There was a recent discussion in the blogosphere and on internet forums about whether docs are better served by an adviser who specializes in physicians. I summarize the discussion below.
Rick Ferri, a professional investment manager, posted a blog recently giving his investing advice for doctors. He's a good guy, and usually gives solid advice, so I recommend a read. The basic gist is that there is little special about physicians that requires a specialized adviser and that like most financial advisers, doctors who become financial advisers are just ripping you off. As with all financial advice, buyer beware. An excerpt below:
I have sympathy for doctors. They are hounded by the financial services industry from the day they leave medical school. They’re showered with invitations to attend free seminars, special events, and even gain access to special investment opportunities that are “just for doctors.”
Every broker, financial advisor and insurance agent wants a piece of the doctor market. They all claim to have something special to offer, but that’s a tough sell. The financial services industry is fairly homogeneous with little separating one advisor from another — except cost and experience. Read more here
For an opposing viewpoint, check out this recent thread from Bogleheads.org, particularly these posts from financial advisers specializing in physicians:
A fee only advisor that handles predominantly physicians has a definite advantage for their clients. Although physicians can in some ways be similar to other upper middle class income clients, they in fact do often have some specific concerns and problems. At the top is malpractice liability. This risk is high and constant, and makes asset protection issues very important. Asset protection issues touch on the titling of property, other insurance coverage and especially, estate planning. An advisor that deals regularly with these inter-active issues will usually offer unique and valuable advice.
As a fee-only financial advisor who has spent the past 15+ years serving the needs of physician families, I agree with much of what has been said here. Specifically, I agree that the *investing* needs of physicians are no different than the needs of anyone else who has above average income.
However, there seems to be an implicit assumption that all financial advisors do is render investment advice. There is more to financial success than investing well.
Everything else advisors do might easily be categorized as “financial planning”, including advice and guidance regarding insurance, taxes, estate planning, banking, budgeting, major purchases, etc.
Money touches almost every aspect of a person's life, so good financial advice should be based on a person's life, not merely their investments.
I have personally dealth with the major life events that physicians and their families face: birth, death, marriage, divorce, practice buy-ins, malpractice suit, bankruptcy, identity theft, embezzlement, and yes, even retirement. I can assure you that every one of these events contains at least one wrinkle or nuance that an unspecialized advisor might miss, and in some cases, there are substantial issues that might slide by unspecialized advisors.
Physicians have their own culture, politics, communication style, family dynamics and outlook on life that lead them to either accept or reject advice that might help them build, maintain or enjoy financial success. So the delivery of the advice is as crucial as the content of the advice.
So if you are a physician and you're looking for advice, look for a specialist. But be warned: the real thing is rare. Most advisors who “specialize in serving doctors” have nothing more than a specialization in *marketing* to doctors, and those of us who are true specialists are selecting our clients as carefully as they are selecting us.
Unfortunately, now it is your turn to make a decision. You can do it yourself, get advice from a physician-specific adviser, or find an adviser who doesn't necessarily specialize in doctors. My take is that it is more important that your adviser is low cost and gives solid advice than that he specializes in physicians. I, like many of you, have been ripped off by an adviser who claimed he was a specialist. That being said, if you can get a solid, low-cost adviser that is also intimately familiar with physician-specific issues, why not use him/her? As usual, if you decide to use an adviser, follow these tips to ensure you're not getting ripped off.
Disclosure- The three individuals quoted above earn their living giving advice and/or managing investments for others including physicians and so have natural financial conflicts of interest on this subject. I don't have a financial relationship with any of them.
What do you think? Is a physician-specific advisor worthwhile? How much more would you pay each year to have one? Comment below!