Trista, a 33-year-old bookstore employee and artist in Ottawa, can't believe it when she discovers her grandmother has bequeathed her $200,000. Nobody had any idea the elderly woman was sitting on so much money! But when Trista picks up her cheque a few weeks later, she's suddenly struck with the realization that she is clueless about what do with it. The only investment she holds is an apartment full of paperbacks. And her portfolio? It's crammed with her artwork—not stocks or bonds.

Trista knows she needs to find financial help fast so she turns to her money-savvy uncle. He recommends a certified financial planner at a well-known brokerage firm. When Trista sits down with her planner and explains that she can't stomach losses, he sells her what seems like a safe bet: a mutual fund. Unfortunately, even after he conducts a risk analysis, that fund isn't as low-risk as Trista wants. It holds mostly aggressive growth stocks that could shoot up in value—or tank. What's more, when she receives her first statement, there is a thousand dollars missing.

"Oh, that?" says her now much-less-popular planner. "I'm paid a two percent commission out of your investment. Didn't I mention that?"

It takes two more attempts to find unbiased help before Trista finally gets what she needs: a fee-for-service advisor who helps her build a financial plan, offers some extra tips, then agrees to step back until she has questions later on. The advisor even understands Trista's point ...

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