Good financial advice leaves you better off. Bad advice does the opposite, and may even enrich someone else at your expense.
Here are some areas where you need to be particularly careful to seek out good advice, since bad advice can be so costly.
Most financial advisers aren’t required to put your best interests first. They’re allowed to recommend investments that cost more or perform worse than available alternatives. Why would they do that? Because the inferior investments pay them or their employers more than the better ones.
This kind of conflicted advice takes a heavy toll. White House economic advisers estimated in 2015 that conflicted advice cost Americans $17 billion a year and resulted in losses of one percentage point per year for affected investors.
One percentage point may not seem like a lot, but over time it adds up. Someone who contributes $5,000 a year to a retirement fund could have nearly $1 million at the end of a 40-year working career if the average net return is 7 percent. If higher costs reduce the return to 6 percent, the nest egg would total about $775,000.