Discuss the reputation and finer points of finding a financial advisor you can work with – even perhaps asking for referrals to talk to current clients, accessibility/responsiveness, consistency, obvious analytical skills, and perhaps even credentials.
Most people have a methodical process when it comes to making big decisions in life. You need information to figure out what will work best for you. Here are just a few examples:
- When you need to find a realtor to buy or sell a house, you probably ask your neighbors who they used and why. It seems as though everyone has pretty strong opinions about their real estate agent!
- When you’re buying a car, you might read reviews online, research different models, and look for pros and cons of different makes and models. That’s all before you start visiting dealerships to test drive.
- Or maybe you’ve needed to find a physician. You may rely on research and reviews (how’s their bedside manner?) as well as personal recommendations from friends. There’s even an “ask for recommendations” feature on Facebook now just for these kinds of things! Depending on your need or the level of skill for a surgery, you might interview a few doctors to find the right one.
Finding a financial advisor is another one of those tasks that involves a great deal of responsibility. There must be an element of trust, an ease of communication, and definitely a degree of confidence in that person’s ability to understand your situation and give you quality advice that at best, will lead to your financial success. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, and your future in your retirement.
But it’s not always so easy. Finances are a complicated matter, and a personal recommendation isn’t always enough.
For instance, let’s say you heard from a neighbor couple down the street that they just started with Joe the financial advisor. He’s with a substantial, well-known firm and so far your neighbors have had a great experience. They both work for big companies and have been at their respective jobs for 10+ years. They own their home, and have one child.
You might think that Joe could be the right advisor for you. But let’s say you’ve changed jobs three times in the last ten years and you’ve got pensions and accounts all over the place. You’ve also recently started a very successful business and are struggling to manage both your personal and business finances.
Your situation could be drastically different from your neighbors. It might require different levels of skill. Finding a financial advisor is a tremendously personal decision. Use our guide to help find the right one for you.
What to Look for When Hiring a Financial Advisor
You wouldn’t trust a surgeon without a degree right? That would be crazy! Pay attention to the education (and credentials) of any advisor you’re considering. Nearly anyone can utilize the term “financial advisor” but terms like “Certified Financial Planner” (CFP)” or “Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)” are a bit more rare. These certifications convey an additional level of coursework and exams, and often require the advisor to adhere to rigorous standards. These terms are industry-recognized and also signal a level of ethical and professional practices.
This might surprise you, but a lot of financial advisors only meet with clients once every year. That’s pretty standard across the board in our industry. But, what if you want more than that? What if you have questions or want more of an involved relationship? Is your advisor willing to give you accessibility that you need or desire? If your financial advisor’s office is serving hundreds or even thousands of families, they may not accept random meetings for various questions. Do you have your advisor’s direct line? What is their average response time? These are things you might want to ask.
Complicated situations require a track record of success. If you are a business owner, does your financial advisor have experience with other business owners? If you are looking for help within a certain area, do they have a history of demonstrated ability? Does this financial advisor specialize in one expertise with additional certifications or education? With investing, estate planning, tax planning – if you have a particular need, make sure their experience aligns with what you need. And don’t just look at years of experience – many advisors come from other industries that provided them with valuable perspective.
Just like you’d ask for referrals for a surgeon or a real estate agent, ask for referrals from any potential advisors you’re considering. Ask how long the client has been with the advisor, what they specifically like about working with them, if there is anything they don’t like, and ask about their relationship (how often they see their advisor, do they feel they get adequate answers to their questions, etc.) Getting first-hand experience from other clients is a great way to get a feel for how advisors conduct their business with clients.
There is something to be said for simply liking and getting along with an individual. Your advisor is somebody you’re going to talk with about some real life, serious issues. It’s pretty imperative that they don’t drive you crazy! Ask them questions; get a feel for who they are as a person. Do your values line up? You want to feel heard and understood. Everything else could be perfect, but this last element is really what makes or breaks the client and advisor relationship. Take the effort to find the best fit for you. This relationship is ideally one that you’ll have for life. If you get it right the first time, you’ll have a better experience and a foundation for trust. Here’s where you also want to feel out their transparency. When you ask about cost – is it something that you can easily understand? Ask how they get paid and expect an honest answer. Is it a flat fee? Is it a commission? This should be an easy conversation to have with your potential advisor. If they shy away from this conversation, it may be a red flag to search elsewhere.
What do YOU look for when you’re trying to find a financial advisor? Which one these do you think is the most important? Let us know! And if you’re looking for an advisor, we’d love to be considered. Set up a no-pressure meeting with us today.