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Interesting Articles

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Rich Best has spent 28 years in the financial services industry, as an advisor, a managing partner, directors of training and marketing, and now as a consultant to the industry. Rich has written extensively on a broad range of personal finance topics and is published on several top financial sites. Recent books include The American Family Survival Bible and Annuity Facts Revealed: What You MUST Know Before You Invest.

The True Value of a Financial Second Opinion

The True Value of a Financial Second Opinion

If you are a loved one has ever had a serious medical diagnosis you probably know the feeling – a measure of bewilderment mixed with a creeping skepticism. At a minimum, you just need more clarity. So, you may have joined the millions of other Americans who routinely seek out a second opinion. It may surprise, if not shock you to know that, in a study done by the world famous Mayo Clinic, nearly 90% of patients who sought a second opinion left with a different diagnosis than they came in with.

For most of the patients, the second opinion provided a more refined and complete diagnosis, which led to more appropriate care and the desired outcome. For the 12 percent who had their initial diagnosis confirmed, they were rewarded with much more clarity about their condition and confidence in their doctor to properly treat it. For all of them, it was well worth the time and effort.

Is a Financial Diagnosis Any More Accurate Than a Medical Diagnosis?

Although there is no similar data to support the value of a second opinion for financial advice, it is no stretch to say that the stakes are similarly high. After all, it’s your financial life; and a misdiagnosis or improper treatment could be devastating. While everyone would like to have complete confidence in their financial advisor, there is always going to be an element of doubt. You can gauge your own level of confidence by asking yourself if you fully agree with the following statements.

I have a comprehensive, written plan

Without a comprehensive plan, it’s difficult to know where you are headed, much less, whether you are on track to meeting your goals. If you do have plan, it’s important to have it reviewed and updated regularly. Why not use it as an opportunity to get a second opinion?

My plan is fully integrated, coordinating all aspects of my financial situation.

Your financial life is like a puzzle. All the pieces must fit precisely together to ensure your plan is optimized in addressing all of your needs and concerns. That requires a multi-disciplinary approach by experts in the fields of insurance, tax planning, estate planning and investments.

I’m confident that risk level of my portfolio matches my investment profile

Your portfolio strategy should be based on a sound diagnosis of your objectives and risk-return profile. A second opinion might reveal whether you are taking the right amount of risk to achieve your targeted returns.

I’m confident I understand whether the advice I’m receiving is ‘fiduciary’ or ‘suitability’ advice

Understanding the difference between a fiduciary standard and a suitability standard of advice is important in knowing whether the advice you are receiving is in your best interest. If your advisor is a fiduciary by law, you know the advice you are receiving is unbiased and conflict-free. Otherwise, suitability advice may be driven by other interests.

If you found yourself in just mild disagreement or uncertainty with any of the statements, you could benefit from a second opinion. The good news is that, most advisors offer a free second opinion review. However, it is important to limit your search to the type of advisor you can trust to provide objective and conflict-free advice.

How to Ensure You Receive the Most Value from a Second Opinion

Narrow your search for a second opinion advisor by considering only those advisors who have earned the Certified Financial Planner ™ (CFP®) designation. CFP® advisors must meet rigorous educational and ethical standards and they are qualified by their knowledge and experience in financial planning. You can narrow the search even further by considering those CFP®s who are also Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs). RIAs are bound by law to serve their clients under a strict fiduciary standard.

Once you find the right financial advisor for your second opinion, here is what you should expect:

  • A complete evaluation of your short and long-term goals and where you are in relation to them.
  • A thorough analysis of your investment strategy to determine if your asset allocation properly targets your risk-return profile and whether your expected returns will achieve your objectives.
  • Clarification of your entire financial picture, including how the different aspects of your plan are working to meeting your needs, including your risk management, taxes and cash flow.
  • Specific recommendations for making any necessary adjustments and/or reassurance that your current path is the best one to help you reach your goal.

The outcome of a financial second opinion can only be a positive one. You will either correct or refine your original diagnosis so you can make the necessary course adjustments; or, your original diagnosis will be confirmed. Either way, you will come away with much more clarity and confidence.

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