Breaking up is hard to do. Same as with a significant other, ending a long-standing relationship with your financial advisor can be complex, painful, and expensive. But lately, you can’t escape the feeling it’s just not working any more. Is it a case of “the grass is always greener” or has the relationship simply run its course?

If you’re feeling tempted to blurt out any of these 10 classic breakup lines, take it as a sign it’s time to slip out the back, Jack, or make a new plan, Stan.

  1.      I don’t even recognize you. Your financial advisor has changed, literally or figuratively. The one you used to love seems to have undergone a personality transplant. Or she’s flown the coop altogether, and you’ve been assigned a new one that, truth be told, you’re just not that into.
  2.      You don’t bring me flowers anymore. You still like your advisor, but the company he keeps, not so much. It’s only natural for financial services firms to evolve over time.  Unfortunately, the accompanying changes in service models don’t always better serve longtime clients.
    “The biggest one [sign] is communication. If you’re always calling with questions rather than your advisor calling you, it’s a good sign you and your needs are not top of mind,” says Christopher Lund, MBA, CFP®, of Lund Financial in Plainville, MA.
  3.      We seem to have different values. You’re a dyed-in-the-wool index investor; your financial advisor insists on trying to beat the market. Or maybe your mismatch is bigger picture. She’s convinced you can never save enough. You chafe at sacrificing current lifestyle for long term “what if” scenarios.
    “When a client’s values have changed from where we started or they disagree with how we manage their money, that’s a good indication it’s time for a change,” says Alexandra Cock, JD, CLP, founding principal of Wealth Plus, Inc., San Rafael, CA.
  4.      My needs aren’t being met. Over time, you’ve become more financially savvy.  Now you can’t help but notice that the products and services you are offered seem limited, underwhelming, or overpriced versus others on the market.
  5.      I just don’t trust you. Mistakes were made. You weren’t impressed with how they were handled. Now you find yourself second guessing your advisor all the time.  Not only that, you keep secrets, e.g. a stash of money you’ve never told him about.
  6.     We can’t seem to communicate. You feel like you’ve tuned into the “all jargon, all the time” station. At this point, you’re almost embarrassed to keep asking what you fear are the same dumb questions. So you nod a lot and cross your fingers. Or you never take any action because you can’t understand enough to make informed decisions.
  7.     I just need more space. Your financial advisor calls, emails, and texts constantly, especially when markets are in turmoil. That was fine in the beginning, but enough already! You no longer need all that handholding. Conversely…
  8.     We never see each other anymore. Either or both of you avoid interactions because they are uncomfortable, unproductive, or frustrating. So questions go unanswered, important tasks get delayed, deadlines are missed.
  9.      It’s too late, baby, now. You’ve expressed your concerns more than a few times, but they fall on deaf ears or are never adequately addressed. It seems futile to try again.
  10.   It’s not you, it’s me. Your advisor hasn’t changed or done anything wrong per se. But you just can’t envision a future together. For example, maybe you read about the new “F” word in financial services — fiduciary — and decided it’s a must-have.

It Takes Two to Tango

But wait! Before you break up with your advisor, do a little soul-searching around It’s not you, it’s me. Maybe it is you, but not for the reasons you think. So ask yourself if there’s anything you might be doing to undermine the relationship.  

It’s perfectly normal to disagree with your advisor at times. But if you find yourself constantly resisting his advice, it may be that you simply aren’t open to it — or the changes it implies.

For you to benefit from working with a financial advisor, “you have to be coachable,” Lund observes. Otherwise, “paying for my expertise and advice is a waste of our time and your money.”

Cock describes another scenario: “If a client has unrealistic expectations, the relationship may never work.” In either case, switching to a new advisor probably won’t improve the situation.

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

But let’s assume you are not the problem. In that case, it’s time to take action. But you feel bad (you really really like her) or awkward (he’s your brother-in-law) or uncertain (maybe the grass isn’t greener.)

“People don’t like change, so they may stick with financial advisors that aren’t working because they fear the impact of change more than continuing with the relationship,” notes Lund.

As with ending any relationship, mixed feelings are to be expected. But if you’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’ for your financial advisor, you owe it to yourself to at least explore your options. So how do you go about doing that?

If You Like Pina Coladas

Finding Mr. or Ms. Right Advisor is part art, part science. Take the time to “really sit down with a prospective advisor and understand his process: how you’ll communicate, how often you’ll meet. Is he available on an ad hoc basis? Do you share common values?” advises Lund. “It’s all about chemistry and trust. Gaining a comfort level happens over time.”

“When interviewing someone new, it’s important to discuss what worked and what didn’t with your previous advisor,” observes Cock. “That will increase the odds that this time you end up in a mutually beneficial long term relationship. It’s also important to discuss what you want in a financial advisor relationship and what you expect.”

And don’t forget to take advantage of GuideVine’s myriad resources:

With these tools and words of wisdom, you should be well-equipped to find a new advisor who’s a keeper should you decide to drop off the key, Lee, and get yourself free.


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Sherrill St. Germain

Sherrill St. Germain

Sherrill St. Germain, MBA, CFP®, is a freelance writer specializing in financial independence. A former fee-only planner, she brings a decade of financial planning experience to content she develops for financial professionals, publications, and her blog TheFISide.com Follow Sherrill St. Germain on Twitter.