Study Shows "Do it Yourself" Investing Beats Using a Financial Adviser

11/04/2009 01:08:00 AM / Posted by Soullfire /


Long time readers know my investment philosophy subscribes to the old axiom- "If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself."

At the end of the day, the person who has the most to gain or lose from your investment nest egg is you- not a financial adviser or any other person offering investment help.

Well, a study was done that compared the investment returns of those who used investment advisers and those who didn't, and the results were very interesting. On just the surface view and analysis, those who had a financial adviser manage their assets appeared to have superior performance and lower risk compared to those without an adviser. However it was found that financial advisers are more often paired with older, richer clients rather than younger, less affluent ones. Taking these differences into account results in a different outcome. From the study:

"Once we control for different characteristics of investors using financial advisors, we discover that advisers actually tend to lower returns, raise portfolio risk, increase the probabilities of losses, and increase trading frequency and portfolio turnover relative to what account owners of given characteristics tend to achieve on their own."

Now this makes sense when you think about it. Financial firms are going to give their older, wealthier clients their best financial advisers to keep them from going to another firm. The newer, less experienced/seasoned advisers are more likely to be assigned to smaller accounts that correspond with a younger investor with smaller assets. This results in these accounts being the "training grounds" of newbie/inexperienced financial advisers, with often mediocre or poor returns to show for it.

When it comes to investing talent, not all financial advisers are the same.       

The study concludes:

Based on the findings, it should not be taken for granted that financial advisers provide their services to small, young investors typically identified as in need of investment guidance. Indeed, the opposite is true. Even if advisors add value to the account, they collect more in fees and commissions than they contribute.

The bottom line is you are not automatically well served letting someone else manage your money. If you don't want to manage your money, the key is picking a good financial adviser, and to do that, you need to have at least a solid basic understanding of investing yourself. I know it's easy to say we're too busy and to ignore boring things like finance and basic investing skills, but then again, we ALL want to retire early with lots of money- we can't have it both ways.

How to Invest

As a start the easiest thing to do is invest in the index funds like those that follow the S&P 500 or NASDAQ. Your investing will then directly follow the market indexes for better or worse, with no financial adviser needed. From a long term perspective, the market has been historically bullish so it works out.  That would get you started as you learn more about the market and investing. The best time to use a financial adviser is when you are savvy enough about investing to know what you want to do, but don't have the time to do it, so you can give your financial ideas to the adviser and let them execute it for you.

How to Spot a Good Financial Adviser

How can you tell if a financial adviser is good or not? You can ask to see their track record of performance. As a quick check, you can ask them how they fared in the market from 2007 - now. We have seen some turbulent times in the market which serves as a great litmus of the true skill set of the financial adviser in question. Compare their performance to that of the market index funds. If they can't beat the index fund performance, then they aren't adding any value with their management skills, and should be avoided.


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