I have a substantial (at least to me) amount of money from the sale of a second home. The money is momentarily in a savings account at a big branch bank in the US. The amount is such that I have access to a "free" financial planner. I would not be against investing in the products offer by the bank, but think I could do better someplace else.

Should I go straight to a fee only financial advisor or is there something I, as a naive investor, can gain from an advisor attached to a big bank?

  • 6
    I don't think there's any harm in talking to a financial advisor for free. If nothing else it will give you some food for thought.
    – quid
    Apr 29, 2016 at 22:13
  • 2
    At best you'll be wasting your time. At worst you'll fall for their sales pitch. There's not really any upside to taking their offer.
    – stannius
    May 6, 2016 at 19:33

3 Answers 3


The risk is that the "free" service may be supporting itself by steering customers to products which part a sales commission, or that are products of the company/bank that employees then, rather than those which are actually best for the customer.

If you go in with a skeptical outlook, watching for this sort of conflict of interest, it's possible they might be useful. But that's not exactly a glowing recommendation...

If they try to tell you that insurance is an investment, or if they recommend anything other than low-fee index funds without an extremely good reason, run.

  • 10
    The great catch-22 of the bank guy is that those who visit him are nearly always too ignorant to realize they are about to be ripped off. Apr 30, 2016 at 0:16
  • 1
    I might trust someone at my credit union. Otherwise, I want someone whose contact says they have a fiduciary responsibility to act in my best interests. There are proposed laws that would make that obligation more general, but we'll see whether that makes it past the industry's objections.
    – keshlam
    Apr 30, 2016 at 0:41
  • 1
    ... The proposed law was shot down. American Democracy in action; the best political system that money can buy. Its only saving grace is that most of the alternatives are worse.
    – keshlam
    May 1, 2016 at 2:24
  • 1
    I can beat index funds; however I cannot beat them today. When I can beat them again I will do so. My strategy depends on waiting for the market to do something really stupid and buy up shares of buy-hold companies.
    – Joshua
    Jul 14, 2016 at 23:18
  • @Joshua +1 for the best tongue-in-cheek remark about beating index funds! Jul 17, 2016 at 15:41

There is no free lunch. "Free" can cost you a small fortune over time.

If you wish to sit through a free pitch you may as well go to a time share seminar. Just keep your hands in your pocket and don't sign anything.

In the end, you will be best served spending the time it will take to learn to manage your own money. Short term, spend a few hundred dollars and find a fee only planner who will give you general advice.

My disdain for the "bank guy" goes back to an overheard conversation. An older woman, in her 70s was asking about investing in T-bills vs the bank CD. T-bills were a bit higher yield at the time. The banker stated that the CD was FDIC insured,but T-bills were not. This was decades ago, but I remember it as if it were yesterday.

  • 3
    Sorry for the old lady: FDIC insurance has limits but T-bills are backed by the full faith and credit of the US government. Agreed to your distaste.
    – D_Bester
    Apr 30, 2016 at 7:52
  • 2
    @D_Bester - exactly. You passed the quiz. (And welcome to Money.SE. I hope you stay a while.) Apr 30, 2016 at 10:51
  • @JoeTaxpayer Wikipedia starts its article on the FDIC by stating that "The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is a United States government corporation providing deposit insurance to depositors in US banks." (my emphasis). Since T-bills are not deposits in a bank, but rather bonds issued by the US government, in what way is it wrong to state that T-bills are not covered by FDIC insurance? That FDIC insurance of an instrument might never even come into play is a different question from whether that instrument is FDIC insured. (Admittedly the "bank guy" should make that clear.)
    – user
    Jul 15, 2016 at 11:53
  • 1
    We agree on the facts. My visceral reaction to the guy steering an old woman seeking advice to a product using half truths, is different than yours. The first commenter above agreed with me. I understand your implication of "buyer beware" but that would then put the banker into the same role as used car salesman, not trusted fiduciary. I'm ok with that too. Jul 15, 2016 at 13:36
  • 1
    @cat - yes, that was it. And since distain is a word too, just not the right one, no spell check alert. thx Jul 17, 2016 at 13:41

I have always found that the "free" planners are just salesmen pointing you in their best interests. Not that it won't get you a good deal in the processes, but, in my experience, they usually just recommend products that give them the best commission, finders fee, kickback, whatever.

Flat fee financial planners are not really to my liking either. This is a taste thing, but generally, I feel like now that they have my fee, what interest do they have in taking care of me. That doesn't mean that they don't give good advise however. They may be a good first step.

Percentage based financial planners, those that charge a percentage of assets under management, are my recommendation. The more money they make me the more money they make. This seems to work out quite well.

Whatever you do, you need to be aware that financial planners are not just about recommending products, or saving money. That's part of it, but a good planner will also help you look at monthly budgets, current costs, liabilities, and investments. You want to look for someone that you can basically tell your goal to - "I want to have x amount of money saved for y date," for example, or "I want to reduce my bills by z amount in x months". Run from any planner that looks only at the large sum as the "solution" or only source of money. You want a planner that will look at your first house mortgage(s), care loans, income, other investments, etc. and come up with a full plan for everything.

If you're only trying to invest the new house money, and that's it, you're better off just sticking with Google and some research on your own.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .