Alert
Close

Last chance – give now. Before 2014 ends, help struggling seniors. Donate

Highlights

Open

You and Your Town Contest-You could win an AARP RealPad

Contests and
Sweeps

$10,000 Winter Escapes Sweepstakes

Beat the cold and cozy up to a chance of winning $10,000! See official rules.

Driver Safety

Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

AARP Books

Visit the Money Section

Enjoy titles on retirement, Social Security, and becoming debt-free.

Jobs You Might Like

most popular
articles

Viewed

How to Choose a Financial Planner

Beware the good adviser who does bad things with your money

Brain Health Sweepstakes

Brain Health Sweeps

Play fun games to keep your brain strong and have a chance to win $25,000! See official rules.

A widow just shy of her 90th birthday recently asked me to review her investment portfolio. This happens a lot: Much of my practice involves giving second opinions to other financial planners' clients.

See also: Is your money fund safe?

This widow had a reason to worry. She had been sold two expensive annuities — just about the last thing a 90-year-old needs — and the rest of her portfolio consisted mostly of risky stock funds and junk bond funds. The planner was making a fortune as the widow's nest egg dwindled.

10 Ways to Get the Best Money Advice

What is your financial planner doing with your money? — R. Kikuo Johnson

A natural reaction would be to file this story next to that of Bernie Madoff or other brazen crooks. But that would be too easy. Like every financial planner I know, the widow's adviser really seemed to believe that she was doing her client a great service. In fact, she considered her a dear friend.

My point is this: Bad advice is epidemic in my industry, and it doesn't come only from villainous fraudsters such as Madoff. It also comes from pleasant, empathetic folks who are merely responding predictably to my industry's perverse incentives and self-serving ethical standards.
 
We financial planners are masters at persuading ourselves that what's in our best interest also happens to be the moral thing to do. By and large, we're good people, which is why we can be so convincing — and so potentially dangerous to your money.

Who I am

I spent 20 years in the business world as a corporate finance officer before becoming a personal planner more than a decade ago. I started my practice because I knew that a lot of the advice families got was mediocre or worse, and I hoped that I could help counteract that.
 
That's also why I write very candidly about how this profession works, and what you should know about it before you seek advice from me or any other planner. (This article isn't a plea for business: I have a long waiting list and don't need to advertise.)

For two years I penned these insights anonymously in a column called The Mole in Money magazine; today I write for the website CBS MoneyWatch and elsewhere, often giving an insider's view of my industry and how it treats its clients.

Sad to say, the worst cases often involve older clients. We planners target you because you have the largest nest eggs, and the more money we manage, the bigger our take. Also — and let me be frank here — you often view your money more emotionally than younger people do, because you have so much at stake. And that makes you vulnerable.

Next: What do financial planners need from you? »

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

related
VIDEO

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

The Cheap Life

Jeff Yeager Cheap Life Ultimate Cheapskate AARP YouTube web series save money

Catch the latest episode of The Cheap Life starring Jeff Yeager, AARP's Ultimate Cheapskate. Watch

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Life insurance: you are covered rain or shine

Exclusive annuities for members from AARP Lifetime Income Program from New York Life.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can get cash back rewards on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Homeowners Insurance
Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points

Advance your skills. Transform your career.

Explore your learning possibilities.