Money Management

How to Fire Your Financial Advisor in 4 Simple Steps

By  Ben Le Fort

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One of the most important financial decisions we make is who we take financial advice from. This is especially important if you are paying for financial advice. What do you do if you are getting bad advice, and how do you fire a financial advisor?

As someone who writes about money, there is nothing more important than going out into the real world and talking to actual people about money. It’s very easy to get trapped in our writer’s bubble in the personal finance community, where we enjoy nerding-out over very advanced financial topics. Most people in the real world are not thinking about house-hacking or how to retire in 10 years. Real people have more fundamental concerns about money.

When the Question Is “How” Not “If”

I recently had the chance to catch up with many people I had not seen in quite some time. During one of those conversations, the topic of money came up (as it tends to when someone is speaking with me). One person said they would love my advice on a financial problem that has been stressing them out.

“How do I fire my financial advisor?”

This person did not want to know if they “should” fire their financial advisor. They were quite clear on the fact that the advisor needed to be fired. What they wanted to know was “how” to do it. They were looking for a step-by-step on how to fire their financial advisor and what to do with their money afterward.

I had to admit that I have no experience with the issue as I always have self-managed my finances. The more I thought about it, the more I realized why this is a stressful issue for people.

The power dynamic in an advisor-advisee relationship is tilted heavily towards the advisor. The advisor is the expert on financial matters, that is why you people hire them. This can make it very difficult for some people to challenge their advisors or even ask questions about what the advisor is doing with their money.

“People generally look to avoid confrontation, and firing your advisor can be very uncomfortable,” said Erik Nero, CFP – Founder and President of First Step Wealth Planning. “Most advisor relationships die of neglect rather than failure. It is difficult to break up with someone that the client may have used for years, that they may generally like and feel has done a good job. But if the advisor is no longer proactively exploring for what is relevant to the client, the risk of maintaining the relationship could outweigh keeping it.”  

Before making any major moves, reflecting first on what may be going wrong is a good idea. The situation could be resolved by talking it over with your advisor. 

“Think about why you are unhappy with your adviser. Is it poor performance, irregular communication, high fees, or a misunderstanding? Most advisers want happy clients, so explaining why you are unhappy may easily fix the problem.” said Rob Lloyd, CFA – President at Lloyds Intrepid Wealth Management

“A good financial advisor should have a clear understanding of your needs and be working proactively to meet them,” said David Edmisten, CFP and Founder of Next Phase Financial Planning.

“They should be anticipating changes and providing advice to help you make informed decisions,” he added. “They should be able to clearly articulate the value they provide and demonstrate this value to you on an ongoing basis throughout your relationship. If your current advisor is not meeting your needs and is not able to provide the service you expect, you are always free to look for a new advisor.”

If you are sure it’s time to move on, wait no longer. This is an important issue, and providing a detailed answer would provide tremendous value to my readers. I’ve been researching this question for the past several weeks, and I am pleased to present this brief guide to firing your financial advisor.

How to Fire Your Financial Advisor in 4 Simple Steps

There are four steps you need to take before actually firing your advisor.

Step 1: Review Your Contract

When you first hired your financial advisor, you likely had to sign a bunch of paperwork. Read through these documents carefully. There is likely a clause about how to terminate the relationship with the advisor.

If you can’t find the contract, ask your advisor or their administrative assistant for a copy of your contract. There are two particularly important sections of that contract.

  1. Instructions on how to terminate the relationship. Often you are required to provide the advisor with a signed letter formally terminating the relationship (more on that soon).
  2. Fees. Often there is a termination fee or other fees involved in terminating your relationship with the advisor and pulling your money out. These fees may be charged by the advisor themselves, the investment funds they have you in, or both. It’s critical to ensure you are aware of what those fees are before you fire your advisor.

Step 2: Decide What You’re Going to Do Next

Before you fire your advisor, it’s a good idea to know what you will do with your money going forward.

You have three options to consider.

  1. DIY. If you are comfortable managing your own money, you could transfer investments to an online broker and handle things yourself.
  2. Find a new advisor. If you want someone to guide you through the process, you’ll want to hire a new financial advisor you can trust. I suggest looking at a fiduciary “fee-only” financial advisor. Fee-only advisors charge a predetermined price to provide you with financial advice. This is the best way to get unbiased advice, as fee-only advisors do not have a financial incentive to put your money in a certain fund or sell you insurance.
  3. Robo-advisors. These are a good alternative for people who aren’t quite comfortable managing their investments themselves but aren’t in a position to pay the costs of a fee-only advisor.

Do your homework and choose the path you are most comfortable with moving forward.

Find Your Next Financial Advisor on Wealthtender:

Step 3: Request a Copy of Your Investment Records

The final step before firing your advisor is to request a copy of your investment records. You have a right to these files, which have valuable information on your investing history.

Step 4: Fire Your Advisor

It’s finally time to fire your advisor. Refer back to your contract with your advisor, as it likely details the exact process that must be followed to terminate the relationship. Odds are you will be required to provide the advisor with a signed letter. You have two options to deliver this letter.

  1. If you are working with a new advisor. Let the new advisor handle the uncomfortable part of firing your previous advisor. They will likely provide you with a few forms to sign and might be able to handle the rest with your old advisor.
  2. If you’re handling your finances moving forward. Be sure to follow the termination instructions in your contract. Include all the necessary information in a letter to your advisor, but keep it brief and professional. You don’t owe them a lengthy explanation, and a quick, clean break is in everyone’s best interest.

If you have a financial salesperson rather than an advisor, be prepared for them to try and talk you out of leaving. Do not feel compelled to engage in a “retention pitch.”

Make it clear your decision is final and stick to the business at hand, the transfer of your assets, and all the necessary paperwork.

There are some steps you can take if the advisor tries to hold on to you. 

“Threaten to file a complaint with the compliance department or state regulator. That always gets people’s attention,” said Lloyd.

Breakups are never easy. Situations involving the heart or the wallet can be very stressful and emotionally draining. It’s essential to do your homework so that you can make the break as clean and painless as possible.

Ask the Experts: Financial Advisors Share Tips on How to Switch to a New Advisor

For additional insights, we invited financial advisors in the Wealthtender community to offer their tips for people thinking about switching to a new advisor. Here’s what they said:

Chris Mankoff, CFP® Journey > Time > Legacy | Empower Your Future

What should people do if they are unhappy with their current financial advisor?

The first step would be to make a list of your concerns with your current advisor, your expectations and goals for the relationship and assess if the advisor has met those expectations and goals. Once you have that information, the next step is to reach out and schedule a meeting to discuss your concerns. Be prepared to discuss all your concerns and have expectations for the meeting to assess if the advisor is still the right one for you.

Is it best to move straight on to another advisor or wait for a cooling off period before scouting around again? Perhaps some people are best suited to going it alone with their finances?

When making the decision to move on, one of the biggest factors is going to be weighing the opportunity costs for delaying and the unintended consequences of doing so. The markets and your portfolio will not wait for your decision and that can have a negative impact which can manifest itself very quickly especially during periods of increased market volatility. Some people may have the luxury of waiting during a bull market, but a bear market can certainly expedite the decision-making process.

For people deciding on whether to do it yourself, they should understand that managing and monitoring your investments will require a considerable time commitment as well as having a disciplined approach. Professional managers offer a considerable number of resources such as institutional level research, daily monitoring and disciplined investment strategies that can be difficult to replicate for individual investors. If you are willing to commit your time and the resources to managing your investments, then doing it alone may be right for you.

It seems plenty of people would like to fire their financial advisor but are afraid to. Why are people often intimidated by their financial advisors? Is there an imbalance in the power dynamic here?

In most cases, people have been with their advisor for a long time, and they feel a personal connection that is sometimes hard to look past. I would say that firing your advisor can feel a lot like firing a friend or family member and some people do not feel comfortable doing that. A lot of people will seek second or third opinions for healthcare, so why wouldn’t you do that for your financial health? At the end of the day, you are paying someone to provide you with a professional service and if they are not holding up their end of the agreement, then it is financially beneficially to make the decision to move on.

Most people do not have a background or a lot of experience when it comes to investing, so it is easy to assume that an advisor with experience and knowledge in the industry is the expert, which can certainly create a power dynamic throughout the advisory relationship. It can be intimidating when working with a certain type of advisors because they may portray themselves to be the experts, and it can be difficult to question whether they are in fact an expert.

I believe that a great advisor can remove any power dynamic by empowering their clients with education and knowledge, thus creating a balanced advisory relationship.

What should one do if the financial advisor tries to talk you out of leaving or does not politely comply with you after you’ve sent them a written notice that you wish to terminate your fiduciary relationship?

The best course of action is to follow your instinct and severe ties with the advisor or advisory firm. It should be expected that an attempt or several attempts will be made to change your decision because the advisor does not want to lose business. If there is an issue with terminating an advisory relationship and you have hired a new advisor, the new advisor should step in to help facilitate your request. If you have not hired a new advisor, then you can contact the client service department of the custodian where your assets are being held to transfer you accounts.

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Chris Mankoff, CFP® | JTL Wealth Partners

Stephanie McCullough Dedicated to women on their own who want a true partner in $$ decision-making.

What should people do if they are unhappy with their current financial advisor?

Definitely shop around. You really want to be clear what you want to get out of working with an advisor, because advisors work in many different ways and can offer a wide range of services – or merely do investments. Know that there are advisors who specialize in serving people with specific financial circumstances, for example women on their own, or young families, or people with equity compensation.

Is it best to move straight on to another advisor or wait for a cooling off period before scouting around again?

I think it depends on what your current advisor is doing. If they are employing a very active investment strategy with lots of changes, it might be best NOT to have your accounts unsupervised for a while – markets could change without someone adjusting. If it’s a broadly-diversified allocation of funds that don’t change much, I think it’s fine to fire your current advisor before you find someone new.

Perhaps some people are best suited to going it alone with their finances?

This is true – it depends what you’re hoping the advisor can do for you. If you feel OK doing your own investments or using a roboadvisor, you can hire a financial planner on an hourly basis to help with specific questions as-needed.

It seems plenty of people would like to fire their financial advisor, but are afraid to. THIS IS TRUE! Why are people often intimidated by their financial advisors? I DON’T KNOW – IT IS A SHAME. Is there an imbalance in the power dynamic here?

For one thing, people often don’t know they CAN fire their advisors! AND you don’t even have to speak with the advisor to do so. You can just leave. If your accounts are at a large custodian like Fidelity or TD Ameritrade, you can simply call that company and ask that your advisor be removed from the accounts. Your advisor will find out and likely contact you, but don’t feel obligated to answer!

If you’re nervous to have the conversation with your advisor, that might be a signal that it’s time to leave! Remember – it’s your money! You should feel comfortable talking about anything with your advisor (in my opinion).

What should one do if the financial advisor tries to talk you out of leaving or does not politely comply with you after you’ve sent them a written notice that you wish to terminate your fiduciary relationship?

You can initiate a transfer without your current advisor’s consent – in most cases I’ve seen, the current advisor does not have veto power over whether you can leave of not!

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Stephanie McCullough | Sofia Financial

Zack Swad, CFP®, CWS®, BFA™, AWMA®, AAMS® Retirement Planning for People Age 50+

What should people do if they are unhappy with their current financial advisor?

First, think about why you are unhappy. Was it something the advisor could have done better or was it something out of their control (e.g. market fluctuation)? If it was poor service or bad advice, then a conversation with your advisor about what you are unhappy about is called for. If after that call, you still are unhappy, then it is time to start searching for a new advisor.

Is it best to move straight on to another advisor or wait for a cooling off period before scouting around again? Perhaps some people are best suited to going it alone with their finances?

If you want a professional to help guide you through tumultuous markets and provide you advice, then it is best to search for another advisor. If you have the time, will, skill, and emotional fortitude to handle market swings, then by all means, do-it-yourself.

DALBAR has shown that on average, stock mutual fund investors return about 3-4% less per year than the S&P 500 with “investing and savings behavior” being the #1 reason why. That can make or break someone’s financial plan, which is why I believe having a good financial on your side is well worth the fee.

Vanguard has also done a study that shows that an advisor can add up to 3% returns for a client per year.

It seems plenty of people would like to fire their financial advisor, but are afraid to. Why are people often intimidated by their financial advisors? Is there an imbalance in the power dynamic here?

I think this is human nature. Financial advisors are typically in the relationship business. Their clients know, like, and trust them (well, maybe trusted them before they wanted to fire…). It feels bad for a client to fire their advisor they have been working with for years. It’s kind of like changing doctors after a misdiagnosis even though that doctor may have been helping you for years.

What should one do if the financial advisor tries to talk you out of leaving or does not politely comply with you after you’ve sent them a written notice that you wish to terminate your fiduciary relationship?

I believe that the client should speak with their advisor about their unhappiness. Try to see if they can make things right. If they can’t and they persist, that is completely unprofessional of the advisor. I would simply block their email address and phone number.

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Zack Swad, CFP®, CWS®, BFA™, AWMA®, AAMS® | Swad Wealth Management

Rob Lloyd, CFA Explainer of markets, plans and portfolios.

What should you do if you’re unhappy with your financial advisor?

Think about why you are unhappy with your adviser. Is it poor performance, irregular communication, high fees, or a misunderstanding? Most advisers want happy clients, so explaining why you are unhappy may easily fix the problem.

Best to move to another adviser?

It depends. Are you confidant you can manage all the portfolio decisions? If so, you are a candidate to self-manage your account. If you are not sure what you are doing, begin shopping for an advisor before leaving your old adviser. Still not sure? Here is an article I wrote about working with advisers: Why Work With An Adviser? (lloydsintrepid.com). There is a checklist for what to look for in a new adviser.

Don’t be afraid of you adviser. You are the customer, and the customer is always…

Dealing with difficult advisers:

Threaten to file a complaint with the compliance department or state regulator. That always gets people’s attention. Your new adviser can move all your account holdings to a different broker-dealer without any contact to the existing adviser. This process is helpful to avoid a difficult “break-up” meeting.

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Rob Lloyd, CFA | Lloyds Intrepid Wealth Management

Nathan Mueller, MBA We Help People of All Income Levels Accelerate Their Financial Prosperity!

If you are unhappy with your financial advisor I recommend communicating with your financial advisor about it if you think the situation can be improved. A tough conversation but that might be easier than having to find and move over to a new advisor.

If you just don’t jive with your financial advisor or for one reason or another the situation isn’t mendable then it’s time to move on.

When moving on from a financial advisor most will be professional about it. If the advisor after giving written notice and reasonable time to take action does not comply your next step should be filing a FINRA complaint. Then you will walk through their dispute resolution process.

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Nathan Mueller, MBA | Blackbird Finance

David Edmisten, CFP® Retire on Your Terms – Save on Taxes – Invest for Success

What should people do if they are unhappy with their current financial advisor?

First, it’s important to reflect on why you are unhappy with your current financial advisor.

Do they not communicate frequently enough, or in the manner that works best for you?

How well do they understand your needs and proactively work to meet these needs?

Are they providing clear answers to your most important questions?

Is the advisor being proactive to provide advice on areas you may have missed on your own?

How well do you understand the value your financial advisor is providing you?

Can you see direct benefits for your financial well-being by working with this advisor?

A financial advisor-client relationship is a professional engagement, so it is always best to extend professional courtesy and communicate openly with your advisor. You should feel comfortable expressing any concerns you have with the advisor and give them a chance to respond. It may be an oversight or small adjustment in service that can be corrected.

It is worth considering if your advisor specializes in helping clients just like you, or if they are spread out trying to help many different types of clients. You may get more benefit working with someone who is an expert in helping clients like yourself. You should find out if your advisor has a defined process for how they work with clients, with clear expectations for what they deliver, or if they tend to be more reactive in their approach.

However, if you feel that the issues are a direct result of the way in which the advisor manages their practice, it is ok to look for alternatives.

A good financial advisor should be able to communicate clearly and often. They should have a clear understanding of your needs and be working proactively to meet them. They should be anticipating changes and providing advice to help you make informed decisions. They should be able to clearly articulate the value they provide and demonstrate this value to you on an on-going basis throughout your relationship.

If your current advisor is not meeting your needs and is not able to provide the service you expect, you are always free to look for a new advisor.

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David Edmisten, CFP® | Next Phase Financial Planning

Erik Nero, CFP, CCFC Envision, plan for, and live your ideal life.

An excellent advisor provides their clients with guidance on how to create their vision of an ideal financial future and how to take the steps needed to achieve it. This is achieved by constantly providing relevant value. If that cannot be offered, then a change may be necessary. It is best to communicate first with the existing advisor regarding to see if the current relationship can be improved.

People generally look to avoid confrontation and firing your advisor can be very uncomfortable. Most advisor relationships die of neglect rather than failure. It is difficult to break up with someone that the client may have used for years, that they generally like and feel as though has done a good job. But if the advisor is no longer proactively exploring for what is relevant to the client, the risk of maintaining the relationship could outweigh keeping it. Especially when the existing advisor may be only focused on narrow aspects of a client’s life. There is much more to someone’s financial life than just investments and insurance.

If an advisor becomes an obstacle in a client making a change, this is evidence that the change needed to occur. This underscores the advisor’s focus on themselves rather than the client’s. Manipulation should never be part of any relationship.

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Erik Nero, CFP, CCFC | First Step Wealth Planning, LLC

Joe Dunat

The old definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. When you’ve come to a decision to move forward with switching financial advisors, it’s usually easier to have a plan.

Whether you are switching to someone whose values and communication style matches your own OR you’re looking to manage your investments yourself, have a plan in place. The transfer process is usually easy and it always amazes me when we bring over balances from another advisor how many times the person never even follows up with their former client.

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Joe Dunat | The Sturkie Wealth Management Group of Stratos Wealth Partners


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Ben Le Fort

About the Author

Ben Le Fort

Hi, my name is Ben. I am the founder of Making of a Millionaire. I have been obsessed with personal finance and learning how to manage money, ever since my parents declared bankruptcy and lost the family home to foreclosure in 2010.

I spent the next 10 years continuing my journey of educating myself about money. This education was both formal and informal.  

On formal education, I earned a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Finance & Economics. 

On the informal side, I consumed every book, video, blog post, and podcast that discussed personal finance.

Education was nice, but it wasn’t until I began implementing what I learned that I began feeling more hopeful about the future. 

Before long, I had paid off my first loan. Then the next. By 2015 I was debt-free. By 2016 my wife and I bought our first house. Then we started investing. We bought another house and began building real wealth.  

As our wealth grew, the memories of that family bankruptcy seemed further and further in the rear-view mirror. My stress and anxiety began to melt away and I was able to sleep at night without my mind racing and problem-solving.

By 2018 I knew it was time to start sharing what I learned about managing money and Making of a Millionaire was born.

I hope you find the articles, videos, and courses created by Making of a Millionaire to be of value to you. Please feel free to reach out to me directly if you ever have feedback or questions.

You can read all of my articles on my personal site, or on Medium. If you’re interested in video-based personal finance tutorials and education, you can Subscribe to my YouTube channel or check out my in-depth personal finance course.

Disclaimer: To make Wealthtender free for our readers, we earn money from advertisers, including financial professionals and firms that pay to be featured. This creates a natural conflict of interest when we favor their promotion over others. Wealthtender is not a client of these financial services providers. Learn how we operate with integrity to earn your trust.