A Hairy Problem


Hi Scott,

Your latest column about Hairy Maclary and expensive super funds really put the cat among the pigeons in our house. Our financial adviser (who we like) has us with AMP (among a slew of other retirement-related accounts), and we are finding it hard to see through all the smoke and mirrors to get to the fees so we can feel secure. Can you suggest a few questions that are polite but will still get us to the information we need?


Scott's Answer

Hi Chris,

Would you let your plumber charge you an extra $1,000 to fit a tap simply because he asked after your grandkids?

Of course you wouldn’t!

Yet the fact that you’re having to “see through all the smoke and mirrors to get to the fees” tells me that you need to get out the planner plunger … your thinking is blocked!

If I were in your situation, I’d write him the following email:

Dear (advisor’s name)

I was reading the newspaper the other day and I was shocked to read that the majority of funds underperform the averages each year. That made me think that I should contact you and ask how all my funds are going. So can you please do the following three things for me:

  1. Print us a statement that clearly shows my annual percentage return since we began, net of fees.
  2. Benchmark our return against the relevant accumulation index for the same period.
  3. Provide me with an itemised list of fees (expressed in both dollars and percentages). Include any and all ongoing fees, commissions and administrative costs that I’m charged.

After we have this information, it would be great to sit down and discuss it all.


I’m sure you’ll find his reply surprising, especially to question two. My view is that the best way to boost your investment returns is by lowering your costs. If your advisor is working in your best interests, he’ll agree with you. The only reason the conversation will be awkward is if he’s not!