Our Experience with a Financial Planner

Large bills

Photo by 401(K) 2012

Not long after we were married, Jason and I met with a financial planner.

At that time, we didn’t know the difference between fee-based and commission-based brokers. We happened upon him because we were looking into a childhood whole life insurance policy that Jason had, and it seemed like a good idea to talk to a planner about the next few years of house/college/kids/savings/etc.


A fee-based planner is one who takes no commission, but charges a flat fee to meet with you.

A commission-based planner is free to meet with initially, but is paid only through the sale of a policy or investment.


So we met with Jim, a commission-based planner whom we really liked. A huggable, grandfatherly type, he met with us in the evening after his regular business hours and took his time explaining every detail, every term we didn’t understand. He helped us with priorities, but not really with the long term picture like we were hoping. We walked away from our first meeting having signed up for term life insurance, which was great, just not what we’d intended to get out of the meeting.

We’d meet with Jim about once a year, and everything was fine until one day he called to tell us his daughter would be taking over our account. No biggie. We met with her about six months later when we wanted to open a 529 for our son and roll over my 403(b).

From the beginning, our relationship with her was a disaster.

She worked at a large downtown insurance broker, yet was somehow still affiliated with her father. When we met with her, a very pushy, egocentric broker sat in on the meeting to answer her questions. In reality, he took over the meeting, swept all of our concerns aside, and pushed disability insurance. Yes, disability insurance was something we were there to ask about. But it was very low on our list of concerns.

In follow-up calls to coordinate paperwork and future meetings, the daughter always took calls while she was driving and didn’t write anything down that we talked about. The result was that, during our next call, she would have no memory of what we talked about and what she had said she would do.

And she was pushy, trying to convince us to go with more disability insurance than our meager budget could allow. I’m glad we didn’t listen to her.

This experience definitely soured us on commission-based planners, and you can bet you won’t find us darkening another’s doorway.

Since our last meeting with the daughter two years ago, I’ve realized that I don’t need a financial planner to manage all my accounts. With a little extra legwork up front setting everything up at Vanguard, I can manage everything just fine myself, thank you very much.

Soon I’ll begin the process of rolling over IRAs and moving accounts to Vanguard. I’m definitely not looking forward to it, but I am looking forward to having full control of our finances.

Someday when we’re independently wealthy (ha!), we may seek out the services of a financial planner again. I can assure you that it will be a fee-based planner.


Do you use a financial planner or go it alone?


One response to this post.

  1. […] February of 2006, still newlyweds, we made our first appointment with our commission-based financial planner to go over our finances and areas of risk. The outcome of that meeting was that we signed up for […]

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