Today’s topic is financial advice, but before I say a word on the subject, let me inform you that I’m not—I repeat, not—a financial planner, nor have I ever been one. And in my lifetime I’ve never hired one. For the past half-century the investment advice I’ve relied upon comes from the face in my mirror. Though at times the counsel proved less than astute, one thing I’ve never doubted: The face in the mirror always has my best interests at heart.

As you might guess, I’m inclined to advocate that each of us choose ourselves as financial advisor. In reality, however, many persons cannot rely upon themselves to oversee their investments. Whatever reasons may be given, it invariably comes down to a matter of temperament. Supervising an investment program requires a systematic mindset, a degree of personal discipline, and orientation to detail. Most certainly it helps to be compulsive. Individuals lacking these traits, and who normally perform the function badly, are the logical clients for the financial professionals. It’s from this circumstance that problems arise.

To state it bluntly, few financial advisors will serve you well. If they’re commission-compensated, expect recommendations which generate for them the largest commissions. For the fee-based variety, with remuneration dictated by a percentage paid on controlled assets, your counselor will normally endorse whatever results in the maximum dollar value of assets. And don’t expect enhanced performance because your overseer is licensed, registered or certified. These devices are mere window-dressing. Comedian Mel Brooks most accurately described certified: “You’re a nice guy; we like you; you’re certified.”

I’ll leave you with this final thought: Ideally, your advisor shouldn’t profit unless you do. However, as members of the advisory trade do not operate this way, there’s usually nowhere else to go. If you suspect the face in your mirror is not quite up to the task, your best bet is a financially astute friend or relative who provides counsel gratis, often inviting you to join in as a fellow investor. I’ve involved myself in this fashion for many years and it works well.