We all engage professionals in our lives to add value — from our doctors to estate attorneys to financial advisors. But when searching for a professional, you want to make sure you know how to find the right one for your situation. Remember, it’s not a one-size-fits-all scenario.
A financial advisor will play a very large role in your life and in the lives of your family members, so make sure to find someone that you trust and enjoy working with. This is an important decision; plan to invest a good amount of time in the process and interviews.
When you start to look for an advisor, make a list of questions you want answered. Draft the answers in your head or on paper, so you can objectively compare the advisors you interview. I’ll list a number of questions below that you can use during your search!
What are your credentials?
Just like your doctor, your financial advisor will have gone through schooling and tests to become certified and registered. To give you some examples, credentials and licenses can include: Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®), Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®), Series 65 and many others. If he or she has gone through the requirements to earn a certification, it means the advisor is likely committed to the profession and adheres to the rules, regulations and ethics of the certification.
Who will I be working with?
Some advisors will have a team to support clients; others will be sole practitioners. It is important to know which setup you feel most comfortable with, and to make sure the advisor/firm matches up with your preference.
What is your succession plan?
It is important to know the terms of your relationship with the advisor. Make sure the advisor’s firm has set up a succession plan so that you don’t have to make unwanted changes in the future. In an ideal situation, your advisor can be with you for as long as you need him or her, which could span your lifetime.
How many clients do you have that are like me?
It might be important to you to know that your advisor has worked with many families, business owners, doctors or handled other circumstances that are similar to yours. You can have greater confidence in your decision knowing that your advisor has experience in guiding others similarly situated to your financial lifestyle.
Do you have referrals that I can speak to?
Speak with the advisor’s existing clients to get a sense of their personal experiences. Questions to ask the reference could include: How long have you been working together? How often do you talk/meet? With whom do you work most closely at the firm?
Consider using the internet as a resource as well. Does your prospective advisor or their firm try to educate and inform through their marketing and communications? Have they attempted to become a thought leader in their respective area of expertise? Have they been recognized by professional associations or press for their work in the industry?
In addition to the questions above, I believe that the most important factor when looking for an advisor is to make sure you feel heard. Make sure that your advisor understands your goals, your challenges and what your past experiences have been like so that they can add as much value to your life as possible. When working with an advisor, you should consistently ask yourself:
Is my advisor listening to my concerns? Do I understand his or her investment philosophy?
Your financial advisor should act like your partner — a trusted resource who can help you achieve your goals and understand the possible outcomes of your financial future.