Retail Financial Advice: Does One Size Fit All?


Using unique data on Canadian households, we show that financial advisors exert substantial influence over their clients’ asset allocation, but provide limited customization. Advisor fixed effects explain considerably more variation in portfolio risk and home bias than a broad set of investor attributes that includes risk tolerance, age, investment horizon and financial sophistication. Advisor effects remain important even when controlling flexibly for unobserved heterogeneity through investor fixed effects. An advisor’s own asset allocation strongly predicts the allocations chosen on clients’ behalf. This one-size-fits-all advice does not come cheap. Advised portfolios cost 2.5% per year, or 1.5% more than lifecycle funds.


Foerster, Stephen, Juhani T. Linnainmaa, Brian T. Melzer and Alessandro Previtero, Retail Financial Advice: Does One Size Fit All?, Journal of Finance, 72(4), August 2017, 1441–1482.

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