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Some musings on terms that seem to be hovering over our national consciousness. Not sure if this is something that pertains to the financial services industry, but maybe it does. Trust is an interesting adjective or quality to describe. Is it a concept we are walking away from in our society?

Over the last 2 years, we have heard a lot about “fake news” and brand building, especially on the political front. In our industry, the SEC put out an investor alert earlier this year warning the public to be aware of what it reads about investment products on social media, investment newsletters, internet chat rooms, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, and many other venues. The SEC warned the public that what they read and see may not be independent and objective viewpoints. More fake news!

So, what about brand building? As I think back over the last year on our national scene and our elected officials, we have seen them stake out a position and then take action or make a statement that conflicts with that position. You might understand this if it was a rare event. However, we have seen a lot of this over the last few months, along with blame deflection and\or a reluctance to stand up and accept responsibility for failed efforts. This is not the way for a politician or a brand to build an image or to be authentic, and authenticity establishes trust.

So, what does this have to do with picking a financial advisor? How do you pick a good financial advisor? Even if he has an alphabet set of credentials behind his name can you trust him? A CFP® can just as easily sell you a high commission variable annuity as a ‘rookie” in the business.

My suggestion is that you ask the following questions to test for authenticity when you interview a Financial Advisor:

  • What are your basic beliefs about investing and the markets?
  • How are YOU saving for retirement?
  • How do you make contributions to your retirement funds?
  • How do you run your household budget? How do you track expenses?
  • How are you saving for your children’s college educations?
  • What values are important in your family?

These broad stroke questions and the responses you get from a Financial Advisor are going to tell you a lot about the person who wants to manage your money. It may be a great way to avoid “fake news” on some of the most important aspects of your life.

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Peter B. Smith is a Family Wealth Advisor at the Planning Solutions Group in Fulton, MD ( and is an Annapolis resident. He can be reached at 301-543-6008 or by email at