How Do I Know That My Adviser Isn’t Another Bernie Madoff?

This article, from the October 12, 2009 print edition of Canadian Business (and Yahoo Finance), got my attention. After all, I’m a well educated Ph.D. who can build some of the most complex mathematical and computer models in the world, and I often don’t have a clue what these people are trying to, or should I say not to, tell me. (And that’s why I don’t have a personal financial advisor who oversees my financial decisions and plan to keep it that way.)

And we have essentially the same problem as supply management professionals every time a new sales person comes knocking on our door. Is he selling us a better product, or is he selling a fresh batch of snake oil? And how do we tell the difference?

The article reiterated a great piece of timeless advice that we all need to remember, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is“. That’s not to say that there aren’t categories where you can save 50% or more off of what you’re paying now, as there are, but that they’ll likely only represent a small fraction of the “opportunities” that sales people will try to bring to. By the time you factor in switching costs, logistics costs, quality trade-offs, etc., the real opportunity will in fact be a lot smaller than the sales person may make it out to be.

So do your research, and just like you should start with a security commission check and Google search before you meet with a financial advisor, you should check with the supplier’s local Better Business Bureau (or equivalent) and do a Google search before you get too far down the negotiating path. It’s better safe than sorry, especially in this economy.

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