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Are you paying for financial advice, but not getting your money’s worth? A recent survey from the Ontario Securities Commission’s Investor Advisory Panel suggests this is a common problem.

Fees and commissions charged by advisers and investment firms are typically supposed to cover the cost of advice and client service. But almost one in three participants in the OSC survey weren’t sure their adviser had discussed retirement planning, education or buying a home, and only one in five received guidance on debt and budgeting.

The survey results prompted lawyer and investor advocate Harold Geller to send me an e-mail criticizing the all too common disconnect between fees and advice for investors who don’t have large accounts. Mr. Geller is a former member of the OSC’s investor advisory panel, and he has for years represented investors in disputes with the financial industry. Here’s his quick take on what the key aspects of financial advice should be:

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  • Reduce debt
  • Start saving
  • Use tax-free savings accounts, registered retirement savings plans, registered disability savings plans and registered education savings plan
  • Keep fees as low as possible

Mr. Geller describes the business model commonly used in the investment industry as high fee, low touch. He means that investors pay hefty fees and yet may not get the advice they should receive. If you’re paying for advice, make sure you’re getting it. If not, think about finding a new adviser.

Subscribe to Carrick on Money

Are you reading this newsletter on the web or did someone forward the e-mail version to you? If so, you can sign up for Carrick on Money here.

Rob’s personal finance reading list…

The Netflix of food

A thorough comparison of four different subscription-based services that will send ingredients to your home to help you prepare meals quickly. Convenience, as ever, at a cost.

And you thought Toronto and Vancouver were expensive.

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A financial planner sent me a link to this story in the New York Times about a couple looking for a co-op in Manhattan. Three options are shown, ranging in price from US$1.8-million to US$2.3-million, and the monthly maintenance fees are in the $2,500 range. “Some perspective for those frustrated with Toronto prices!!!” the planner wrote.

Travel rewards cards for people with lower incomes

The credit cards with the best travel rewards programs often require incomes of $60,000 to $80,000. Here are three cards for people who make less than that and want to maximize their rewards

We have to talk about investment returns

An investing blogger guides you through the process of estimating future returns from balanced exchange-traded funds, which are a fully diversified portfolio built into a single ETF. Balanced ETFs are a great product for everyday investors. But their returns will likely be quite modest.

Ask Rob

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Q: I'm 24 and work full-time at a position where I will be offered a defined benefit pension plan upon retirement. There's also a strong likelihood that I will work at a position that offers such a pension for my entire career. Given the fact that I will be fortunate enough to have a defined benefit pension when I retire, how should this affect my retirement savings goals? Should I establish savings goals irrespective of any pension, or should I factor that into my savings goals? Would this change if I have a spouse who does not have a defined benefit pension plan?

A: Having a DB pension – that’s cash payments for life after you retire based on factors such as salary and years on the job – will take some of the pressure off you to save for retirement. But you will want to build your own retirement savings to some extent in case you don’t end up working at a job with a DB plan for your entire career. If you have a spouse who does not have a DB pension, then both of you will need to ensure you have sufficient savings as a couple. That might require you to step up your retirement saving outside the pension.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

Today’s financial tool

Here’s a great tool for students and parents trying to compare the cost of attending various universities across the country. Pick the university and the program and you’ll find out how much a degree will cost. Details also provided on the cost of residence and food.

Instagram of the week

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Personal finance expert and entrepreneur Ramit Sethi asked this recently on Instagram: “What financial information do you wish was more commonly know?” Here are the responses.

What I’ve been writing about

  • Student calculator: How much will a year of university or college cost?
  • The rising interest rate scare is over – now lower rates are the big threat to your finances
  • Worried about currency fluctuations hurting your investment returns? Here’s what – and what not – to do (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)

Paycheque profile callout

Are you under 40? Open to talking about your financial situation? The Globe is looking for young Canadians for our Paycheque Profile series. Basically, it is a non-judgmental look at how a working young person spends a month’s income. So how much is coming in, and where it is going. Debt repayment, savings, mortgage payments, holidays, car payments, exercise classes, pet and or daycare - we want to hear how your hard-earned dollars are getting allocated. Please contact personal finance editor Roma Luciw if you have questions or would like to participate. And unlike Financial Facelift, we do prefer to use people’s real names for this series.

More Carrick and money coverage For more money stories, follow me on Instagram and Twitter, and join the discussion on my Facebook page. Millennial readers, join our Gen Y Money Facebook group. Send us an e-mail to let us know what you think of my newsletter. Want to subscribe? Click here to sign up.

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