SMART MONEY | Investor wonders if adviser is worth cost


DEAR BRUCE >> I have approximately $1 million invested 60 percent in American Funds mutual stock funds and 40 percent in five different bond funds. I have little or no contact with my financial adviser, who never calls me.

I have no problem with sitting on my holdings, and my American Funds have been performing adequately. Since there is an expense paid to my adviser through the funds, I feel that is something I could be getting instead of him.

My thoughts are to drop him and go it alone. On the other hand, I do not know what to do if I ever decide to make a trade. Should I move to self-manage?

— Unhappy client

DEAR UNHAPPY CLIENT >> I can understand why you might feel that way, but think about this >> You have no problem sitting on your holdings and so far, your funds are doing well. There is an expense that is paid to your adviser, and that's part of the joy of owning investments.

You say you "don't know what to do if you ever decide to make a trade." Given that statement, hang on to the adviser. If you want to look for another one, that's another program, but don't try to do it by yourself. What you can do is get an education on investing by reading newspapers and magazines.

DEAR BRUCE >> At 51, I have a Roth IRA (less than $20,000) and $100,000 to invest after the sale of my home. Also, I have no debt. I do not have access to an employer-based retirement savings plan. How would you advise me?

— V.F.

DEAR V.F. >> You didn't indicate your monthly salary, but at least 10 percent to 15 percent of it must be saved every month. The day your pay hits your checking account, you should invest that money.

By and large, I would tell you that the only investment that's going to help bail you out is the stock market. I can't think of any better investment that will pull you out in the short 15 years you have to retirement. I know it seems like a long time away, but it will pass in no time, and the $120,000 that you have, unless you add to it very significantly, will leave you impoverished in your retirement.

DEAR BRUCE >> I am 32 years old. I have been working as a teacher for 11 years and see myself retiring in this field. My mortgage is $965 per month; I take home $3,800 a month. I own my car and have no debt. I contribute $300 per month, before taxes, to a 457(b) retirement account.

I feel pretty good about how I'm doing financially, except that I'm terrible at saving money. I pay all my bills on time, but seldom have anything left to put in savings. I eat out a lot, buy clothes or go on vacations with friends.

I currently have $3,500 in savings. How can I get motivated to stop spending money and save it instead? Also, how much should I have in my savings account? -- N.H.

DEAR N.H. >> You seem a sensible person, but you're saving a minimal amount of money. How do you get motivated? Well, stop spending and grow up! You're taking in $3,800 a month; I would put away an additional $300. That's not unreasonable.

It's nice to go on vacations, etc., but a responsible person understands that the day is going to come when you'll have to pay for your retirement, or try to get by on only what Social Security provides.

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