Ask Questions, Take Notes
When considering an investment, the North Dakota Securities Department recommends asking tough questions and taking detailed notes about the investment professional and your investment opportunity.
Before opening an account with an investment professional, asking questions should be an integral part of an investor's decision-making process. The same way a car buyer kicks the tires when considering an automobile, an investor should ask questions, such as:
- What services do you offer?
- What licenses, registrations, qualifications, and experience do you have to offer these services?
- Are you a broker-dealer agent, investment adviser representative, financial planner or any combination thereof?
- Can you provide me with your Central Registration Depository (CRD) number, and, if not, why not?
- Are you required to always act in my best interest?
- Do you have any potential conflicts of interest when providing me with investment advice?
- How are you paid? Explain commissions or fees you may charge.
Informed decisions must be based on detailed information and if the company or individual avoids questions or cannot give reasonable answers, investors should be wary of the opportunity presented. Be aware that these questions are not exhaustive, and the answers will likely raise additional questions you will want answered before you decide to entrust the professional with your money.
Be suspicious if your investment services provider:
- Refuses to provide you with his or her CRD number
- Cannot explain to you how a proposed financial product is intended to make money
- Suggests that you take out a mortgage or reverse mortgage on your home in order to invest
- Recommends that you cash out current holdings (such as life insurance or retirement accounts) to fund other investments
- Ignores your financial objectives
- Pressures you to invest your money today
- Tells you to keep an investment opportunity secret
In addition to asking questions, investors should take notes at all stages of their investment. From the initial introduction, through the sales pitch, to the signing of contracts, and all during the life of the investment, an investor should keep notes of every event relating to their investment. Often times if an investment goes bad, investors struggle to recreate the history of their investment or remember exactly what was promised, guaranteed, implied, or suggested to them. Taking notes helps track the investment and document wrongdoing if it occurs.
NASAA's Investor Notepad will make it easy for you to take notes of your conversation with your broker or investment adviser representative. Remember to keep the notes you take in your file.