Foregoing professional advice is risky

Published 9:43 pm Thursday, April 11, 2013

By Arie Korving

What’s the first thing people think about if they need a will? Which lawyer should I call? If they get sick or think they need a physical exam, do they ask their brother-in-law? Not unless the brother-in-law is a doctor.

Yet so many people handle their own investments, rather than use an advisor. Why?

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According to a survey for the Deloitte Center for Financial Services, many people have a “higher comfort level in handling retirement planning on their own” and a “belief that they don’t need professional advice.”

The survey of more than 4,000 households found that nearly two-thirds don’t ask the advice of a professional investment advisor for their retirement needs. The younger you are, the more likely you are to do it yourself. According to the survey, 75 percent of those who were 15 years or more from retirement did not use an advisor.

The two leading reasons for self-managing personal finances were the comfort level people had doing it themselves and the belief that they didn’t need professional investment advice.

There are other factors at work. Too many people have not bothered to put any money away for a “rainy day,” much less retirement. Those who have begun saving for retirement often mistakenly believe they have too little money to interest a professional advisor.

I have had people ask if they qualify to be a client of mine since they “only have $100,000 to invest.” While some advisors have minimums of as much as $1 million, most advisors are willing to work with people who don’t have that much.

What the do-it-yourselfers don’t realize is that the old model of providing financial advice and investment management is broken.

Twenty years ago people looking for advice opened an account with one of the huge brokerage firms. These firms made a lot of their money by encouraging their brokers to trade stocks, bonds and mutual funds in their clients’ accounts and to charge commissions on each transaction. There was rarely much in the way of true “planning” offered; often it was nothing more than a stock idea by a firm’s analyst that got pushed to the broker’s customers.

Today, a whole new generation of advisors exists who have broken the old mold. These are the Registered Investment Advisors. They are quite often experienced advisors and financial planners who have left the major firms and established their own advisory firms. Their objective is to help their clients succeed in achieving their life goals.

They offer a range of services, from advice and guidance on simple investments like 401(k) accounts, to complete active portfolio management.

For people who want to remain in control of their own finances, these advisors can act as facilitators, enabling them by providing the tools and experience the typical individual investor does not have. There is value in having expert advice, whether it’s dealing with the complexity of law, medicine or family finances.

Chances are that if you work with an advisor, you will be much more likely to have a “flight plan” to guide you to a safe landing for a financially secure retirement.

Arie Korving is a life-long financial advisor and the founding principal of Korving & Company, Suffolk, VA. For more information, visit or call 757-638-5494.