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‘It has been a nearly continuous plunge.’ My accounts are down 13% this year, but my financial adviser hasn’t made a single adjustment — and is still taking his 1%. Do I even need him anymore?


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Question: I have heard it a thousand times: “People make more money with a financial advisor, don’t lock in your losses, stay invested,” etc. So I started with a financial adviser at a national firm in March. He recommended a 50/50 balance with short-term bond funds and mutual funds.

It has been a nearly continuous plunge of my savings, with a 13% loss in my portfolio, and yet not one adjustment has happened. And the firm is getting an annual 1% charge of my portfolio, charged prorated monthly. They even stated they were unable to calculate an RMD on an inherited IRA due to liability reasons. So is there value to financial advisor when they get paid despite my personal losses and they fail to minimize further losses? Help! (Looking for a new financial adviser too? This tool can help match you with an adviser who might meet your needs.)

Answer:  We have some good(ish) news and some bad news. Let’s start with the good(ish) news. If you have a portfolio that’s 50% stocks and 50% bonds, and you’re only down 13%, that means you’ve done fairly well, explains Joe Favorito, certified financial planner at Landmark Wealth Management. “The average 50/50 portfolio is down closer to 17% for the year as of the first week of November. While we never want to lose money, you’ve lost less than most,” says Favorito. 

And the fact that the adviser hasn’t made adjustments may not be a bad thing, pros say. “Financial advisers are often paid a 1% fee to do something that individuals are often not capable of: holding onto investments for a long time. Since selling during a market downturn often locks in your losses, advisers may hold onto assets even when it seems detrimental,” Alana Benson, investing spokesperson at NerdWallet says. In this situation, an adviser may still be holding because he or she believes that things will go up in the long run. As the legendary investing expert Warren Buffett once said, “Our favorite stock holding period is forever.” 

Looking for a new financial adviser too? This tool can help match you with an adviser who might meet your needs.

All that said, it sounds like your adviser might not be worth the 1% you pay him, some pros say. Indeed, if your adviser is charging 1% to strictly pick funds, provide no financial or tax advice, no financial plan, no ongoing communication and they’re not able to calculate an RMD, you’re wildly overpaying, says certified financial planner Eric Presogna of OneUp Financial.” 

Have an issue with your financial adviser or looking for a new one? Email

What’s more, even though it may be best to do nothing now, “if maintaining the status quo is the optimal strategy, it should be communicated early and often to the client,” says Presogna. Indeed, it sounds as if the communication with your adviser is subpar, which is a problem. You not only don’t know why they aren’t making trades, you also don’t know what is going on with their RMD reluctance. “Ordinarily, a financial adviser has no issue doing an RMD calculation, so you should discuss this with them to make sure you’re not misinterpreting anything,” says Favorito.

So that means step one for you might be to contact your adviser and get clarity on all of this. Remember: “Two things your adviser should be doing are communicating during market volatility and reaffirming their message and looking for silver linings or small wins even though making wholesale changes usually isn’t prudent,” says certified financial planner Tracy Burke at Conrad Siegel.

You might want to ask the adviser about things like “capital loss harvesting if a taxable account has unrealized losses, rebalancing the portfolio and gradually increasing equity exposure in a down market so you’re buying more equities when they’re on sale,” says Burke. And certified financial planner Ryan Townsley at Town Capital says it may also be worth asking about a  “down market Roth conversion”, which “could add a lot more value than a rebalance at this time,” says Townsley.

That said, Townsley notes that: “You’ve only been with the adviser since March and advisers should really be judged over full market cycles. I feel there hasn’t been enough time yet to make an assessment,” says Townsley. That said, it has been enough time to have a conversation as sitting back and watching likely isn’t the answer. 

What’s more, you may not need an adviser at all. Or you may opt to do a robo-adviser. With advances in technology and the rise of robo-advisers, investment management has become commoditized, says certified financial planner Eric Presogna of OneUp Financial. “Depending on the size of the account, an investor can get a low-cost, globally diversified portfolio from a robo-adviser like Betterment or Wealthfront based on their risk tolerance, including ongoing rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting for .25% to .30%,” says Presogna.

Have an issue with your financial adviser or looking for a new one? Email

Questions edited for brevity and clarity.

The advice, recommendations or rankings expressed in this article are those of MarketWatch Picks, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by our commercial partners.

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