Treat Your Broker/Financial Adviser Like a Boyfriend or Girlfriend: Get to Know Someone Before Things Get Serious

By Robert Noens, Spring 2017 Intern

Welcome to my five-part blog series: Treat Your Broker/Financial Adviser Like a Boyfriend or Girlfriend! And no, disappointingly, I do not mean take your broker/Financial Adviser out on dates. Instead, I intend to show you how investors can prevent, or resolve, legal issues before they even arise by following many of the same steps one would following in the early stages of dating in a modern relationship. The steps look like this:

  1. Get to Know the Person Before Things Get Serious;
  1. Be Clear About What You Want Upfront;
  1. Be Alert for “Red Flags;”
  1. Communicate When Your Needs Change; and
  1. Sometimes, You Just Have to Breakup.

First thing is first: Get to Know the Person Before Things Get Serious. These days, social media is a very much part of our lives, and, whether you like it not, it is ingrained in many aspects of our society. So, perhaps some of our older audience will find this strange, but, in modern dating, it is not uncommon for someone to “facebook stalk” (i.e. look through their Facebook profile) someone else before going out on a date. In fact, it’s even pretty common practice for a person to check Instagram, Linkedin, and do a google search for good measure. So, let me say this bluntly: use these tools to learn about your broker/financial adviser. You do not want to do a Facebook search five months after seeing either your boyfriend, girlfriend, broker, or financial adviser and find out that they are an avid user of a cornucopia of illicit substances. Additionally, with financial advisers and brokers, there is a great tool that everyone should know how to use and where to find it. That is, the FINRA Broker Check. FINRA’s BrokerCheck, while not perfect, will tell you all about a firm, financial adviser, and/or broker’s complaints, settlements, and much, much more. In fact, it an absolute must before using a new firm, financial adviser, or broker. And, be sure to check out the SEC’s Investment Adviser database as well.  Remember, you would get to know someone before jumping into a relationship, and the same applies to your broker or financial adviser.