Money Magazine
Money Magazine's undercover financial planner

When to tell your planner you'll sleep on it

Why you shouldn't rush to act on advice, no matter how good it sounds.

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By The Mole, Money Magazine's undercover financial planner

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Ask Money Magazine's undercover financial planner a question. Send e-mails to: themole@moneymail.com.

(Money Magazine) -- If you've ever sat down with your adviser and felt an overwhelming urge to immediately do what he says, that was no accident. The meeting may have seemed like an objective evaluation of your finances. But what you may not realize is that a lot of planners have another purpose: to quickly close the sale.

Why the haste? After throwing their best pitches at you, the last thing most advisers want to hear is the dreaded "I'll get back to you." That pretty much amounts to the kiss of death. They know that if you don't sign on at that moment, you'll go home and think about it - and perhaps decide that it's not the right strategy. All they see is the window of opportunity slamming shut on their fingers.

Like all good salespeople, planners know that the best way to close the deal fast is to find out what you really want to hear, then tailor the sales pitch accordingly. Here's how that might unfold.

Winning you over

When the meeting starts, the planner will coax you to talk about your life, goals and concerns about your investments. It's critical that you feel she's on the same page, since you're far more likely to respond when you believe you are talking to someone who shares your principles.

Once the adviser has gained your trust, she'll appeal to your emotions so she can get you to open up your checkbook. Let's say you tell her that you need to get more income from your portfolio. Rather than just show you a high-yield bond fund, she might say, "Can you imagine what it would mean to get a 7% return? That would get you much closer to your income needs."

As the final pitch winds up, the planner may say something like "How does that feel?" If she's on track, you have been presented with an irresistible value proposition: Let me manage your money, and your dreams will come true.

Keeping a level head

Sound familiar? If it seems like your adviser has the perfect solution, remind yourself that she is trying to make a living and can never be completely objective. And no matter how nice she seems, she'll sell you whatever she has to sell - which may not be what you really need.

My advice: Never make a decision that could have an impact on the rest of your life based on an hour-long meeting. An investment may sound great when you're sitting in the room, but you have to evaluate it when your mind isn't clouded by a strategic sales pitch. So before you take out your checkbook, go home and think: Is this product likely to perform as promised? What if the planner is wrong? Do I really understand all the risks?

It's great to find an adviser who takes an interest in your life, but know that the one looking to close the sale in an hour is the one you want to avoid the most. As they say: "Invest in haste, repent in leisure."  To top of page

Feel like giving me your money now?
Once your adviser hears your concerns, get ready for the compelling solutions. Trouble is, his heartfelt assurance may be code for a terrible investment.
If you say…  The adviser might say…  The problem A better answer
"I'm worried about a bear market." "If we think the market is going to fall, we'll move your money to safer investments." This is market timing; great in theory, but it rarely works for long. "We'll put you in a diversified portfolio and stick with it until the market rebounds."
"I'm afraid of outliving my wealth."  "We can lock in guaranteed income for life." You'll be sold a bunch of high-fee annuities. "We'll develop a withdrawal strategy to minimize that possibility."
"I need high income." "We will find you the highest-yielding bonds." High yields always come with high risk. "Buying high yield is risky and unnecessary. Let's look at total return instead."
"I want someone who pays attention to the funds in my account." "We select only the top performers and dump them if they lag others in their category." It's a great way to make sure you always buy high and sell low. "We'll create a portfolio of low-cost funds that will beat most of their peers in the long run."
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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.