What to do if that financial plan you paid thousands of dollars for disappoints

One of the most positive developments in the world of money over the past decade has been the rise of financial planning done transparently for a fixed or hourly fee.

But providing financial plans is a service like accounting or providing legal advice, and sometimes the client isn’t happy with what they get for the $1,500 to $5,000 cost of a plan. Then what ?

Answering this question brings us back to a first tip when choosing a planner: make sure your planner is properly accredited. There are three main planning designations and each reviews complaints against people holding their credentials, with possible disciplinary action.

But these are the worst results. The first steps are to contact your planner, explain why you are unhappy with their work, and talk about it. If that doesn’t have the desired effect, try the planner boss.

“Don’t keep how you feel to yourself,” said Rona Birenbaum, a seasoned Certified Financial Planner (CFP) who leads a busy nine-person team of fee-for-service planners. “No service provider wants an unhappy customer, whether it’s an accountant, a lawyer, or whoever.”

Ms. Birenbaum said she was not surprised when I contacted her asking for complaints. The demand for paid planning has increased a lot, which means more clients and more results both good and bad. Additionally, some planning companies are struggling to keep up with demand. This increases the chance that a busy planner will make mistakes, miss details, or fail to meet expectations.

“Delivering a plan is not a black and white exercise,” Ms. Birenbaum said. “There are many different ways to get to the end result, and some processes are more aligned with customer expectations than others.”

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A reader of the Carrick on Money e-newsletter recently asked what someone should do if they were unhappy with a financial plan received from a fee-for-service planner. It’s a first. I’ve been writing about this type of planning for over a decade, but it’s only now that a dissatisfied client has spoken.

I invited people into my Twitter community to comment on this reader question and ended up hearing a few more complaints from planner clients. A sampling of issues: A financial plan that did nothing more than consolidate basic information provided by the client into a slick folder, a planner that “forgot” that a client was in a defined benefit pension, and another planner who used incorrect calculations that were caught by the client.

If you speak to a planner or planning company about your dissatisfaction with a plan, be specific about the shortcomings and ask what can be done to correct them. Planners use software to produce plans and a better outcome may be possible by simply changing the data or assumptions used.

A next step in the complaint is to contact the organization that oversees your planner’s credentials. For CFPs, go to FP Canada; for Registered Financial Planners (RFPs), go to the Institute of Advanced Financial Planners; for personal finance planners (PFP), try the Canadian Securities Institute, which oversees PFP and many investment designations.

In FP Canada’s most recent annual report, for 2020, the top five complaint allegations against planners were related to diligence (e.g. asking appropriate questions), integrity, counterfeiting/tampering, putting clients’ interests first and personal conduct. If a matter proceeds to a hearing, FP Canada has the authority to issue a letter of reprimand, suspend or revoke a planner’s certification.

FP Canada receives about 100 complaints a year and about 20% typically go to a hearing, said Damienne Lebrun-Reid, the organization’s executive director of standards and certification. Other cases can be solved by asking the planner and the client to work things out.

“I encourage people who have a complaint to come and see us,” said Ms. Lebrun-Reid. “We understand the nature of complaints and can interact with the public to help them through the process.”

Ms. Lebrun-Reid said FP Canada accepts complaints of all types, including those related to pure planning and those related to investment matters involving planners licensed to sell securities. However, she said clients with investment-related complaints might also want to contact bodies that regulate advisers, such as the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada, the Mutual Fund Dealers Association and provincial securities commissions. securities.

Dissatisfaction with a financial plan is something that can develop over time. A suggestion to ensure the relevance of your plan is to inform your planner of changes in your personal situation and, if necessary, to suggest a revision of the plan and its assumptions.

“No plan will play out the way it’s modeled, that’s for sure,” Ms. Birenbaum said. “There are far too many variables that can steer a plan in a different direction than any assumptions.”

One more step to fostering a good experience with a planner is to make sure you’re dealing with someone reputable. New legislation in Ontario will require planners to have an approved accreditation, which will help. You can conduct a background check on CFPs by checking their background on the Find a Planner page of the FP Canada website (fpcanada.ca/findaplanner). Profiles for each CFP indicate whether they are in good standing and whether they have a disciplinary history.

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