Pete the Planner: Your adviser wants a lot of your time? Ask why.

Peter DunnDear Pete,

My investment adviser has offered to meet with us every three months. And not just a phone callhe’s suggesting a 60- to 90-minute formal meeting. This doesn’t exactly appeal to me, but I fear I’m missing something.

Is there a compelling reason for us to chat with him that frequently about our investments? The whole reason I chose to have an investment adviser is so I don’t have to think about my investments that much. It seems like a lot of work.

—Susan, Carmel

I don’t think you’re being lazy, Susan. In fact, I think you’re being quite reasonable. A meeting with your financial adviser should simply be an exchange of information. What he’s suggesting seems like a ridiculous amount of information to exchange. Meeting 60-90 minutes per year is great, while meeting 240-360 minutes per year seems like overkill, especially for someone reluctant to meet that often.

There are reasons an adviser might want to meet on a more regular basis. While I am going to list some for you, I’m by no means suggesting your adviser is wanting to meet with you for one of these reasons.

In no particular order, an adviser might be able to generate more revenue during a meeting via sales or fees, he might be trying to retain your business by showing you how much time he’s willing to invest in your relationship, or he might want to meet with you for the worst reason I can imagine: He thinks a person should talk to his or her investment adviser every three months.

I’ve met hundreds, if not thousands, of financial advisers over the last two decades. They almost always fall into one of two camps. The first camp simplifies investing, and the value they deliver for their fee is low-maintenance simplicity. They can make the most difficult concepts easy to understand, leaving you at peace and feeling as though you’re in control.

And then there’s the second camp of investment advisers, who typically make difficult concepts more difficult to understand, often to justify their involvement, as the concepts are so difficult they clearly require a translator. They want to tell you how the sausage is made, even the esoteric parts that actually took them years to reasonably comprehend. These investment advisers don’t distill information to put your mind at ease; they overwhelm you with data, theory and signals.

As you might be able to sense from my tone, I prefer one type of adviser over the other.

When I go to the emergency room after a fishing accident, I just want the fishing lure removed from my thumb. I don’t want to hear a dissertation on accidental, self-inflicted flesh wounds.

Hey, some people love the details; I’m not one of them, especially when I’m paying top dollar to a professional to facilitate the process for me.

It is also entirely possible that your adviser is hyper-analytic, and you aren’t.

You often hear about personality fit, as it relates to a relationship with a financial adviser, but I don’t think most people realize the type of personality traits they’re supposed to evaluate. One of the primary ideas you’re supposed to sniff out is whether you’d prefer an analytical financial adviser or one who operates primarily in the conceptual realm.

Of course, you want your adviser to know his stuff, but how he communicates those concepts can be the difference between a good relationship and a bad one.

Advisers make the same judgments, trust me. When one adviser is telling another adviser about a prospective client, the phrase, “He’s an engineer,” is often said with a particular tone, depending on how detail-oriented the adviser is.

I once had an investment adviser who loved to show me charts. He loved it. I never asked to see any charts, but he loved to show me these homemade charts. They became his primary agenda item at every investment review.

He’s no longer my adviser. He didn’t do anything wrong or unethical; it was simply an unfulfilling experience that became frustrating from my perspective.

Susan, ask your adviser why he wants to meet so often. Then tell him you’d prefer to meet only once a year.

My gut tells me it might just be a personality-fit issue, and that’s OK. You’re the client, and you can set expectations. One meeting per year is fine.•

__________

Dunn is CEO of Your Money Line powered by Pete the Planner, an employee-benefit organization focused on solving employees’ financial challenges. Email your financial questions to askpete@petetheplanner.com.

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