Even the Very Wealthy Do Not Understand Advisors
By: Nicholas W. Stuller
I had a fascinating conversation with someone who is very wealthy, and as it turns out not only completely ignorant of financial advisors, but had a negative view of them. He does not have an advisor, and he further believes that very few people have them or need them. I found the conversation to be fascinating because at his level of wealth I would assume he has three advisors, given the complexity of his life.
I met him in a group environment, I’ll call him Fred, and he asked what I did for a living and after replying about my book & software he replied, “I just don’t see the need for advisors for me or the vast majority of people”. Given we were in a group environment I did not want to reply with a mini-education on the financial advisor landscape. There were several many interesting aspects to the group conversation we were having. First, Fred is very accomplished in his field of expertise. He has run successful companies and had several other successful ventures. He was quite interesting to listen to and was obviously quite intelligent.
Shortly after he made the declarative statement that advisors benefit very few, the conversation turned to investing and retirement. Fred quipped that he had several unfunded retirement accounts and jokingly said he needs to “get around to that”. Then someone who apparently knows him well offered a very specific suggestion as it related to assets and retirement. Fred stopped for a moment and looked off into the distance really thinking about this idea. Mind you, it was not a financial advisor with the idea, just a peer in a group discussion. I found it incredibly ironic that this wildly wealthy person does not see the value in someone who gives advice for a living, but really considered the advice that a non-advisor was giving him.
I was gratified however, in that later on I was able to pull him aside and share with him that very serious research papers proving the value of advisors existed from Vanguard, Morningstar, Financial Engines/Aon Hewitt and others. These various reports all came to the roughly same conclusion that after fees, an investor could expect 3% annually more when you have an advisor, on average.
So what is the takeaway from this? First, even wealthy, smart people are not smart about everything, especially about the virtues of advisors. Second, Fred was totally unaware that there are hundreds of thousands of advisors that cater to every slice of person on the wealth spectrum. When someone like Fred offers an uneducated opinion, people not knowing who hear this will be more jaded about getting advice. Finally, for advisors, it reinforces that there are ultra-wealthy potential clients out there who genuinely need help. They just need some objective education to get them over whatever bias they have acquired.
Nicholas W. Stuller is the Founder and CEO of MyPerfectFinancialAdvisor.com, a 30-year veteran of the financial services industry and author of THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOUR WALLET FREE: Secrets to Finding the Perfect Financial Advisor, published in 2018 by Post Hill Press.