The intuitive answer to this question is actually the correct one -- he probably cannot. One of the most important items any client needs to understand fully about any financial product or advice offering is this one -- how EXACTLY does the person offering it get compensated. Although some compensation methods have fuzzy boundaries, there are three primary ways an advisor or agent makes money. One is by fees paid directly from clients to the advisor, another is by fees and/or commissions paid to the advisor by the investment products a client puts money into, and the last one is by a salary and/or bonus paid to the advisor by their employer. It could also be some combination of the above, but regardless of the answer, you can be certain that they are recommending the product to you because they are getting paid to do so. It cannot be overstated how important it is for every client to understand this critical part of the client/advisor relationship. There are pros and cons to each form of compensation, but the advisor or agent should be able to explain these to you clearly and in detail before you put one dollar in the product they are recommending.
Questions to ask, better in writing:
What are the internal expenses for the investments? What is his or her commission? When can I get out of the product?
This last question is very important. You may find that you can not get out of the product for some number of years (5, 7, 10, 12). There is often a contingent deferred sales charge if you get out prior to the date spelled out in the contract or fund prospectus.
The up-front commission could be 5%-over 10%. You are correct in assuming nothing is free, but rather the costs are hidden in the contract or prospectus.
I once worked for free too, but got meals and housing in return. Of course, that was when I was 12 years old! In the financial services field, all workers get paid via salary, commission, bonuses, or some combination. These either come from the client directly (pay by the hour, retainer, per financial plan, or based on assets managed) or from commissions paid to the sales person from the money invested at specific companies (think insurance companies and mutual funds). I would strongly suggest interviewing a few other advisors, fee only fiduciaries if available in your area, to discuss the recommendations of your current insurance agent. Take your time and you'll make the best decision.
You mentioned "Insurance Agent". And it sounds like he is recommending an insurance product or annuity These products pays the agent or broker and commission ( and maybe and "override") As of this writing this amount does not need to be disclosed according to the law.
It all depends on what investment is being referred to. Whether it's an annuity or life insurance or any other type of investment there are always fees and commissions generated, either directly or indirectly. The question here that needs to be asked of your advisor is; if he/she is an insurance agent, a broker, or a Series 65 licensed investment advisor with a fiduciary obligation. The next question that should be asked; is how he/she is compensated, commission or fees, or a combination of both. The next question would be; who pays those commissions and fees to the said advisor, is it the financial institution or the consumer? Regardless, commissions and fees will be paid either directly or indirectly. In my opinion, you should always work with a firm like mine that has a fiduciary obligation to the consumer.
He is a lair or a fool - or is lying and thinks you are a fool. Just ask him if he is playing with words (fees versus commissions versus underwriting concession) then go find a world class advisor that doesn't play games. I would be insulted.
Hi Toni, All good answers above. Remember, every dollar you place somewhere has a cost associated with it, nothing is free. You used the word "sell," everything is for sale, the real question is what is it you want to buy and for what reason are you making the commitment. Your personal commitment to your future is what you need to think about. Once you have that outlined, then plan with the appropriate financial products that will get you there, with an advisor who is on YOUR team to guide you toward your accomplishments.
Wow, I wonder how the insurance company can: afford to be in business. Usually there are expenses associated with an insurance company.
We all like a good deal. But if it sounds too good to be true than it probably is. That wisdom has never changed. Don't you just love it that everything in this world is so free? Go to H&R Block for free tax preparation. Have a company 401k plan that never charges you any money. The reality is simple: It costs money to design, produce, distribute and service any type of tangible or intangible product or service. Let's not kid ourselves. Somebody's paying. How else are all those insurance agents, financial service sales people and their corporate home offices paying the rent, lights and benefits?
The one thing that a consumer can control is costs in any transactions. Unfortunately, too often you are presented with obscure, non-transparent products that never clearly tell you how someone is getting paid.
This is at the heart of the debate between a "fiduciary" standard and a "suitability" standard: the disclosure of conflicts of interest that may result from compensation.
So bottom line: Get it in writing.