Business Maverick


Beware of financial advice that does not add investment value

Beware of financial advice that does not add investment value
(Photo: Pressfotoc / Freepik) pressfoto on Freepik

You can expect to pay for a service if value is clearly added. But consider the investment timeframe and how the fees stack up before signing on the dotted line.

Question: I am 28 years old and met with an insurance broker who suggested that I make a regular monthly investment. He gave me a quote on an investment that targets a return of inflation plus 2.5%. When I read through the document, I noticed that it has the following costs:

  • Initial financial planning fee: 3.45%;
  • Total investment charge: 1.62%; and
  • Ongoing financial planning fee: 1.15%

Am I right in saying that even if my investment meets its targeted return, it will be worth less than I invested?

Answer: You are correct. The costs will consume any growth in the investment.

I often come across situations like this. In fact, I recently came across one worse than this, where the investment was funded via a stop order for which an extra 2.5% was charged.

There are a few things to look out for when investing, and I will run through them to help you ask the right questions.

Timeframe of the investment

If your investment timeframe is short, then the targeted return of inflation plus 2.5% would be fine. If, however, you’re investing for a longer term, then you should be looking for an investment return that is higher. I like to use the following model to set return expectations:

  • Timeframe of less than two years = targeted return at inflation rate
  • Timeframe of two to five years = targeted return of inflation plus 3%
  • Timeframe of more than five years = targeted return of inflation plus 5%

The longer the investment timeframe, the higher your return expectations should be. The higher your targeted return, the greater the chance of your investment losing money over the shorter term, as investments go up and down all the time. However, over the longer period the investment should go up.


The fees on this investment are outrageous. The amounts charged are out of line with the potential growth on the portfolio and the value added by the financial planner.

In setting up an investment, the planner should have done a financial needs analysis for you. They should have identified the most appropriate investment structure and taken the current and future tax implications of your investment into account.

If your investment is incorrectly structured, you can end up paying far too much income tax. This is the most common mistake I come across when looking at investments that people have set up themselves.

A skilled financial planner would have added significant value here, and one would expect to pay for the service. The payment can be in the form of a consulting fee, or as an initial fee on the investment. The typical initial fee charged here does appear to be on the high side.

Your financial adviser should monitor your investment and recommend any changes. Again, this is a service that should be paid for. In this instance, 1.15% does seem to be on the high side.

As costs are easily measured, this element can become the main focus of an investment. By focusing solely on costs, you can miss out on growth. There are some portfolios I use that are expensive, but their track record is good, and the returns they deliver after costs significantly beat the after-cost performance of a cheap alternative fund.

We do not mind paying for a service if value is clearly added. In the example you cited, it does not look like there is any value being added and I would recommend that you get a proposal from someone else. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Peter Wentworth says:

    I’m not a registered investment advisor. I am a pensioner, and a long-time DIY investor. Check out the RSA Retail Bond web site. No fees at all. Minimum bond amount is R1000. You can buy another bond whenever you have the cash. Returns are good at the moment: a 5-year fixed interest bond currently offers 10.75%p.a. (they revise this rate monthly). That should beat your target of inflation+2.5%.

    Or you can buy a 10-year inflation-linked bond at CPI+5.25%. This offer rate is revised every six months. (But once you buy the bond, your return is fixed for the 10 years.)

    Couple that to the fact that the investment is very low risk (unless the government defaults), and the earnings are “interest” in nature. You’ll pay no tax at all on the first R23800 of annual interest you earn. (The interest exemption is higher after you reach 65.)

    Investment advisors don’t always tell clients about this “cheap, low-risk, good-return” choice because, of course, it is intended as a DIY easy-to-buy-on-your-own-on-the-web-site or at a Post Office.

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