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5 Questions You Should Ask Your Financial Advisor

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

By Bill Taber

Planning your financial journey can sometimes feel like a big undertaking to tackle on your own. For example, you may have questions like, “What’s the ideal balance between paying off debt and contributing to a Roth IRA?” or “Is it time to make the leap into homeownership or continue renting while increasing my financial cushion?” While not everyone needs the guidance of a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, their support can offer structure and strategy to your financial road map.

The financial advisor you choose to manage your family’s finances will have a substantial influence over your investment approach, the associated fees, and your level of confidence in your financial well-being. This decision carries weight, particularly as each advisor brings their unique blend of service, knowledge, and experience into the equation. As you embark on your search for the right advisor, consider asking the following 5 questions to potential candidates.

1. Are You a Fiduciary?

There’s a reason this is the first question—its importance cannot be overstated! An advisor who serves as a fiduciary accepts a responsibility to put their clients’ interests first and foremost in all decisions. A fiduciary is legally required to avoid conflicts of interest and remain unbiased in their recommendations and advice.

How can you know for certain that an advisor you’re interviewing is a fiduciary? The firm will either be listed as a Registered Investment Advisor or the advisors on the team will hold certifications that hold them to the fiduciary standard, such as the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Chartered Financial Analyst®, or Certified Public Accountant professional designations. Keep in mind, if the advisor doesn’t fit those descriptions, they may still act as a fiduciary in certain situations, like sharing a recommendation, but not necessarily when selling products.

TABER Asset Management is a Registered Investment Advisory firm and abides by the fiduciary standard of professional conduct. We believe in transparency and honesty, doing what we say and finishing what we start—all for your benefit.

2. What Is Your Planning and Investment Philosophy?

It’s important to work with an advisor who shares a planning and investing philosophy similar to your own. Does your advisor stick to a scientific, evidence-based approach? Do they believe in buy-and-hold or do they move to cash when the market looks shaky? Talk with an advisor about how they guide clients’ investing and financial decisions.

At TABER Asset Management, we know that a sound asset allocation strategy is a key factor in creating a confident financial future. Our investment strategies are customized to your unique goals and needs so you can maximize your growth while protecting your wealth.

3. What Is Your Investment Management Approach?

Choosing to invest with TABER Asset Management is unique for two reasons:

  1. Our investing style is active. We do not invest in index funds.

  2. We build 100% customized portfolios for our clients.

What Is Passive vs. Active investing?

First, we have a great podcast episode on this topic here. Second, read our recent post "Our Investment Approach and How We Help Protect Your Investments" on this topic in more depth.

Passive investing is the practice of selecting no or very low fee funds which include a broad range of securities. For example, you can buy the S&P 500 index, which will buy you a small piece of each of the top 500 companies as listed in the S&P.

Active investing is the opposite: investment managers will research the fundamentals behind the security. For example, looking at a stock, they assess the company’s cash flow, debt level, management competence, and a whole slew of other factors that can have an impact on stock performance. They use this knowledge to build a portfolio of securities which they believe, through analysis, have the best potential for increasing the portfolio’s value.

Why Don’t We Invest in Index Funds?

If you buy a piece of both the winners and the losers, your portfolio will only ever perform as the market does. When the market goes up, your portfolio will go up, and everyone is happy. When the market goes down, your portfolio goes down, and no one is happy. Successful fund manager Peter Lynch called it “deworsification”—challenging the idea that diversification is always inherently valuable. A certain amount of diversification is absolutely necessary, but too much can mute the potential of portfolio growth. With active investing, when the market goes down, your portfolio may not go down as much, which can give you a stronger position to rebound from when the markets go up again. At TABER, we find it worth the time and research it takes to build customized portfolios for our clients.

Why We Customize Your Portfolio

Within active investment firms, most do so by building five or so “model portfolios.” They then slot new clients into one of the five portfolios based on that client’s age, risk tolerance, and situation. This is another way to save time and standardize results, which can work well for some clients.

However, we feel our best work is done when we are free to analyze and customize each one of our client’s portfolios based on the investing process we have honed for decades. This approach works well for our clients and provides flexibility when it comes to their individual values, objectives, risk tolerance, tax situation, and distribution needs.

Aren’t Investment Results the Main Priority?

To paraphrase a sports analogy, it’s important to have a good offense (achieving gains). But it’s essential to play great defense (protecting your downside risk). If you are looking for immediate short-term results, then we are not the firm for you. Our approach has shown that our counsel may help prevent investors from making decisions that can have an adverse long-term impact on their portfolios. Over the years, we have seen the rise of the internet and its impact on reducing the barrier to entry to investing. With the internet comes an explosion of access to information, but too much information can be overwhelming. What noise should you listen to, and what noise should you tune out? An experienced investment manager can be an important stopgap on these decisions as they may have learned how to navigate the common biases and heuristics (mental shortcuts in decision making) that plague many investors.

When it comes to investments, we take the long-term approach of 5-10 years. Rome was not built in a day, likely nor will your wealth. We can help you nurture your nest egg and hone in strategies that align with your goals and values.

4. What Sets You Apart From Other Financial Advisors?

We know you have plenty of options to choose from, but there are a few things we do differently:

  1. Our firm has been around for over two decades. Over the years, we have created proven and reliable systems and processes we use to help our clients work toward their goals.

  2. Our advice is tailored to you. We don’t give pat answers but do the legwork to get to know you, your situation, your dreams, and your challenges. As an entrepreneur or business owner, our specialized touch can make all the difference.

  3. We build our client relationships on integrity, dependability, and accountability. We are passionate about what we do and confident in how we do it.

5. How Can I Know if Your Firm Is Right for Me?

When selecting your advisor, the relationship should feel right and you should never feel pressured to make a decision quickly. We offer a complimentary consultation, where you can ask questions, evaluate our processes and services, determine if our personality is a good fit, and give you the information you need to make an informed decision.

Finding the Right Fit

A reputable advisor should be more than willing to provide answers to these questions and any others you have regarding their practices. If you’re uncertain on how to begin, consider looking for recommendations from your trusted friends and family to help guide your decision-making process.

Here at TABER Asset Management, we uphold a commitment to total transparency. We value our clients’ comfort in their working relationship with us and encourage them to ask any and all questions they have. If you’re interested in diving deeper into our responses to these questions, please feel free to get in touch. We invite you to an introductory meeting with us today by scheduling a 15-minute intro phone call online or reaching out to us at 515-557-1860 or

About Bill

Bill Taber is President and Founder of TABER Asset Management, an independent, fiduciary wealth management firm that strives to do one thing well: manage their clients’ money by creating wealth, building wealth, growing income, and preserving capital so they can experience financial freedom. With more than four decades of experience, Bill is dedicated to building relationships with his clients and their families and walking alongside them as they navigate financial decisions. His favorite days are the ones when he gets to witness the joy and relief on his clients’ faces when they realize they can pursue their dreams and live their ideal lifestyles. Bill is known for going the extra mile, getting things done with integrity, and working with a stewardship mentality.

Bill graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and fell in love with the profession when he got to help one of his first clients—his father—turn his lifetime of hard work into a dream retirement. He got his start in the industry as a corporate services representative for Bankers Trust Company and spent decades working as Assistant Vice President of E.F. Hutton & Co. and First Vice President of Principal Financial Securities. He is also a graduate of the E-Myth Worldwide Mastery Business Development Program and is Series 65 registered.

In his spare time, Bill enjoys giving back to his community and served 11 years as a member of the Board of Trustees of Broadlawns Medical Center and 14 years as a Community Representative to their Board Finance Committee. He is also one of the founding members of the Greater Des Moines Connections Mentoring Program. When he’s not working, you can often find Bill spending time with his family and participating in one of his many hobbies, which include traveling to national parks, presidential libraries, and foreign countries; gardening; reading non-fiction; and practicing yoga, Pilates, and meditation. He also loves the simple joys of listening to music, going for walks or bike rides, and watching James Bond 007 films and any movie starring his favorite actress, Meryl Streep. To learn more about Bill, connect with him on LinkedIn.

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