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Financial planning

It may be time for your first adviser Add to ...

Do you need a financial adviser when you are just starting out with your first investment portfolio? Or should you wait until you have a certain asset level before entertaining the prospect of working with a professional?

These are somewhat leading questions that don't actually address the real question: Are you aware of what you don't know about managing personal finance?

Personal finance is about more than just rates of return, management expense ratios and diversification. These terms are meaningless if you don't even have the mindset to start saving or have a surplus of cash, without which you've got nothing to invest. You can read Graham and Dodd's Security Analysis until you've got it memorized, but without any skin in the game, it really is all academic.

Perhaps the first thing a financial adviser will tell you is that you should stop your automatic contributions to a mutual fund portfolio and pay off your high-interest credit cards instead. Or perhaps you have five kids and no will or power of attorney: You know that's irresponsible, but you need a gentle push to actually do something about it.

While there are some advisers who only care about your investment portfolio, they tend to work with higher net worth clients, who may have multiple advisers for various aspects of their finances. More and more, however, the average adviser is providing advice (or access to advice) based on your whole financial picture.

Perhaps the question we really should be asking is: "Do I change financial advisers over time based on my life stage?" Perhaps not, because they may change as you do.

There are two reasons for this: First, advisers are subjected to continuing educational requirements in order to maintain their registrations and designations. Products and legislation are always evolving and advisers are responsible for keeping up to date with both. They also gain experience as time goes on, obviously.

Second, advisers may change firms or their type of registration. There are various reasons for this. Some firms' product platforms or planning support are better suited for certain advisers and their particular practice or philosophy.

We're scratching the surface here, but suffice it to say, the adviser you started your investing career with can evolve as your portfolio and planning requirements evolve.

So if you're wondering when you should be looking for your first financial adviser, generally speaking, the average Canadian needs to start looking when they start dealing with money.

Don't be shy about not having enough money. Some advisers do have asset minimums, but they'll often point you in the right direction based on your life stage if you're not the right fit for them now, and that may be to an adviser who specializes in getting your butt into first gear.









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