Tips to Help You Pay Attention to Your Finances

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By Cristina Wiebelt-Smith, Associate Wealth Advisor

I want to tell you about a money mistake I made in my 20s well before my days as a financial advisor. After leaving my first job, I rolled my 401(k) over to a broker recommended by a friend. A few years later, when we wanted to make contributions to the account, he came to our house and was very friendly. Looking back, I didn’t know what to expect after that, but I did expect the money to be invested.

I left it to him and probably shredded my statements without looking at them because I knew we had a long road ahead of us. At some point, when I did look through my statement, I saw our $10,000 sitting in cash – and it had been sitting for over a year. I called and didn’t get an explanation or apology, but they did finally invest the money. I could’ve kicked myself for not checking on it sooner!

The Missing Advisor

After that, the account changed hands as brokers came and went and companies changed. During all of this, I never got a phone call, never had a portfolio review meeting and had no contact of any sort.

Before we moved to St. Joseph, I decided to consolidate our accounts, since I had to roll my 401(k) over. I moved everything to a different advisor. At the first meeting, the advisor I met was certainly friendly and went through the steps to financial freedom. After that: crickets. I called a few times over 10 years with some questions, but other than that, there wasn’t any contact initiated by the advisor.

I didn’t realize that personalized meetings once or more a year, client events, proactive planning and random acts of kindness are the norm for some advisors until I came to Gertsema. Ironically, about six months after starting at Gertsema, my advisor’s office called to schedule an annual meeting. It was the first one in 10 years!  I really had to laugh – I let them know I was moving my accounts.

Taking Personal Responsibility

I do take responsibility for this. I should have paid closer attention to my statements and asked more questions, but I thought that’s why I was paying a professional. When you look for an advisor, do some research, interview several people, ask them how often they meet with clients and ask what a portfolio review looks like. What can you expect from them, and do they follow through? I had no expectations, and that was a mistake.

Three Things to Do Now

There’s something really simple I could have done, and I would recommend, especially if you’re still working and/or have changed jobs. Make sure your money is invested. Just because you’ve contributed to an account doesn’t mean it’s being invested and managed properly.

  • Log into your accounts or pull your last statements out for all of your 401(k), 403(b) and/or IRA accounts.
  • Look at the details of the holdings and pay attention to anything in cash or money markets. This money is not invested.
  • Is this amount sitting in cash for a specific purpose? Did you expect to see this specific amount uninvested? Is it appropriate for your goals? Maybe you’ve told your advisor about needing cash for an upcoming trip or large home repair, and the account does make sense.

This will save you from kicking yourself in two years like I was. If you’re not getting the value you deserve, the advice you’re looking for or a personalized plan, give us a call – we’d love to talk to you!

We had someone come in this week who might retire next year and wants to make sure everything is in order. She wants a second opinion on her accounts that are with another advisor. It can’t hurt, especially when this is the money that will fund your retirement years and help you live out some of the things for which you’ve been waiting and planning.

Schedule my no-obligation consultation.



This piece is not intended to provide specific legal, tax, or other professional advice. For a comprehensive review of your personal situation, always consult with a tax or legal advisor.

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