Do I need a living, breathing financial adviser?

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Today’s financial advising landscape is continually changing. There are a plethora of do-it-yourself options, bargain-bin fund pricing, automated investment tools and one-page financial snapshot plans. You may wonder — do I still need a living, breathing financial adviser?

You do, but with a twist. You need good advice beyond simple investment counsel. But this leads to the more difficult question: How do you know if you are receiving good advice? Below are a few thoughts to keep in mind as you evaluate the quality of your financial advisory relationship.

Good advice is timeless … and timely. At its essence, good financial advice never goes out of style. The advice should be objectively sound, based in academic research and meant specifically for you. The advice must remain relevant in an ever-changing world. Your adviser should be able to help you evaluate and embrace promising new opportunities and insights, while counseling you on how to avoid foreseeable pit falls and emotional investing.

Good advice looks at the parts … and the whole. Good financial advice helps you manage your investment portfolio for preserving or increasing your wealth according to your goals. It also helps you plan, implement and manage your other related interests: taxes, insurance, estate plans, philanthropic pursuits, business interests, real estate holdings and more. Beyond that, what are your goals? Can your adviser relate your total wealth to your relationships, resources and realities? Good financial advice should bring a unifying whole to your multifaceted parts.

Good advice is personalized … and persistent. Good financial advice is essential for making good decisions — not just in general, but for you: your money, your interests, your life. It’s about being in a relationship with an adviser who is there for you, not only during the promising planning stages when everything makes sense, but when your resolve is being sorely tested in turbulent markets. Or when life events have knocked you off course. Good advice (or a good adviser) helps you find your way when you've been sideswiped by the unexpected.

Good advice is wise … and compassionate. Good financial advice is grounded in enduring academic evidence, structured process and informed experience. But for all that, financial advice is nothing if it fails to contribute to that which brings joy to your life, protects the ones you love and reassures you in times of trouble. For this, a good adviser must not only advise you; he or she must listen to you. This brings us to our most important point.

Good advice is in your highest financial interests, period. Above all, good advice should always and only be in your highest financial interest. It is important to feel and know that the advice you receive is putting you and your needs before anything else.

Making sure your living, breathing financial adviser brings all of this to your relationship will help ensure that your financial goals can be met, while you focus on what matters most to you.

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