“The typical small investor has no idea what his or her performance has been”

This distressing quote comes from an article I read in the September edition of Financial Advisor magazine.

A study by Markus Glaser and Martin Weber of the University of Mannheim came to this conclusion after surveying 215 retail investors to find out what they thought about their investment results versus how they had actually done.

Their study showed that investors with bad results thought they were doing just fine, and that there was almost no relationship between how investors actually performed and how they believed they had done. They also discovered most investors weren’t as successful as they thought.

Although the authors focused on cognitive biases that caused this result, my mind turned, instead, to other questions.

If investors don’t know how they’re doing, is that their fault, or the fault of their advisors?

If investors think they are doing okay when they’re not, how would they know they should switch advisors?

If investors work with advisors who aren’t serving their best interests, do they know they can get better results by working with an advisor with fiduciary responsibility?

It’s troubling that so few have saved enough for retirement. It’s more troubling to realize they may not know this. To me, it’s most troubling that the people who should be helping investors reach their goals are frequently using an investor’s ignorance to keep them in the dark.

After all, who gets an education in the math of investing such that they understand investing results? Who gets an education in the costs of investing and the compensation schemes of financial service providers? How can people make good decisions if their financial advisors benefit at their expense?

Many investors are getting bad advice because they work with salespeople who are likeable. Such salespeople are trained to be likeable because financial service firms know most people can’t judge performance and tend to choose based on gut feel.

I believe this is the real cause of the problem Glaser and Weber discovered. The solution is to work with professionals. Professionals are experts in their field based on extensive education, training and experience. They tend to have ethical guidelines and join associations that enforce those ethical standards.

If you want a great doctor, pick a doctor with great education, training and experience. If you want a great accountant or lawyer, look for the same thing.

If you want to pick a great investment advisor, look for education, training and experience–not likeability.

Nothing in this blog should be considered investment, financial, tax, or legal advice. The opinions, estimates and projections contained herein are subject to change without notice. Information throughout this blog has been obtained from sources believed to be accurate and reliable, but such accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

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