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The Right Way—and Wrong Way—to Hire a Financial Advisor

Eons ago, I was young (21 to be exact), hungry, and working every waking hour. I had found my calling, landed my dream job, and loved every bit of it. In my pursuit of finding the mature balance between enjoying life and preparing for my future, I made the decision to work with a financial advisor. I was set for the rest of my life!

At least that’s what I thought.

Why I hired a financial advisor: New job, new money

I left my full-time job at the greatest ad agency in the world for the challenge of becoming a successful freelancer. In order to keep my workflow consistent, I never gave myself the chance to stop and get comfortable. My earnings doubled and quickly tripled, but my expenses were also growing just as fast because of reckless spending. Above all, it was impossible to know how long this wave of work was going to last. I knew it was time to find a financial advisor to help me out.

Choosing my advisor: Old & experienced or young & driven?

I had to choose between two advisors. One was highly accomplished, with tons of certification letters behind his name, while the other was young, relevant, and ambitious. If it were you, which would you choose? Being in tech, innovation and creative thinking was always at the forefront of my mind. So I chose the young buck, the one I connected to best. And after that, life was good. We caught up twice a year and I got my life together — I paid off school loans and set aside money to pay taxes and save for my retirement.



My portfolio check-up: When things got real

Eventually, it was time for my annual financial meeting. This time I brought my better half to ensure that my portfolio was on the right track. Turns out, I was making shockingly low returns in a bull market (1% per year while others were making up to 8%). I was also getting hit with high fees (nearly 2%, while companies like Vault charge 0.5%) and placed in annuities and life insurance, products that weren’t the best fit for a young and healthy entrepreneur like myself. Yikes.


Luckily, I learned from this experience. Here are three lessons that I learned the hard way—so you don’t have to.

3 keys for working with a financial advisor:

  1. 1. Get #finlit. Do you know what fiduciary means? Are you having a hard time finding trustworthy information to help match you with a good advisor? Read 3 Questions to Ask your Financial Advisor before you schedule any meetings so you understand the basics. 
  2. Know their fees. Understand all of your financial advisor’s fees and how they affect returns in the short and long term. Traditionally, fees range between 1.5% and 5% with companies like Northwestern Mutual and American Funds. However, you can find services like Vault, which has some of the lowest fees in the industry (0.5%) and historically better returns. 
  3. Make sure you sign up for the right plan. (I cannot stress this enough.) Ensure that your plan provides the best tax advantages for your situation. (I’m a freelancer, so a SEP IRA plan was exactly what I needed. It allows me to lower my taxable income and make contributions up to $54,000 to a tax-deferred retirement account.)


I hope you use these lessons to avoid the financial mistakes that I made. If I had this knowledge when I first started, the growth of my portfolio could have been much higher. (But better late than never!) Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions—as a fellow creative, I’ve got your back.

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