There is a lot of information out there about how to find a good advisor, and what a good adviser should provide.
But what about being a good client?
I have been blessed with very good clients. Some are more demanding than others, but I view them all as good clients. That doesn't mean, however, that I haven't had bad clients over the years. It is from those experiences that I bring you a top 10 list of how to be a good client. Use these tips to get the best performance from your adviser.
1) Be honest with your adviser about whether you are happy or unhappy with their service, and provide specifics about why you feel that way. This gives you the best opportunity to improve the relationship and results.
2) It is your right to respectfully disagree with your adviser and not take their advice, but if you find that this disagreement is very common, then there is a poor fit. After a while, the adviser will stop advising and become an order taker. That is poor value for you.
3) Judge your adviser based on their actions and not those of your previous advisers or "the industry." It can weaken your relationship with your adviser and hurt communication if they always feel beaten up for someone else's behaviour.
4) You have a right to know how you are doing. If you are not being given that information, don't be afraid to ask for it. If you unsure about something, don't be afraid to ask for clarity.
5) Measure your adviser fairly. This means basing it on trust over time, seeing them do what they say they will do, and comparing their performance against a reasonable benchmark for you. Some areas of advice, such as planning, tax advice and debt recommendations are more black and white. Investments are the tricky one. Keep in mind that the TSX is an aggressive equity index overweighted in metals, energy and financial services. Even among stocks, the TSX is not an appropriate stock benchmark for a somewhat conservative investor.
6) Keep your adviser honest. You should call or e-mail your advisor on occasion. You should ask them to explain certain decisions. This keeps the line of communication open, and keeps your adviser aware that you are interested in your finances. As in any situation (health care, business, finance, school), more attention is paid to clients when there is a sense that they are actively interested in the result.
7) Respect your adviser's time. While you can ask questions and ask for reviews, a reasonable adviser can't devote too much time to any one client without it negatively affecting other clients. The reality is that the size of a client's business does have an impact on how much time is reasonable to expect from your adviser. If you take significantly more than your fair share of time, it hurts your adviser's ability to provide good service to all clients.
8) While it is always your money, and you have the right to fire an adviser who isn't doing a good job – try not to hold your business up as a threat. It simply adds stress to the relationship that isn't helpful to you as a client.
9) If your adviser is doing a good job, say thank you. If you are really happy and feel comfortable doing so, send referrals. Like anyone, advisers appreciate your positive feedback when it is warranted.
10) Be up front about what you expect of your adviser. If your expectations are unreasonable, it is the adviser's responsibility to make sure that things are adjusted. Reasonable, clear expectations up front can form the foundation for a happy client/adviser relationship for years to come.
Like any relationship, the one you have with your adviser is a two-way street. Some of the most successful people out there get to that point because they have good advisers, and because they themselves are good clients.
Follow Ted Rechtshaffen on Twitter: @TriDelta1