The investments in the Thrift Savings Plan are relatively easy to understand and we do not have to deal with financial advisers in our TSP investments.  This is often not the case when we are investing outside the TSP.  Whether we are investing in an IRA or in a taxable brokerage account we may be dealing with a financial adviser and we should have questions about investments or other topics.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has a helpful brochure called Ask Questions available on its website https://www.sec.gov/reportspubs/investor-publications/investorpubsaskquestionshtm.html and it has numerous questions that you might want to ask any financial adviser that you are considering working with.  The questions that follow are adapted from the many that are in the SEC’s brochure.


About financial products:

Is this investment registered with the SEC and my state securities agency?

Why do you think this investment is suitable for me?

What fees are associated with this investment?

What risks are associated with this investment?

About mutual funds:

How has this fund performed over various periods of time?

What specific risks are associated with this fund?

How does this fund perform compared to its peers?

What fees are associated with this fund, including any sales fees?

About the adviser:

How and how much are you paid?

What training, experience and certifications do you have?

Have you ever been disciplined by the SEC, a state regulator or other organization (e.g., FINRA, etc.)?

Can you provide me with names and contact information of some of your long-term clients?

What do you know about federal retirement and benefits?

General questions:

How much am I paying in commission and fees?

How frequently will I receive statements?

How much money would I receive if I sold my investments today?

When you talk to your adviser, take notes.  The SEC has developed a form for taking notes of conversations with your broker or financial adviser.  It can be found at https://www.sec.gov/reportspubs/investor-publications/complaintcallformhtm.html.  Take the time to investigate not only your investments, but your investment adviser.