A financial adviser can do a lot of things — provide advice to help you manage your finances, execute trades on your behalf, create holistic financial plans based on your short- and long-term goals. But plenty of clients ask them to do more than that. (Use this tool to get matched with a planner who meets your needs.)
Grace Yung, a certified financial planner at Midtown Financial Group, says she’s had clients ask her to log into their accounts at other institutions. “I appreciate the trust, but we cannot do that for clients. We cannot have access to client passwords at other institutions or even share passwords within our firm,” says Yung. Along those lines, you can’t ask your broker to do something called “selling away,” in which a broker sells you securities that are not held or offered by the brokerage firm that employs him or her.
Asking your financial adviser for legal advice is another no-no, unless he or she is also an attorney, says Arielle Jacobs-Bittoni, chartered financial analyst at Refresh Investments. She’s had clients ask about estate planning issues, but because she’s not a lawyer, she’s ill-equipped to provide advice. Instead, clients should seek out an estate planning attorney who can handle the legal aspects of financial planning.
You also can’t ask them to do something that would violate their ethical oath, adds Jacobs-Bittoni. CFP professionals agree to be a fiduciary by always acting in the best interest of their clients, so “you can’t ask them to act in a way that may cause a conflict of interest,” says Jacobs-Bittoni. CFPs may not directly or indirectly borrow or lend money to a client, nor can they commingle a client’s assets with their own financial assets or those of the professional’s firm. “Conflicts of interest arise if adviser interests are not aligned with client interests and goals. If an adviser recommends an investment to a client that is the adviser’s own investment scheme or if an adviser recommends that a client does not pay down high-interest credit card debt because that would mean the client would need to withdraw from a fee-based account from which the adviser gets compensation, that may not be in the best interest for the client but rather may benefit the adviser more,” says Yung. And, she says she frequently has to remind clients that she can speak generally about their 401(k), but she can’t tell them how to invest it, simply because that asset isn’t under her management.
On the other hand, it’s okay to get a CFPs opinion on some tax issues. “Many times when I run financial plans for clients I give recommendations that take taxes into consideration. I talk about tax-efficient investing and strategize on how to maximize the net after-tax results for clients. That being said, I always tell clients to consult with their tax adviser on their specific tax situation,” says Yung.
At the end of the day, if your financial adviser is dishing out legal advice, or is willing to act in a way that would violate his ethical oath or create a conflict of interest, you should consider this a red flag. If that’s happening, consider finding a new, well-vetted financial adviser. (Use this tool to get matched with a planner who meets your needs.)