Advice Columns, Finance Style

If I have one secret vice, it’s reading advice columns. And I really enjoy the finances type, where people write in and ask if they can afford to buy a house or if they’re on track for funding their retirement. These make for interesting reading for a number of reasons:

  • I like to compare our own income and expenses with other people. Do we make more? Do we pay more for housing? How do our choices about recreation and other discretionary expenses stack up against others?
  • Related to the first point, I study other people’s expenses to look for ways that I think they could reduce them.
  • I study the posts for constructive ways to coach other people about money and learn what financial advisers are recommending to their clients.

One reliable source of financial planning posts is the Financial Facelift from the Globe and Mail Investing. I always look forward to their articles.

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Financial planner ethics

We’ve been talking a lot in class lately about the code of ethics for Certified Financial Planners. When I spotted this CBC article, I thought it was perfect for our discussion.

A Vancouver senior is suing her former financial adviser and his investment firm, claiming her retirement nest egg was decimated largely by excessive commissions her broker earned by purchasing risky investments she didn’t authorize.

There are a lot of issues here, and one I presented to the group was that the person who was responsible for making the investments for her was considered her “financial advisor”. There is always a risk of a conflict of interest, especially when your financial advisor makes commissions on selling you mutual funds. That’s why I’m personally in favour of fee-for-service financial planners, and why, if you hire me to help organize your finances, I won’t be trying to sell you anything other than my services.