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Should I dump my investment adviser to save on fees?

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I've been getting this question a lot lately, maybe because the stock markets have been strong. People tend to think managing money is pretty simple when the markets are hot, and this leads them to all kinds of potentially wrong conclusions about investing. One I'd add to the list is that they should dump their adviser to save on fees.

A reader of this newsletter recently submitted this question: "Our monthly income is derived from payments from my wife's and my registered retirement income funds and life income funds, which are invested with the assistance of a financial advisor. Is it possible to manage these investments myself with the use of a discount brokerage firm in order to minimize the service fees we currently are paying?"

My answer: For sure. But there's a lot more to this matter than saving money on fees. You need expertise to run a retirement portfolio. You'll likely want to generate income, preserve capital and still have a bit of growth in many cases. You also need to keep track of things like making the minimum RRIF withdrawal every year. If you're good with all of this, an online broker (aka a discount broker) will work well. If not, consider the higher fees you pay to your adviser as the cost of getting expert help with your investments. You should also be getting some degree of financial planning as part of the fees you pay.

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Still not feeling like you're getting much value from your advisory fees? The answer may be to find another adviser. If you do, mind the Small Investor Protection Association's warning that 96 per cent of financial advisers are registered with regulators in a way that does not require them to put client interests first. How do you find a good adviser who puts you first? One way is ask this question: How are you different from someone who just sells investments?

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About the Author
Personal Finance Columnist

Rob Carrick has been writing about personal finance, business and economics for close to 20 years. He joined The Globe and Mail in late 1996 as an investment reporter and has been personal finance columnist since November 1998.Rob's personal finance columns appear in The Globe on Tuesday and Thursday, and his Portfolio Strategy column for investors appears on Saturday. More

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