Pay for Financial Advice, But Insist on Direct Mutual Fund Plans

Published: March 7, 2015 at 9:02 am

I see more and more people wanting to approach financial planners. Quite frankly I don’t see this as a good sign. Simply because choosing a financial planner is harder than doing it yourself.  In this post, I would like to discuss a simple way to figure out the intentions of the financial planner you had approached.

Many ask me if Mr/Ms. XYZ is a fee-only financial planner (gets money only for advice) or fee-based planner (gets money for advice and from product commissions either directly or indirectly via a family member).

They ask me why Mr. ABC a popular blogger is not on my list of fee-only financial planners.  Financial planners want their names to be included in the list.

Why is my list of fee-only financial planners so short?

Seven out of 10 names in that list never distributed any financial product.  So they were not affected by the SEBI ruling that anyone providing investment advice (including distributors) must be registered with SEBI. This is because SEBI suddenly realized that investment advisers have fiduciary obligations. In a country where products sells only because of commissions, this move is only about 60 years old!


So many in financial services have ignored these regulations. Making it tough on investors to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I knew seven of them more than two years ago but did not publish their names because I was debating about this. When I took a stand, I decided to add names only when I was sure of their credentials with the help of trust worthly references. This is not always possible. So I am not eager to add more names.

If you contact any of the 10 people in my list, you need to pay only for the financial plan and investment advice. You are free to invest wherever you want.

If you wish to consult a financial planner who is not on this list, but would like to find out how he operates, tell him the following:

“I will pay for the financial plan creation and investment advice and invest in direct mutual fund plans”.

Planners Response A:  “If you do that (invest in direct mutual fund plans), I cannot track the performance of your mutual funds, because I will not get ‘feeds’ ( a fancy word for account statement) from the AMC. So I suggest your invest ‘via’ me in regular mutual funds or you can invest via ABC firm who are ‘well known’ to me”.

In this case:  Say goodbye. This person is trying to earn from commissions in addition to financial advice.  The legality of this can be debated endlessly. SEBI  is toothless in this matter. So forget the legality. The point is, why should you pay the person twice? Any financial planner who states they cannot advice without ‘AMC feed’ is trying to con you. Such people are displaying their incompetence by saying such stupid things.

Planners Response B: “Go ahead and invest in direct mutual funds plans. Please note that if you wish to review the performance of your financial plan, I need to have access to all the investments you made and their current value”.

In this case: This is a fair request.  Discuss more with the person about fees, and check if you are comfortable working with them. If you are comfortable, and if the fee is reasonable, you have got yourself a financial planner. Set up an account with portals like Value Reasearch to track your direct mutual fund investments. At the time of financial plan review, print out the summary of investments page and discuss with your planner. Or you can email it to them.

That is all there is to it. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

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About the Author Pattabiraman editor freefincalM. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the founder, managing editor and primary author of freefincal. He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. since Aug 2006. Connect with him via Twitter or Linkedin Pattabiraman has co-authored three print books, You can be rich too with goal-based investing (CNBC TV18), Gamechanger, Chinchu Gets a Superpower! and seven other free e-books on various money management topics. He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India,” an organisation to promote unbiased, commission-free investment advice. He conducts free money management sessions for corporates and associations based on money management. Previous engagements include World Bank, RBI, BHEL, Asian Paints, Cognizant, Madras Atomic Power Station, Honeywell, Tamil Nadu Investors Association, IIST Alumni Association. For speaking engagements, write to pattu [at] freefincal [dot] com
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