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The elusive second opinion: What to do if you want feedback on your investing

A secret wish of many DIY investors is to get an unbiased second opinion on their portfolio.

In a hot stock market like we have now, we’re all genius investors. But realists know the test of smart DIY investing is to consistently generate the returns you need over long periods of time. If you have doubts about that, a second opinion makes sense.

Unfortunately, our current investing landscape is mostly a second-opinion desert. Among the few exceptions is the new Portfolio Health Check from BMO adviceDirect, an online investing service for people that blends the solo DIY experience with input from an adviser..

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Let’s be clear – the adviceDirect Portfolio Health Check is a sales promotion. I tried a quick analysis and was told to contact an adviceDirect adviser to get specific information on one aspect of the health check. But there’s still enough there to be of use to investors wondering if their portfolio really gels.

To get a health check, you have to provide some details about how big your portfolio is and what you own (you don’t have to sign up for anything or give an e-mail address). Using the information you supply, adviceDirect assesses your exposure to both cash, stocks and fixed bonds. Attention is also paid to whether you might own too much of one particular security or have too much exposure to a particular sector.

This is all rudimentary stuff you could do yourself. But with newbies flooding into DIY investing these days, it’s a done deal that many are riding the wave and not thinking about the future much. A portfolio health check, simplistic as it is, is better than flying blind into the next market downturn.

A far better portfolio analysis is available from a service called Wealthscope for $99.95 per year via a fintech company called Wealthica that offers account aggregation. You could view what’s happening in accounts at multiple firms on Wealthica and then have Wealthscope assess your overall performance, downside risk, fees and diversification. Wealthscope is available to clients of the online broker Virtual Brokers at no additional cost.

Another thought on second opinions – some fee-for-service financial planners will perform them for a flat or hourly fee, which means you’ll get a view free of conflicts that arise when there’s incentive for someone to find something wrong with your portfolio. However, many planners of this type are limited by regulators in what they can discuss. Basic issues of mixing stocks and bonds and a general discussion of pros and cons for various product categories, but not specific securities.

Finally, you can always do a “second opinion investments” search on google. You’ll find articles by me and other financial journalists, plus many hits from investment advisers offering this service. There’s not much point in asking an adviser for a second opinion when there’s so much financial incentive to provide a frowny, tsk-tsk analysis of your portfolio.

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