I’ll admit, it was a rash decision hiring her in the first place. I was in the midst of leaving my full-time job – and all its lucrative benefits – when I suddenly felt as if all the commercials reminding me to rollover my old 401(k) were speaking directly to me. When a friend recommended her financial planner, I took a bold, daring leap of faith. Scratch that – I took a stupid leap.
I landed in a pile of mud.
My Investment Portfolio
In addition to rolling over my 401(k) from my old job, I also let my new financial planner talk me into opening a series of new retirement accounts. She had me fill out a short questionnaire to gauge my tolerance for risk, then set me up with a spousal Roth IRA and a pair of 529 accounts for my children. In all, I decided to put $100 a month into my new Roth and $25 a month into each of the 529 plans. I wouldn’t be contributing to my traditional IRA, since I would be unable to tax advantage of its tax benefits, since I didn’t have a paycheck from which to pull out pre-tax contributions.
At the time – November of 2010 – my traditional IRA was worth $13,800. Since then, here’s how my accounts have grown over the past 18 months… or not:

  • Traditional IRA (initial value – $13,800): $14,400
  • Daughter’s 529 (initial value – $0*): $713
  • Son’s 529 (initial value -$0**): $527
  • Roth (initial value – $0***): $918

* – In addition to contributing $25/month to this 529, I also added in my daughter’s Christmas money from relatives, resulting in an additional $300 in contributions
** – I couldn’t contribute to my son’s 529 until after his birth in May 2011. On top of the $25/month I put in from that point on, I also put in $250 in baptism and Christmas money he received last year
*** – After my husband’s work offered him a matching Roth IRA in July 2011, I scaled back my original $75/month investment in my spousal Roth to just $25, putting the difference into my husband’s Roth instead
My Contact With My Financial Planner
My planner – we’ll call her Ms. N – calls once a quarter to check in on us to see if we have any questions. I usually say no. What I should say is:

Why has my IRA only seen a 4% return over the last 18 months, while the Dow has seen returns more than quadruple that?

How have my children’s 529s actually LOST money?

Why has my Roth only earned $18 beyond what I’ve put into it?

Instead, I remain quiet. I try to be a good investor who patiently waits to for long-term results on her investments, instead of demanding immediate returns. I fear I am failing myself.

Why I Need To Move On

The problem is, I really like my financial planner. She’s a sweet lady. She always asks about my children. She invites us to her family’s annual holiday open house. She sends us birthday calls.

But our financial relationship isn’t working out. I’m up to my eyeballs in financial headlines every day because of my job as a freelance writer. Factor in my two children, my household, and my other freelance gig as a media research analyst, and I don’t have time to manage my own finances. I don’t have time to do the research to decide what’s best for my portfolio. That’s why I hired a financial planner; that’s why I pay her to manage my finances for me. If I had the time to do it myself, I would.

My father – who is a CFP, short for certified financial planner – also hires someone else to manage his investments. It may sound redundant, especially for a man who is so aptly qualified to do it himself, but he likes to get someone else’s perspective on his money management techniques. I’ve seen my father’s relationship with his CFP firsthand. Rather than sending my father financial literature on a mutual fund – which he doesn’t have time to read in the first place – his CFP makes a five-minute phone call to discuss it in person. If he can’t get ahold of my dad, he simply makes the move that he knows from years of experience is in my father’s best interest.

This is what I need – someone who is going to take control of my finances, who is going to not only answer the questions for me, but is going to ask them for me as well. Maybe it’s the lazy woman’s approach – although if you call me lazy, I’ll Ann Romney you to the moon (that’s to say, don’t insinuate that a mother is lazy – EVER) – but I need someone to be more proactive about my finances, not just about my family.

Libby Balke

Libby Balke