Be Wary of Free Financial Advice

Some of the biggest changes to the financial world in recent years have been the result of disruptions that make services free. One of the best examples of this is Robinhood. With a no-commission model for stock trades, Robinhood has made it more affordable than ever before to get started trading stocks.

But in many contexts, free and finance simply don’t go together. One area where this is true is the world of financial advice. Typically, experts who have lots of experience in an industry seek to make money by consulting. That means they charge an hourly fee for the advice they provide.

Often, free financial advice from professionals has hidden costs. For example, the experts providing it might earn commissions. They may be inclined to promote products with the best commissions, rather than the ones that best fit a customer’s needs.

Another source of free advice can be media figures in segments on news networks. Sometimes they offer good information. But they, too, may be pressured to act in outrageous ways that attract ratings. What’s more, they don’t know all the details of your exact financial situation.

One final source of free information is family and friends. Usually, they are not financial professionals. They may have used strategies in the past that are no longer the best fit for the present. Because of changes to the tax code and other laws, their information might be badly out of date. It can be very risky to take advice from older relatives who made their biggest financial moves a generation ago.

Paying for financial advice may seem counterintuitive when so much is being offered for no money. But high quality advice matters much more than quantity when it comes to money. Paying an advisor is prudent in the long run. It can save people from costly short-term mistakes and lead to greater profitability in the long run.

In choosing a financial professional to plan with, make sure to look for a fiduciary. Anyone designated as a fiduciary is required to put their clients’ needs before their own. That means they’re obliged to provide the right advice for the people they work with, not just details of products that offer big commissions.