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Things to know when choosing your Wealth Manager

By May 8, 2020 January 23rd, 2021 No Comments

Contents

This article discusses types of wealth managers and the services they can offer you in-depth and is therefore, quite lengthy. If you know what you’re looking for, use this table of contents to navigate more efficiently.

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It can be challenging to find not only a wealth manager that you trust, but one who has the expertise in the areas that apply to your specific situation. On top on that, there are so many types of wealth managers. From bank advisors to CPAs to Notaries, each professional can offer you different services. Let’s discuss the differences between these types of wealth managers so that you can make educated decisions about who to involve in your financial management. 

Please keep in mind, I spend a significant amount of time building trusting professional relationships with individuals in the finance industry so that if you do need a recommendation, I am able to confidently offer you one.

Think carefully before choosing and signing with the first financial advisor you meet. Not all financial advisors have the same education, certifications, or investment philosophies, therefore, the first one you meet may not be the right one for you.

If it’s so hard to find the right wealth manager(s), why even have one?

Through this article, I will illustrate 5 customer profiles that have different levels of wealth. For each profile, I outline how you can take advantage of a wealth management advisor (or Financial Planner). In many situations, the wealth management advisor is essential in order to optimize and avoid management errors that can have serious consequences on your retirement, investment performance, your taxation or your estate management.

Through your hard work and savings, or by inheritance, you have accumulated a significant amount of wealth: $30,000, $100,000, $1M or more? Do you have significant savings capacity and are you looking for the best ways to build your wealth? You may feel overwhelmed and wondering if you need professional advice to invest this money.

The added value of Financial Advisors (or Financial Planners)

A Financial Advisor will be valuable in many circumstances, such as the preparation of your succession, your expatriation, a change in your personal or financial situation, or quite simply to straighten things out.

Why consult a Financial Planner (or Financial Advisor)?

Financial Advisors or Financial Planners often define themselves as “family physicians” or “financial doctors”. Indeed, a Financial Planner establishes a relationship of trust, so the client unveils and exposes his personal, professional life and his projects. Afterwards, the planner establishes analysis and diagnosis, gives recommendations and advice, and ensures a long-term monitoring. 

Keep in mind, this is an ideal client-advisor relationship. There are some advisors who help with the initial strategy/investment, but do not continue to monitor the client’s accounts.

His/her help can be cross-generational, meaning that planners usually deal with a lot of members of the same family, and thus can aim to optimize your family succession. 

He/she will aim to grow and preserve your wealth according to your personal situation, by activating the right levers (savings capacity, assets protection strategies and estate planning).

Most advisors do at least one annual review of their client’s situation and accounts, but I believe that doing at least 2 or 3 is important to best serving you. The goal is to always review the adequacy of the measures taken with the evolution of your family, professional career and real estate situation. Note that a financial planner can also help with your taxes by working directly with your CPA or tax advisor.

Of course, the larger your “financial estate” is, the more you will need a good wealth management advisor to save time and money. Keep in mind that using the services of a planner may also be relevant with a modest heritage if the potential is there, especially for white collar professionals and entrepreneurs.

How to choose a good wealth management advisor?

There are several types of wealth management advisors, but look for a financial planner that goes through a Broker/Dealer or financial institution that has a record of a good conduct. Some financial planners have a high level of expertise, but work through a smaller broker/dealer, and therefore, are limited in the quality of the products and services they can offer.

Make sure to find a financial planner that is appropriately licensed. You can check his or her licenses on brokercheck.finra.org. To legally be a financial planner in the US, a candidate must pass different types of licenses that will then allow the agent to provide you with products and services. 

Not all of the licenses are the same, but the main ones that you need to be on the look out for are the Series 7 & 66. These licenses allow your financial planner to have access to a wide array of different products and services. If you come across someone that does not have these basic licenses, the chances are that this person cannot legally advise and sell you adequate products based on your financial situation.

In short, your real challenge will be to find a good financial planner that cares about you and your goals, and who will act in your best interest. Thankfully, the regulatory changes are going in the right direction towards promoting this type of advisor and promoting the “Best Interest” policy for clients.

How are Financial Advisors compensated?

Independent financial planners’ first mission is to put your best interest ahead of his/hers. These independent advisors (including myself) are paid in a few different ways depending on the way they are building their practice. The most common methods are by the hour of advice; by selling financial products; or by a percentage charged on your assets under management. In the US, most advisors charge around 1-1.25% per year on your assets under management. Be aware that it makes sense for a financial planner to charge more or less depending on the size and the complexity of the assets that need to be managed. 

What to think of bank or credit union advisors?

In bank and credit union branches, there are financial advisors. These advisors depend on homemade products. Across the industry, there is a belief that this advice is biased.

So choosing an independent financial planner (independent financial advisor), whose compensation does not depend on the only products he can sell is a safer option.

Through assumptions, by habit, or by family tradition, you are probably a client of a bank or a credit union that you faithfully use and trust. It is likely that the bank inherited your accounts from your parents — or when you were looking for a mortgage. 

Most of the time, you almost sign with your eyes closed, taking the words of your bank or credit union advisor for a fact. Similar to what you would do with your family doctor. The trust is established and you don’t feel a need to compare advice or products.

What you need to ask yourself is: do the costs always justify the advice given and the investments used/proposed? Your costs are often opaque, well-hidden, and usually integrated into the performance. You are probably paying without even realizing it.

Not to mention the opportunity costs, i.e. the loss in gains if you would have invested your money through more suitable investments. Also, the advice you missed, particularly in terms of wealth and tax optimization, could cost you a lot of money.

Financial professionals have different types of knowledge, experience, licenses and may or may not have your best interest in mind. Implementing a core financial planning strategy will also depend on your level of wealth, your savings, borrowing capacities. This is why each individuals will not face the same challenges.

So let’s dive into specific situations. But remember that below does not constitute any types of advice and that you should consult your financial planner (or advisor) to determine what is best for your situation. Also, please note that these examples are hypothetical in nature and for illustration purposes only.

Julie, Executive, age 28

Estate: $85,000

Your advisor is usually an advisor for individuals and he/she works for a bank or a credit union. He/she manages on average a portfolio of 1,000 clients.

This advisor needs to be avoided: I believe he or she is someone who is not truly an adviser, but a salesperson responsible for selling the bank’s products. They sell their products, they do not know the whole market, they cannot be objective and advise you to take a better product elsewhere. In short, there is no quality advice there.

Consider this : you are never better served than by yourself.

No one more than you is interested in developing your wealth, optimizing costs and performance. Remember that you can always try to find the best products yourself, and don’t limit yourself to the products sold by your bank “advisor”.

In short, spending 2 hours on the internet (my site is made for that) can be enough to be well informed and make the best choices. Please feel free to use me as a resource and contact me with any question you have, I am always happy to help you regardless of the size of your estate. 

Should I delegate to a wealth management advisor?

Using a financial advisor has a cost. For larger estate, this cost is largely offset by the optimization that your advisor will bring to your asset allocation. This optimization will focus on investment returns, retirement & wealth advice, estate planning and tax optimization.

When it comes to “smaller estates” (i.e. a few tens of thousands of dollars), for the self-taught or for people with a moderate savings capacity, it may be worth taking control of your savings. Without personalized advice, my website is full of information to understand the different investment solutions available to savers and how to compare the best savings products.

Do you want to take charge? Then follow our step-by-step roadmap:

  • Keep a precautionary savings of a few thousand dollars (approximately 3-6 months of fixed expenses) on high yields savings accounts at your bank or credit unions. In my experience, using a credit union is best since most of them do not have obligations towards investors to make a profit. Their profits are usually spread out among members and this is why their savings accounts are usually way higher than banks savings accounts. Then, once the base is in place, invest the rest according to your situation, time horizon and risk tolerance.
  • Consider investing in a secure investment types that will allow you to build up on your bank assets, but also that will allow you to take advantage of the compounding effect without taking a lot of risk.
  • Invest in a diversified stocks and bonds portfolio for the long term, for a reasonable amount called « starter amount ». You and I can go over a “risk budget”, for example a maximum of 20% of your assets.
  • Invest in real estate for the long term by owning a house that will usually grow in value with inflation. I have a very extensive and great Real Estate network in Orlando, FL that can help you with finding a house, pre-qualifying for a mortgage, inspecting a house, restoring it, furnishing it… etc.
  • Make sure you do not withhold too much taxes on your paycheck. A lot of people are « getting money » in the beginning of the year and it makes them extremely happy. However, what they don’t understand is that this money is your money, not the government’s. You basically waited a whole year to receive this $5,000 check instead of taking control of it during the last year. You should reach out to your tax professional to optimize your tax withholding.

Chase away bad habits and leave your comfort zone

In the end, the hardest part for you will be to get rid of your bank’s grip and ignore its “advice”, at least product-wise. Understand that you are not married to your financial institution and that you will have to look for a better place and save thousands of euros in fees and outperformance. Overtime, the difference will be considerable in terms of wealth accumulation and therefore standard of living and serenity.

If however you do not prefer to do it yourself, you want an honest opinion of your financial situation and/or you have a good savings capacity, choose a good wealth management advisor (rather than a bank or a credit union advisor).

Nicolas, Consultant, age 55

Estate: $570,000

White collar professionals, executives, entrepreneurs, etc. Your advisor is usually a wealth management advisor in a private banking branch. This “advisor” manages on average a portfolio of 120 clients. 

This advisor is to be avoided: I believe he is not an adviser, but above all, a salesperson. In fact, he cannot be objective, he can only distribute the products of his bank. Try to resist the want of letting a private bank managing your money.

At this level of wealth, banks roll out the red carpet for you. Each famous bank has its private bank for clients just like you.

So do not be swayed by the beautiful furniture and flattered by the nice titles. Indeed, the products sold and services rendered are barely superior to those of a normal bank or credit union. You will certainly have access to a more qualified “advisor”, that has a Bachelor and/or Master diploma in wealth management, but he/she will not be able to advise strictly speaking and he will be confined to homemade products, far from the best and with a very restrictive choice.

Keep your head on your shoulders and invest well.

At this level of wealth, the strategy seen previously in the roadmap remains unbeatable. In practice, open a checking and a saving account at a (high quality) Credit Union, getting a higher savings yield and extend the surplus of your money into something relatively safe. Remember, the goal here is to build your base. Not gambling. The return on these liquid assets will usually be around $2,000 and $10,000 per year (considering around 1% yield), way more than what you would have in a “private bank” of the most famous US banks.

In addition, to get an overall view of your situation (wealth allocation, tax optimization, etc.), you can consider using the services of a good wealth management advisor, but make sure that he/she is independent and that he/she is always looking for your best interest. Note also that a good financial planner can also consider your real estate investment strategy.

Paul and Marie, Young Retirees

Estate: $2.4M

Congratulations! You are considered wealthy. According to the English term you are a HNWI (High Net Worth Individual).

New challenges and issues

You must now be concerned with these issues and problems:

  • your overall tax exposure 
  • your business succession plan (if you are a business owner or a white collar professional);
  • the transmission of your assets in the case of you passing away.

At this point, my website is no longer sufficient to inform you completely, simply because you find yourself in a particular situation and that everybody is different. You may not need to invest in life insurance products or even invest millions of dollars in risky assets accounts. Your main goal at this point should be to preserve your estate. You have worked your entire life to get there, and now is not the time to gamble with your money. You now have a sufficient financial capacity to diversify your portfolio. Invest conservatively and optimize your tax exposures. Note that to have your financial planner monitoring your accounts over time is essential to determine the array of your opportunities and risks.

You will therefore need to surround yourself with new highly qualified advisers

Surround yourself with a team of professionals:

Financial planners: will give you advice to preserve and develop your assets with an appropriate investment and liquidity allocation, will review your real estate investments, prepare you for your retirement, etc. Contact an independent financial planner.

Also, reach out to an Estate planning attorney and a tax lawyer for: your succession (maybe you will need to create a trust?), optimizing your taxes, create a specific type of businesses, etc.
Lawyer: to discuss ways to preserve your estate from general liabilities and in any cases of conflict with tenants, partners, etc.

The importance of an Estate Planning Attorney

At this stage, this attorney becomes essential. Your succession becomes a real subject, at a big stake, and requires particular skills. Your Estate will have to be prepared with advice : so consult your Estate planning attorney. If needed, you can also discuss your Charitable contributions donations with your tax professionals and see how to implement your tax strategy. If you are in a situation where you don’t have these kinds of professionals in your network, please reach out to me so that I can provide you with a list of trustworthy professionals.

Chantal, Beneficiary, Age 35

Estate: $42M

You are considered very wealthy. The English term describes you as a UHNWI (Ultra High Net Worth Individual).

You will need to get the services of professionals entirely focused on your situation

Congratulations, you can afford the services of specific professionals. However, remember that private banks are making the most profit out of individuals like you. So you will need to look closely as far as advice you are getting from them. Being an advisor with an independent wealth management company, my team and I are specialized in wealth management, with real added value, real advice and opportunities inaccessible to ordinary people. The size of your estate simply allows you to have access to Separately Managed Accounts (SMAs) and sophisticated investment platforms non-available to the general public. 

At this level of wealth, you probably already have a dedicated team of wealth management professionals providing high quality products and services. Each team usually manages around twenty to fifty clients like you, so your dedicated team knows you very well. This team should be composed of :

  • a staff person (concierge, that is in charge of all the administrative work), 
  • an Investment Advisor that deals with your investment allocations, 
  • an Estate Planning Attorney (that makes sure that your trust fits your needs) and 
  • a Tax Lawyer (for your complex tax situation)

VIP treatment

For the anecdote, as a client you can also benefit from invitations: private concerts, exhibition visits before opening, vehicle or hotel tests before their release, economic conferences, access to fund managers events, meetings with personalities from the world of entrepreneurship / politics, networking evenings, etc.

For what cost?

Investment fees are usually in the range of 0.3-0.5% per year on the capital managed, on top of a 0.3-0.5% advisor fee for a tailor-made and complete service. Besides, you will be able to take advantage of institutional shares that have a lower amount of transactional fees.

In conclusion, when you can afford to have a private financial planner, the investment is usually worth it and it can also bring a certain reassurance.

Isabelle, Start-Up Owner, Age 40

Estate: $236M

You are entering a new dimension: you are amongst the largest American fortunes.

Note that the cumulative amount of the largest fortunes in the USA has been increasing over the last 10 years. Why? Most of American people are very largely invested in equities (stock market), which increased significantly over the 2009-2019 period (approximately +300% on the S&P 500).

Create your own single family office business bank

At this level of wealth, you reach the top of the top in terms of advice: you can establish your own family business office. You are usually large entrepreneurs and you have heirs. You benefit from a legal structure with dozens of professionals from all fields serving your family heritage. At this point, wealth is usually concentrated in the family business. The professionals surrounding you therefore have a role in ensuring the sustainability of the business over several generations. The vision is for the very long term and is about defending the interests of your estate.

You need to ask yourself, which advisor for my assets?

Up to around $1M in assets to be invested, leave your comfort zone and get information on the internet (if you are reading these lines, you are well on your way!), but remember that there is a high chance that you will end up hurting yourself if you follow non-professional advice. Once you are better informed, consult a good wealth management advisor (or financial planner/advisor) to optimize your wealth and tax situation, while being more wise to take a critical look at the advice given.

Beyond $1M, your main task is to surround yourself with competent advisers: Estate Planning Attorneys, Tax lawyers, Certified Public Accountants and good wealth management advisers (or financial planners/advisors). Remember to ask for a second opinion because you never know if your wealth management advisors are advising non-objectively. So choose wisely.

Beyond $10M: you can calmly entrust the management of your fortune to a financial planning firm or to a family office.

Conclusion

To conclude, remember that the steps mentioned should not be taken as is. Everybody’s situation is different, but make sure that you are well taken care of and that you are dealing with competent and trustworthy advisors, regardless of what kind of advisors they are. If you are not a multimillionaire, you can start by following the steps mentioned in this article https://moneywiththeo.com/2020/03/basic-tools-for-financial-security-as-an-expat-in-the-united-states-2/ .

If you would like to start a discussion with me or any professionals of my network, please feel free to reach out to me at theo.desmulier@raymondjames.com or at the office at (407)-478-0374.

Any opinions are those of Theotime Desmulier and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. The information contained in this report does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected. Diversification does not ensure a profit or guarantee against the loss. Real estate investments can be subject to different and greater risks than more diversified investments. Declines in the value of real estate, economic conditions, property taxes, tax laws and interest rates all present potential risks to real estate investments. Raymond James and its advisors do not offer tax advice. You should discuss any tax matters with the appropriate professional.