If you're getting good returns and like your financial adviser, why change?

DEAR BRUCE: When we retired 12 years ago in Florida, we went to the local bank to deposit some cash we had at that time. While there, we were introduced to a senior vice president who offered to be our financial adviser and to manage our 401(k). We relocated all amounts from previous jobs to that bank and live comfortably. Once a year, the bank sends the required minimum distribution to our checking account. We use part of this to travel abroad, repair cars, maintain the home and buy gifts for grandchildren. Life has been good to us, considering we were born in the former Soviet Union.

We understand that we are supposed to pay for the service to manage our money in mutual funds that our financial adviser selects at our twice-yearly meetings. We've never discussed that amount, and we took for granted a necessity to pay.

All went smoothly until our younger nephew came to visit. He discovered that we are paying an unreasonable amount, in his opinion, to the service and suggested relocating our money into an index fund where charges are almost nonexistent (he says).

We are at a loss. We can't manage our money without help from an adviser, and we understand that asking him to put our 401(k) into an index fund is actually firing him. Is it worthwhile to jeopardize our good relations with him to gain some possible money? We are both 75 and can live as well as we do now with our money invested in the mutual funds. — V.B., Florida

DEAR V.B.: It seems to me that you're happy, living well and satisfied with the advice given to you over 12 years by the bank officer. However, here comes your nephew, who suddenly says you're paying an unreasonable amount and the products are not appropriate.

For a couple of reasons, I think you should stay where you are. You've been happy with your return, and you have a good relationship with your current adviser. I don't believe it is usually wise to take advice from relatives, particularly a young relative.

Whether I would agree with your nephew in terms of having all of your eggs in one basket — i.e., mutual funds — is another question. I might consider diversifying from all mutual funds into some other investments, and I think most financial people would agree with that assessment. You might wish to get a second opinion, either asking advisers for recommendations in anticipation of switching your accounts to them or going to a "fee-based" adviser.

But on balance, if you're happy and it ain't broke, I would leave it alone.

Send questions to bruce@brucewilliams.com or to Smart Money, P.O. Box 7150, Hudson, FL 34674. Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

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