Last week an episode of CBC’s Marketplace aired that featured a hidden camera test as a prospective investor sought the advice of several advisors from a number of Canada’s top banks and financial advisory companies. The findings were atrocious: financial advisors gave unqualified, misleading and outright incorrect information to those who came in off the street ready to invest.

CBC's Marketplace exposes financial advisors
Watch the episode here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNmHabm-Osg

The bad advice ranged from promises for outlandish investment returns (40% in a year), an inability to describe how advisors are paid, and a lack of knowledge on how mutual fund fees are charged. Perhaps buried in the apparent lack of knowledge, there was just an unwillingness to share the facts – sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

For those investors who were brave enough to watch the episode, the implications are heart-breaking. Most Canadians need to trust someone with their money and investments. They do not have the financial knowledge to know what is best for their portfolio. They don’t know the process that a qualified financial advisor will take to ensure that decisions are in the best interests of the client. This stuff is not taught in our schools, at any level.

As a Certified Financial Planner® and Money Coach with 25 years in the financial industry, and having helped hundreds of clients across central Ontario, I can guarantee three things:

1) Qualified and knowledgeable money coaching. The CFP® designation represents one of the highest qualifications in the industry, with standards of behaviour and ethics that are second to none. To me, this designation represents 27 hours of closed-book exams, thousands of hours of study, and an educational standard of the highest caliber. You should settle for nothing less from your financial professional.

2) Unbiased information and advice. Because I sell absolutely no financial products, the information I share has no bias. (There is no incentive to me to provide anything but the best advice I can). This objectivity allows me to truly engage with my clients and determine what is best for them – thinking only about them. Whether it is helping clients eliminate debt, improve their cash flow, invest smarter or get the right type of insurance in place, my only objective is to get my clients into a better place financially.

3) Experience-based and tailored agendas. In my former employment, I personally developed, serviced and launched products in all areas of personal finance (debt, investing, banking and insurance), which means I bring an insider’s knowledge to Money Coaching. This experience allows me to warn my clients about certain product categories, product pitches, and specific brands. I spend time educating my clients so they will understand not just what to do, but why they should do it.

While the Marketplace episode might have had some investors crawling under their couches or flipping to other channels in regret, I hope most were wishing there was a higher standard of behaviour; perhaps wishing there was a model in financial services that respected the buyer’s interests, and had no inherent conflict in the structure of compensation. From the Financial Planning Standards Council website here are the 10 top questions you should ask your financial professional:

1. What are your qualifications?
2. What experience do you have?
3. What services do you offer?
4. What is your approach to financial planning?
5. Will you be the only person working with me?
6. How will I pay for your services?
7. How much do you typically charge?
8. Could anyone besides me benefit from your recommendations?
9. Are you regulated by any organization?
10. Can I have it in writing?

I founded York Region Money Coaches on the basis that Canadians want client-centered, unbiased information and qualified money advice. If you are looking for someone who will truly put your interests first, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. It’s a meeting that could put you on the path to financial peace.