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rob carrick

A strategy for investors who want advice without a sales pitch to buy products: Partner a fee-for-service financial planner with a robo-adviser.

There are plenty of conventional investment advisers and financial planners who work on an advice-first basis, with product sales a secondary part of the relationship. But you have to work hard to find them. To start, you'll need to interview them and ask about their process. Specifically, you'll want to ask how much financial planning is done to determine the right investing approach. The advisers I'm most impressed with start with the financial plan and then get to investments later.

Can't find an adviser like that? No worries. You can replicate one by finding a fee-for-service planner to develop your financial roadmap and then having a robo-adviser build you the appropriate portfolio.

Fee-for-service planners charge flat or hourly rates for financial plans and don't sell products. You can find a listing of this type of planner here. Warning: Many of these planners are not licensed to discuss specific investments. They can talk about appropriate mixes of stocks and bonds and the rates of return you'll need to reach your goals, but they may not be able to recommend appropriate exchange-traded funds, mutual funds or stocks and bonds.

That's where a robo-adviser comes in. With a financial plan in hand, you can go to a robo firm to have your portfolio built. Let's say your planner suggests you invest a certain amount every month in both a tax free savings accounts and a registered retirement savings plan, and gives you an idea of how much risk you need to take on. A robo-adviser can help set up portfolios of ETFs that follow through on your planner's recommendations, and then manage them on an ongoing basis.

Robo-advisers are best thought of as portfolio managers who don't do a deep dive into your personal financial situation. Fee-only planners take that deep dive, but often can't talk about investments. Partner robos with fee-for-service planning and you get the full package of advice and portfolio management, with no sales pitches.