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How to Find a Financial Advisor You Can Trust

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How to Find a Financial Advisor You Can Trust

More and more people are using financial advisors to help them navigate the complex journey to financial freedom.

But although more Americans are seeking advice on matters of personal finance, they are also less sure that the advice they are getting is trustworthy.

Unfortunately, a growing amount of Americans see advisors as serving their companies’ best interests rather than their own best interests. According to a survey by The National Association of Retirement Plan Participants (NARPP), 60% of Americans now feel this way compared to just 25% of respondents in 2010.

Who Can Be Trusted?

Today’s infographic is from Tony Robbins, and it covers key points from his #1 Best Selling book Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook, which is now available on paperback.

The book dissects the investment advisor landscape to show the value of a relationship with an advisor, the legal distinctions between different advisor types, and how advisors are incentivized.

Ultimately, it helps give you the ammo you need to find an investment advisor that will provide you with better service than the rest.

The Value of the Right Advisor

The right financial advisor can help you make better decisions, address your cognitive biases, and use their expertise to save you massive amounts of money.

A recent Vanguard study helps quantify the value a good advisor can bring:

  • Lowering expense ratios: 0.45%
  • Rebalancing portfolio: 0.35%
  • Asset allocation: 0.75%
  • Withdrawing the right investments in retirement: 0.70%
  • Behavioral coaching: 1.50%

Total: 3.75% of added value!

That’s more than 3x what a sophisticated advisor might charge, and doesn’t include the benefits of reducing taxes or other areas.

Advisors vs. Brokers

There are roughly 310,000 people in the U.S. who call themselves financial advisors – but they actually fall under two different legal frameworks.

About 90% of this group are brokers, while 10% are registered investment advisors. Confusingly, there is also a significant portion who are dual-registered as both brokers and registered advisors, as well.

What’s the difference?

The two have different legal obligations, as well as differing ways of receiving compensation from clients:

Investment Advisor (RIA)

  • RIAs are registered with the SEC and with the state they are working in
  • Like doctors or lawyers, investment advisors have a fiduciary duty and legal obligation to their clients
  • In other words, they must serve your best interest at all times
  • They also must disclose any conflicts of interest
  • They don’t accept commission from third-parties for their products

How they get paid: They charge a % based on assets managed, or a flat fee for financial advice

Brokers

  • Brokers are usually employed by banks, brokerage houses, or insurance companies
  • The products they recommend have to pass a suitability standard, based on your personal circumstances
  • However, they do not have to necessarily recommend the best product for you

How they get paid: They get commissions for selling certain products to you. They may also charge based on assets under management, as well.

Picking the Right Advisor

Remember, the right advisor can add 3.75% of added value to a portfolio, and that’s before taxes and other areas! With the stakes so high, how can Americans pick the right advisor for them?

Here are the 7 questions Tony Robbins would ask a potential advisor to work with:

1. Are you a Registered Investment Advisor?
If the answer is yes, he or she is required by law to be a fiduciary.

2. Are you (or your firm) affiliated with a Broker-Dealer?
If yes, he or she can act as a broker and receive commissions for guiding you into specific investments.

3. Does your firm offer proprietary mutual funds or separately managed accounts?
These products will likely compensate them with additional revenues, at your expense.

4. Do you or your firm receive any third-party compensation for recommending particular investments?
This is the ultimate question you want answered. You want products to be recommended because they are right for you, not because they give the best kickbacks.

5. What’s your philosophy when it comes to investing?
This will help you understand whether your advisor believes he/she can beat the market.

6. What financial planning services do you offer beyond investment strategy and portfolio management?
Financial planning is much bigger than just investing – it also involves planning for your child’s education, handling vested stock options, estate planning, and tax advice. You want someone that can help you in all stages of your life.

7. Where will my money be held?
Having your money held by a trusted third-party custodian will mean your money is in a secure environment.

Like most financial endeavors, picking an advisor is an area lined with potential pitfalls.

But choosing the right investment advisor can be a difference maker – it can even possibly even set you up with many years of extra retirement savings.

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Markets

All of the World’s Money and Markets in One Visualization

Our most famous visualization, updated for 2020 to show all global debt, wealth, money, and assets in one massive and mind-bending chart.

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All of the World’s Money and Markets in One Visualization

In the current economic circumstances, there are some pretty large numbers being thrown around by both governments and the financial media.

The U.S. budget deficit this year, for example, is projected to hit $3.8 trillion, which would be more than double the previous record set during the financial crisis ($1.41 trillion in FY2009). Meanwhile, the Fed has announced “open-ended” asset-buying programs to support the economy, which will add even more to its current $7 trillion balance sheet.

Given the scale of these new numbers—how can we relate them back to the more conventional numbers and figures that we may be more familiar with?

Introducing the $100 Billion Square

In the above data visualization, we even the playing field by using a common denominator to put the world’s money and markets all on the same scale and canvas.

Each black square on the chart is worth $100 billion, and is not a number to be trifled with:

What is in a $100 billion square?

In fact, the entire annual GDP of Cuba could fit in one square ($97 billion), and the Greek economy would be roughly two squares ($203 billion).

Alternatively, if you’re contrasting this unit to numbers found within Corporate America, there are useful comparisons there as well. For example, the annual revenues of Wells Fargo ($103.9 billion) would just exceed one square, while Facebook’s would squeeze in with room to spare ($70.7 billion).

Billions, Trillions, or Quadrillions?

Here’s our full list, which sums up all of the world’s money and markets, from the smallest to the biggest, along with sources used:

CategoryValue ($ Billions, USD)Source
Silver$44World Silver Survey 2019
Cryptocurrencies$244CoinMarketCap
Global Military Spending$1,782World Bank
U.S. Federal Deficit (FY 2020)$3,800U.S. CBO (Projected, as of April 2020)
Coins & Bank Notes$6,662BIS
Fed's Balance Sheet$7,037U.S. Federal Reserve
The World's Billionaires$8,000Forbes
Gold$10,891World Gold Council (2020)
The Fortune 500$22,600Fortune 500 (2019 list)
Stock Markets$89,475WFE (April 2020)
Narrow Money Supply$35,183CIA Factbook
Broad Money Supply$95,698CIA Factbook
Global Debt$252,600IIF Debt Monitor
Global Real Estate$280,600Savills Global Research (2018 est.)
Global Wealth$360,603Credit Suisse
Derivatives (Market Value)$11,600BIS (Dec 2019)
Derivatives (Notional Value)$558,500BIS (Dec 2019)
Derivatives (Notional Value - High end)$1,000,000Various sources (Unofficial)

Derivatives top the list, estimated at $1 quadrillion or more in notional value according to a variety of unofficial sources.

However, it’s worth mentioning that because of their non-tangible nature, the value of financial derivatives are measured in two very different ways. Notional value represents the position or obligation of the contract (i.e. a call to buy 100 shares at the price of $50 per share), while gross market value measures the price of the derivative security itself (i.e. $1.00 per call option, multiplied by 100 shares).

It’s a subtle difference that manifests itself in a big way numerically.

Correction: Graphic updated to reflect the average value of an NBA team.

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COVID-19

How U.S. Consumers are Spending Differently During COVID-19

How has COVID-19 transformed consumer spending trends so far? We look at credit and debit card spending of 5 million U.S. consumers across 18 categories.

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In 2019, nearly 70% of U.S. GDP was driven by personal consumption.

However, in the first quarter of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has initiated a transformation of consumer spending trends as we know them.

Consumer Spending in Charts

By leveraging new data from analytics platform 1010Data, today’s infographic dives into the credit and debit card spending of five million U.S. consumers over the past few months.

Let’s see how their spending habits have evolved over that short timeframe:

How U.S. Consumers are Spending Differently During COVID-19

The above data on consumer spending, which comes from 1010Data and powered by AI platform Exabel, is broken into 18 different categories:

  • General Merchandise & Grocery: Big Box, Pharmacy, Wholesale Club, Grocery
  • Retail: Apparel, Office Supplies, Pet Supplies
  • Restaurant: Casual dining, Fast casual, Fast food, Fine dining
  • Food Delivery: Food delivery, Grocery Delivery, Meal/Snack kit
  • Travel: Airline, Car rental, Cruise, Hotel

It’s no surprise that COVID-19 has consumers cutting back on most of their purchases, but that doesn’t mean that specific categories don’t benefit from changes in consumer habits.

Consumer Spending Changes By Category

The onset of changing consumer behavior can be observed from February 25, 2020, when compared year-over-year (YoY).

As of May 12, 2020, combined spending in all categories dropped by almost 30% YoY. Here’s how that shakes out across the different categories, across two months.

General Merchandise & Grocery

This segment saw a sharp spike in initial spending, as Americans scrambled to stockpile on non-perishable food, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper from Big Box stores like Walmart, or Wholesale Clubs like Costco.

In particular, spending on groceries reached a YoY increase of 97.1% on March 18, 2020. However, these sudden panic-buying urges leveled out by the start of April.

 Feb 25, 2020 YoY SpendingMay 5, 2020 YoY SpendingOverall Change
Big Box+14.2%-1.5%-15.7%
Grocery+1.0%+9.4%+8.4%
Pharmacy-3.6%-23.8%-20.2%
Wholesale Club+13.0%+2.6%-10.4%

Pharmaceutical purchases dropped the most in this segment, possibly as individuals cut back on their healthcare expenditures during this time. In fact, in an April 2020 McKinsey survey of physicians, 80% reported a decline in patient volumes.

Retail

With less foot traffic in malls and entire stores forced to close, sales of apparel plummeted both in physical locations and over e-commerce platforms.

 Feb 25, 2020 YoY SpendingMay 5, 2020 YoY SpendingOverall Change
Apparel-5.6%-51.9%-46.3%
Office Supplies-8.9%-2.8%+6.1%
Pet Supplies+2.7%-18.5%-21.2%

Interestingly, sales of office supplies rose as many pivoted to working from home. Many parents also likely required more of these resources to home-school their children.

Restaurant

The food and beverage industry has been hard-hit by COVID-19. While many businesses turned to delivery services to stay afloat, those in fine dining were less able to rely on such a shift, and spiraled by 88.2% by May 5, 2020, year-over-year.

 Feb 25, 2020 YoY SpendingMay 5, 2020 YoY ChangeOverall Change
Casual Dining-2.7%-64.9%-62.2%
Fast Casual4.2%-29.6%-33.8%
Fast Food2.0%-20.9%-22.9%
Fine Dining-18.6%-88.2%-69.6%

Applebees or Olive Garden exemplify casual dining, while Panera or Chipotle characterize fast casual.

Food Delivery

Meanwhile, many consumers also shifted from eating out to home cooking. As a result, grocery delivery services jumped by over five-fold—with consumers spending a whopping 558.4% more at its April 19, 2020 peak compared to last year.

 Feb. 25, 2020 YoY SpendingMay 5, 2020 YoY SpendingOverall Change
Food Delivery+18.8%+67.1%+48.3%
Grocery Delivery+23.0%+419.7%+396.7%
Meal/ Snack Kit+7.0%-5.9%-12.9%

Food delivery services are also in high demand, with Doordash seeing the highest growth in U.S. users than any other food delivery app in April.

Travel

While all travel categories experienced an immense decline, cruises suffered the worst blow by far, down by 87.0% in YoY spending since near the start of the pandemic.

 Feb 25, 2020 YoY SpendingMay 5, 2020 YoY SpendingOverall Change
Airline-7.7%-99.1%-91.4%
Car Rental-6.3%-86.0%-79.7%
Cruise-18.7%-105.7%-87.0%
Hotel-7.0%-85.9%-78.9%

Airlines have also come to a halt, nosediving by 91.4% in a 10-week span. In fact, governments worldwide have pooled together nearly $85 billion in an attempt to bail the industry out.

Hope on the Horizon?

Consumer spending offers a pulse of the economy’s health. These sharp drops in consumer spending fall in line with the steep decline in consumer confidence.

In fact, consumer confidence has eroded even more intensely than the stock market’s performance this quarter, as observed when the Index of Consumer Sentiment (ICS) is compared to the S&P 500 Index.

Consumer Sentiment Index

Many investors dumped their stocks as the coronavirus hit, but consumers tightened their purse strings even more. Yet, as the chart also shows, both the stock market and consumer sentiment are slowly but surely on the mend since April.

As the stay-at-home curtain cautiously begins to lift in the U.S., there may yet be hope for economic recovery on the horizon.

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