Whether you are in retirement or are planning for retirement, you may consider working with a Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) to manage your retirement assets. RIAs offer professional financial advice and are bound by the fiduciary duty to act in your best interest. However, there are potential issues you should be aware of as you consider working with an RIA. Here is a list of 10 potential problems with entrusting your retirement assets to an RIA.
- Misalignment of Interests: While RIAs are held to a fiduciary standard by the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, this does not entirely eliminate the risk of self-interest affecting an RIA’s advice. For instance, RIAs might favor only those investment products from firms that are paying significant commissions to the RIA for selling that product. This means there is a significant potential conflict of interest causing an RIA to recommend the same small set of investment products to every potential client.
- Limited Product Offering: Many RIAs have a limited range of investment products due to affiliations with certain investment companies. This could mean you may not have access to the full spectrum of investment options that might be more suitable for your retirement needs.
- Lack of Transparency: Even though RIAs are required to disclose all material facts to their clients, the complexity of the investment products such as annuities and life insurance products may result in you not fully understanding certain investments, the adviser’s commission for selling a specific product, or the risks involved in an investment strategy recommended by the RIA.
- Qualifications and Experience: RIA’s expertise and experience can vary significantly. While some have extensive experience and hold multiple qualifications, others might be newer to the industry and less experienced. A less qualified RIA might not provide the best advice or understand the intricacies of complex investment strategies. Further, it is important to check your adviser at brokercheck.org and investigate their history. There are plenty of RIAs who are and RIA because they are unable to be a stockbroker (yes, there is a huge difference.)
- Costs: RIAs usually charge a fee based on a percentage of assets under management, which might be higher than what you’d pay if you managed your investments independently or did not invest in annuities or life insurance products. Additionally, some RIAs may have hidden costs or might charge additional fees for specific services on top of the percentage fees they charge.
- Poor Communication: In some cases, you might find that your RIA does not communicate effectively or regularly. This could leave you feeling uninformed about your investment decisions and progress toward your retirement goals.
- Inadequate Personalization: Some RIAs might use a one-size-fits-all approach to investment strategies, which could result in your retirement assets not being fully able to meet your specific goals, risk tolerance, and timeline to, or in, retirement.
- Limited Accessibility: Depending on the RIA, you may face issues regarding the accessibility of your adviser. If they manage a large number of clients, they might not be available when you need them, impacting your ability to make timely decisions. This applies to the investment products that RIAs may recommend to you because the investment products often have significant penalties for early ‘surrender’ and withdrawals, or even have no option to gain access to your money.
- Risk Management: Not all RIAs are skilled in managing risk effectively. A failure to appropriately assess and mitigate risk could potentially result in substantial losses for your retirement portfolio.
- Lack of Oversight: While RIAs are regulated by either the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or state regulators, this does not guarantee that your investments are safe. If the oversight body does not effectively regulate the RIA’s practices, your retirement assets could be at risk. Another oversight issue is that many RIA’s have no insurance to provide coverage to you for the RIA’s potential negligent or fraudulent handling of your account.
Despite these potential problems, it’s important to remember that many RIAs provide excellent service and can significantly contribute to the growth and protection of your retirement assets. The key is doing your due diligence in selecting an adviser. Check their qualifications, regulatory records, and references. Understand their fees, services offered and their investment philosophy. Good communication is essential, so ensure you feel comfortable discussing your needs and goals with them. Finally, always remember that it’s your retirement – stay informed and involved in the management of your assets.
Retirement planning can be a complex process, but knowing the potential pitfalls of entrusting your retirement assets to an RIA can help you make an informed decision that aligns with your retirement goals and financial situation.