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Are you looking for a financial advisor? There are many good ones out there. The best will attest to helping their clients save by making the right investment choices based on the risks they are willing to take. Regardless, it is still very difficult to evaluate a potential financial advisor.
Most of them are no longer strictly independent. They usually work for respected companies such as Raymond James, Vanguard and Northwestern Mutual. They get their research from corporate factories of economists and market analysts. They are told, based on certain risk factors that they assign to their clients, where to place their clients’ money. The reputable ones are paid on asset value, so the more your portfolio goes up, the more money they make. The industry is pretty vanilla.
Related: 8 considerations when choosing your financial advisor
However, everyone should have a financial advisor, especially if you own a business. That’s because there are too many financial decisions to make, which are probably beyond our expertise. But how do you make this choice? What is the best way to really determine if your person is the right person or not?
That’s easy for me. I’m just doing a simple test. You should also give it a try. Just ask the financial advisor if they own or lease their vehicle. If the answer is “lease,” here’s my advice: don’t use that financial advisor.
Why? Because leasing a vehicle is a straight black and white test of one’s financial acumen. If the advisor owns the vehicle, then that advisor is financially smart. If the advisor is hiring, then you may need to move on. It’s that simple.
Of course, leasing has its advantages. Every two or three years you get a brand new car. You don’t have to worry about ever wanting to sell it. If you own a business, you can usually deduct the full payment on a lease car, assuming it is used entirely for business purposes. You can save on repairs and maintenance in the long run. But even with these benefits, the numbers don’t lie: If you lease a car, you’ll be spending way too much money over time.
To prove it, here are some numbers to consider over a 20-year period using a very simplified approach.
Let’s assume you buy a new car for $40,000.
Using this calculator, and with current interest rates (almost 10%!), 5% sales tax, and a three-year lease (assuming no down payment), you’ll pay about $1,300 per month. This means that 20 years from now, assuming no inflation or change in interest rates, you would be paying 240 months of lease payments for a total of $312,000, excluding additional financing charges or mileage fees.
But suppose you buy the car for $40,000. And let’s say you get a three-year bank loan just like your lease. Using this calculator and the same assumptions above, your monthly payments would also total about $1,300. But when the three years are up, you own the car. According to reports like this one, the average life of a new vehicle is about 150,000 miles or eight years. So that means that over a 20-year period you would pay 108 months in loan payments or a total of about $140,000.
This means you will pay about $172,000 more over the same period if you lease. Think about what you could earn with that amount if it were invested rather than transferred to a leasing company.
You could say that the longer you have a car, the higher your maintenance and repair costs will be as it ages and it is true. But insurance costs are also going down. And if you own a car, you own an asset, and even a car with 150,000 miles on it has a trade-in value that would likely offset much of the extra maintenance costs you’d incur. And if you buy the car for your business, you can take advantage of accelerated depreciation rules and realize tax benefits much sooner than making lease payments over time.
To me, it’s a no-brainer that owning a vehicle makes much more financial sense than leasing, which brings me back to your financial advisor. I recently spoke with a financial advisor who came to our meeting in a new BMW. I think the point was to show how successful he is. And maybe he is. But after he confirmed to me that he had indeed leased that vehicle, I knew this was not the man for me.
I don’t want my financial advisor to drive a flashy lease car. I want my financial advisor to drive an older vehicle. But you do too.