THE BLOG
07/14/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

8 Common Sense Questions To Ask A Potential Investment Counsel

"Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you." -- Oscar Wilde

Money is part facts and figures. A greater part is emotion. Few people are what I would call emotionally "neutral" about money. Image, status, self-worth and our very sense of survival gets tied to money. The global economic downturn has released our deepest anxieties, insecurities and fears, fuelled by media reporting.

What is the truth here? And more important, what is the opportunity?

If you feel dependent upon the things you own, the job you have, how you look to others to feel loved and accepted, you are sitting on the edge of a branch and can fall off any time. There is absolutely no security in the outer world of material possession and opinion of others.

For physical health and the wealth of well-being and happiness, you need to return to your core motivation: to your real value and values, accepting yourself as you are; appreciating your good intentions and caring; engaging in the life that has most meaning and purpose for you; using your natural talents, gifts and abilities - at any age.

Forgive the mistakes you have made - they are what make you human. Let go of the poor choices you made in the past. Let go of what you no longer need. What does today offer you that you can be part of and celebrate? Some small thing. A few of them. Call a friend. Smile at a stranger. Put on some great music and dance.

There are a few simple wisdoms for managing money. Earn more than you spend. Save a little of what you earn - it will grow for you. Give some to benefit others. Track what you earn and spend. It will help you to feel in charge of your life.

Have fun living with sufficient for your basic needs. Find joy in being frugal. Discover the power of your freedom to be true to yourself. Do not believe all you read in the papers, or hear on tv news. Believe in you. Trust in your innate goodness. You are the source of your capacity for greater health, wealth and happiness.

It may be that the financial institutions in which you have placed your confidence have betrayed your trust. You may have lost all hope that your money can ever be safe. The temptation is to put any spare cash under the mattress.

The magnitude of loss of hope will prolong the downturn. As I witness President Obama, I observe that he is looking to restore hope and confidence. I find hope in the goodness of ordinary people. There are many more of them than the "baddies" we read about.

The ability to do, the strength to do it, and the energy to complete it; that is the true wealth. Out of that come our health and our happiness. --John-Roger

I am fortunate in having an investment counsel who has skillfully and responsibly navigated through the stormy financial weather of the last 18 months. The portfolio they manage for me has kept its value. The following questions are those they might expect to be asked by a potential client.

1. How long have you been in business?

Even if it's a start-up firm, you want some sense that the investment counsel is experienced in managing money.

2. What educational qualifications do you have?

Older, more experienced counselors may not have a high level of formal education, in which case experience would be key. But younger counselors should have some formal education, such as the CFA designation, which stands for Chartered Financial Analyst. This is a rigorously controlled global standard for portfolio management.

3. What is your investment strategy and process?

Potential clients need some sense of how their money will be invested. Individual stocks and bonds? Pooled funds? Mutual funds? Exchange traded funds? The potential counselor should be able to adequately explain the differences and the rationale for using these investments.

4. How long have you used that strategy and how successful have you been for your clients?

Individual results will vary, but they should be able to show some sort of bench marked results, updated to the last quarter end.

As any employer, you can ask for references from existing clients and be able to speak to them about their experiences with the investment counsel.

5. How are your client's investments custodied?

Many people do not understand the concept of custody. The key is that their assets are held separately, and that they receive regular proof that their assets are individually custodied with a reputable custodian. Ideally, the client should be able to use their own custodian, if desired.

6. Do clients receive separate reporting from the custodian? .

For further information about the securities custody industry, I have pdf document about Madoff and one on custody for the European Central Bank, which I will gladly forward to you. Contact me at the address below.

7. How often do you communicate with clients and what do they receive?

In addition to independent reporting from the custodian, the client should be able to receive the level of reporting they need to track their investment performance, transactions and tax reporting.

8. What is your fee structure? Are there any additional costs?

The counselor should disclose all fees - management, trading, custodial.

No matter what is going on in the world around you, you can always find your joy, as this video shows: http://www.findingjoymovie.com/.

Do you have any money management tips to share? Have you become more creative and resourceful with your finances? How has the economic downturn served you?

I welcome your comments and thoughts, either below here or by email: clearresults@mac.com Contact me if you would like a pdf copy of the 8 Common Sense Questions To Ask A Potential Investment Counsel.

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