 6.3 percent to 7 percent annually and are backed by an agency of the U.S. government.

I'll bet your planner never mentioned them to you while he was selling you a bond fund. That's because these CDs don't fit our fee models: They neither pay commissions nor charge a percentage of assets to pay the adviser.

Admittedly, some of these CDs aren't easy to find. But an hour spent online shopping for CDs will be far more productive than chasing the next hot mutual fund. And what about your cash? Is your money-market fund paying 3 percent when you could be earning 5 percent?

Or maybe your adviser has you in an expensive stock index fund that has zippo chance of beating the low-cost equivalent index fund. The same goes for expensive classes of actively managed mutual funds (often class-B funds) that have an equivalent lower-cost share class.

You always want to ask your planner the following questions:

  • Are there comparable fixed-income instruments paying better rates? If so, why hasn't he or she recommended them?
  • Is there a better place to park your cash?
  • Are there any lower-cost mutual funds that perform as well as the high-cost fund he recommended?

Research some of these questions yourself and see if the answers your financial professional is giving you gel with what you found.

Your adviser has a right to make a living. You, however, are paying for objective professional advice, and you have the right to know about investments you are missing out on. Top of page