Excessive fees – “a tax on smart people who don’t realise their propensity for doing stupid things”

30 July 2017

reading time:  minutes

I highly recommend the recent episode of the Freakonomics podcast, “The Stupidest Thing You Can Do With Your Money”

It talks about the exorbitant fees that many investment advisers (and some financial advisers) charge clients.

These fees are characterised as “a tax on smart people who don’t realise their propensity for doing stupid things”. A Nobel laureate explains that many organisations are “charging people for stuff [they] can’t deliver”. This message is close to my heart, because I see one of my roles as a financial adviser is to ensure clients don’t pay unnecessary fees.

The podcast includes excerpts from Eugene Fama, Ken French, and Jack Bogle. It also includes a cameo from Anthony Scaramucci. 

The only criticism I have of the episode is that it confounds the roles of financial advisers and investment managers. As I explain often, picking stocks (investment management, which is what this podcast is really about) and developing strategies to help clients achieve their financial and lifestyle goals (which is what a good financial adviser does) are very different things.

I’m a huge advocate of low-fee, index-based funds. I advise clients to put the money into funds like this. I help clients work out which of these funds to use, and how much they should expose themselves to the different asset classes that these funds allow them to invest in. But at the end of the day, where you put your money is only part of the equation of organising your financial affairs to ensure you meet your financial and lifestyle goals and manage your risks. 


financial advice, indexfunds, investing, podcast

About the author 

Sonnie Bailey

Sonnie provides financial planning services via his business, Fairhaven Wealth (www.fairhavenwealth.co.nz). Fairhaven Wealth provides independent, advice-only, fixed-fee financial planning services. Sonnie is also a “recovering lawyer”: he has specialised in financial services, trusts, and estate planning.

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