The key for investors is to define and recognize the value of professional financial services, and then insist on getting that value. When you pay a sales charge or a fee, what can you expect a professional to do for you?
Understand your needs and help you formulate long-term investment goals and objectives.
Before making specific recommendations, your advisor should try to gain a whole picture of your past experience, lifestyle and goals, as well as your other investments and current financial situation. When are you planning to retire, for example? Do you have life insurance? Do you own real estate? How secure is your job?
Help you develop realistic expectations by discussing the risks and rewards of each investment.
Every investment choice has its strengths and weaknesses, and you should never feel less than fully informed. When you ask questions, or have doubts, you should expect your financial advisor to answer honestly, and help you develop a strategy that is both realistic and comfortable for you.
Match your goals and objectives with appropriate investment products.
You should expect your advisor to make clear and specific recommendations, and explain the reasons behind them in terms you can understand. Of course, the advisor should be confident and well informed about the management and portfolio strategies of any mutual funds recommended.
Continually monitor your portfolio and help you interpret performance.
Your advisor cannot influence or predict a fund's results. However, he or she should discuss results with you and help you judge your progress. You should feel that you can always ask your advisor, "How am I doing?"
Conduct regular reviews to ensure that your strategy continues to provide optimal results for you.
One of the most valuable services your advisor can provide is to help you "stay on course" with your investment program. But "staying on course" long term does not necessarily mean staying put. Expect your financial advisor to work with you to adjust your portfolio in response to any significant change in your lifestyle, priorities, assets or responsibilities.
These are the basic services that investors should expect from their financial advisors. Beyond the basics, many investors could use even more specialized assistance, like advice on retirement plan distribution options, setting up and servicing retirement plans for small businesses and self-employed individuals, developing tax-advantaged strategies for children's college education, insurance, estate, and trust planning; and year-end mutual fund tax advice.