NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The wealth management advice population is vast and varied but not all wealth managers are the same. In fact, what you think you know about your wealth manager might not be true.
I'm in the business and in my opinion there are a lot of things that clients assume are true across the board no matter who they speak to about managing their money but simply aren't. Those assumptions, if false, can cost an investor both money and peace of mind.
Assumption One: Wealth Managers Are Investment Experts
In reality, most wealth managers are first and foremost relationship experts. What this means is that their job is to liaise with the investor and manage that relationship by responding to client requests and to recommend and sell products.
Their primary responsibility is to bring in new assets by building up a book of clients.
Yet, when many investors turn to a wealth manager to get help building an investment portfolio, they assume they are speaking to an investment expert. It may, or may not, be the case.
Brokers, for instance, are under no obligation to recommend investment vehicles that are in a client's best interest -- called the fiduciary standard. Indeed, by regulation they only have to suggest "suitable" products based on factors consistent with age and risk tolerance. They are not required to compare the cost of their recommendations with alternatives.
By comparison, a registered investment adviser (RIA) is legally required to act in a fiduciary capacity and to put a client's interests first. Certified Financial Planner practitioners, while not bound by law, often adhere to similar professional standards.
Assumption Two: Your Wealth Manager's Pay Is Tied to How Well Your Investments Perform
Since most investors pay a fee tied to the amount of assets they have with a wealth managers, many assume that payment alone is how their adviser earns his or her income. The following assumption is that if those investments do well the adviser makes more money and therefore that is what the adviser is focused on.
In reality, the fee tied to assets under management is often just a part of how advisers can be remunerated.
There are many third-party payments that in effect, "hide in plain sight." By that I mean they are spelled out in lengthy disclosure documents. What this means is that an adviser could be earning money from recommending certain products, money that is "costing" you in addition to the fees paid which are tied to total assets.