Mark Lister

If you think your financial adviser is there to be a great stock picker or to predict where the market is going next, you’re mistaken.

In fact, if they claim to be able to do such things, you should probably run a mile. That’s exactly what you don’t need from someone tasked with looking after your wealth.

I’ll let you in on a secret – no investment professional knows where interest rates, the currency or the sharemarket are going next. Not with any accuracy, at least.

We all have our views, but your guess is probably as good as ours.

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That doesn’t mean you should fire your adviser tomorrow and go your own way. But it might suggest you need to better understand the crucial role they play in helping you achieve your goals.

Rather than being a financial clairvoyant, a good adviser specialises in risk management. They will focus on putting together your portfolio in a way that makes it sturdy enough to withstand whatever market conditions come your way.

A well-constructed set of investments, tailored to your own specific needs and risk profile, and based on sound, disciplined investment principles is by far the best thing you can do to maximise your future returns.

A good adviser will put a lot of emphasis on this from the very beginning, and they’ll start by making sure you have a clear picture of what your specific investment goals are.

Are you investing for retirement, as a legacy for the kids and grandkids, or both?

When do you want to retire, what sort of lifestyle are you hoping for, and how much will be enough to achieve that?

Are you looking for income, long-term capital growth, or stability and predictability?

These are the big questions they’ll help you get to grips with and find the answers to. Once you know where you’re going, they’ll come up with a strategy and a portfolio to help get you there.

Most important of all, they’ll make sure that you stick to it.

A good adviser is the gatekeeper - or maybe more accurately, the bouncer - to any bad ideas that might try and get in the door. Trust me, there’ll be a few of those.

There’s likely to come a time, probably more than once on your investing journey, when you will be on the precipice of making a poor decision. Maybe even one that will cause permanent, irreversible damage.

There's always a bandwagon to jump on, someone trying to sell you something you don’t need, or the temptation to panic and run for the hills at precisely the wrong time.

This is when your adviser will come into their own. They will ensure your investment portfolio remains fully aligned with your long-term plan, regardless of what is going on around you.

It is their one job.

They are not here to predict where the S&P 500 is headed, whether Fletcher Building will outperform Spark, or any other trivialities of the market that will have little bearing on your nest egg in 2046.

There are many other much more important qualities to look for when entrusting your savings to someone.

They are a behavioural coach, an educator and a business partner. They will keep you on the straight and narrow, tell you when one of your bright ideas is a terrible one, and rein you in if you’re beginning to stray a little too far from the path.

Make sure you understand the true worth of good investment advice, and what it is you’re paying for.