Fitness buffs who work with personal trainers may be familiar with the concept of a coach whose goal is to get the client to eventually wean himself/herself off the trainer’s services. After a year or two, you know the drill, you realize that the motivation to hit the gym must come from within and that it’s expensive paying for a personal trainer after you’ve learned to workout independently.
The same goes for the pursuit of financial independence. Not only do you wish to establish a financial position that is independent of any one employer or source of income, you ultimately want to make your own financial decisions without the input of the individual that helped you get to the first level of wealth in the early days when you really needed the coaching.
In the novel, the ideal model is of making your own trades at a discount brokerage, often using exchange-traded funds, but you don’t have to totally fly solo. You may no longer need the full-time attention of an adviser or financial planner who is paid a percentage of your wealth but that doesn’t mean you have to forego help altogether. Here’s where a fee-only adviser or fee-only planner can give you some guidance.
In my experience, investors often switch advisers two or three times along the way. Their first experience may be with a bank representative or one of the giant financial planning firms that sell mutual funds. If you’re just starting out, you may not have enough wealth to use anyone else in any case. But you can have a game plan that when you eventually want to fly solo or at least take control of the steering wheel, they can act as co-pilot.
Another analogy might be that of the loving parent who has decided junior must leave home by age 25. You want to find an adviser who is willing to gradually show you the ropes and let you change the relationship over time. Think of yourself riding a bicycle and they’re the training wheels that eventually come off.
In some instances, this adviser might have someone else in mind: a fee-only advisor he/she trusts. Or you might stay with this individual but agree to change the relationship. If in the beginning you are at a full-service advisor and they’re paid commissions or by your assets under management, you might agree that after three or five years, you switch into a discount brokerage and change their compensation to a set quarterly or monthly fee.
Jonathan Chevreau is editor of MoneySense magazine and author of Findependence Day, available at www.findependenceday.com