Friday, June 17, 2011

What's Not Said

If you've been reading this blog, you will recall that I've been taking a hard look at my mutual fund portfolio and ultimately decided to change companies and financial advisors.

I'd been thinking over how things unfolded since I sat down with my advisor to ask about where the money was after about 10 years with them. Even in that first meeting, I came away feeling very disturbed by the answers I got. The metrics that were presented to me, and that I was dissuaded from looking at, just didn't make sense.

Now that I have decided to switch advisors, there came the inevitable customer retention call. It focussed on the penalty of switching advisors -- a type of penalty I was encouraged to take when I first moved my portfolio over. She didn't really have to liquidate to change them all to their company funds, but she advised me to cut losses and get into a better portfolio.
Now that I'm cutting losses to switch to a better portfolio (again), she's pulled out the spectre of immediate losses.

In our earlier face-to-face meeting she did look at total returns after the 10 years and tried to tell me what I'd gained was good, and that the bottom line was "I made you money".

What seems to have been carefully omitted in all of this is an analysis of the return over time. She's said before that I would have to dredge up old statements and look up the returns year by year to account for monies invested each year.
Why can't -- or won't (?) -- she do that? I admit it's partly my fault that I didn't do it. But she could have gotten her assistant to pull the numbers. She's tried to say it's a complicated process, but it wasn't hard to do from my 2008-2010 quarterly statements.

Without the actual numbers to work with, I went with estimates, and the rate of return is probably less than 5% over the 10 years. That is, if you compounded the money invested (taking into account money that was put in over time) at 5% per year for 10 years, I'd end up with approximately the figure I have sitting in the portfolio now. Obviously the portfolio had lots of ups and downs, but it's a convenient measure of how well (or poorly, in this case) an investment is performing.

I read the projections for cashing out again, and if they're accurate, I could make it up in about a day in a good fund. The capital gains would be another thing. $8,000 in gains might end up being over $1,000 in tax.
In any case, if I don't cut losses now, I'll be stuck in a severely underperforming portfolio and with a manager I no longer trust to be looking after my best interest -- especially as she's insisting she's given me a good return while pulling out dubious benchmarks to prove it.
Some of the funds I'm in have not performed well for a long time now. She's said before that she was buying low and waiting for highs. That sounds like good advice, but after 10 years, obviously that strategy hasn't worked out so well.
My financial advisor insists that the company's funds are competitive with the wider mutual fund market. But if so... why is my rate of return less than 5%. Why can't we have an objective look at what the returns are year after year? It's awfully strange that the company can't pull out that data or reprint old reports.

She's provided great customer service, and has been friendly and generous with her time, but in the end, sad to say, it comes down to "show me the money".

People often advise never to do business with friends. Maybe there's something to be said about not becoming friends with the people you do business with?

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