In the wake of continuing financial uncertainty and a volatile market, some older clients (and even young ones too) may find themselves too easily caught unawares. In response, the CFP Board released on Wednesday a guide that provides older clients financial self-defense.
Here are 10 red flags for avoiding scams.
1. Look beyond the letters after a financial adviser's name.
Some designations or certifications used by advisors, brokers, insurance agents, bankers and other financial professionals can be confusing or even misleading. Make sure the designation of the person you are working with is backed up by experience, education, examination and ethics requirements. Make sure he practices by a fiduciary standard, too.
2. If you don't understand what's being sold, don't buy it.
If you do not understand how a financial product works, dont buy it. If a financial professional cannot or will not explain the product clearly, find someone else.
3. There's no such thing as a free lunch.
There is no such thing as a free lunch, no matter what that fancy invitation from a local advisor might say. You may get served a good steak, but with a hefty side of sales pressure. Be cautious.
4. Just because a so-called expert recommends it, doesn't mean it is right for you.
Just because the advice comes from an expert, does not mean its a good recommendation for you. The best advice takes into consideration your specific situation and circumstances.
5. If it sounds too good to be true, it's probably not legitimate or safe.
Looking for a safe fixed-income investment that pays high yields is like looking for the fountain of youth: it does not exist. Dont be hoodwinked.
6. Don't confuse familiarity with trust.
Dont confuse familiarity with trustworthiness. Just because a financial professional lives in your community or belongs to the same social or religious group does not mean he is a good choice for managing your money. Do your homework and check him out.
7. The final sign-off should always be yours.
Mind the gaps! Do not leave spaces on any account applications or contracts for an advisor to fill in without always checking and signing-off on the completed form.
8. Make sure the money others are making isn't yours.
Make sure there is always a legitimate business activity before you invest. Using money from one investor to provide a return to another investor is a classic Ponzi scheme.
9. Get the full story: who gains the most you or the financial professional?
Before you take someones recommendation to buy or sell, ask yourself: who stands to gain most, you or the financial professional? What is the financial professional paid as a result of the transaction?
10. Know your rights as a homeowner.
Your home is your castle. Keep a protective moat around it by knowing your homeowners rights, especially if you try to tap your home equity.