SUMMARY: Before you begin working with a new financial advisor, you should do your homework to determine if they’re trustworthy and capable. How do you do that? Start by asking them these six questions.
You’ve settled into a fulfilling career with great potential, have a healthy nest egg going and have set your sights on starting a family, buying a home and planning for retirement. Reaching these goals can be a daunting challenge, as there are numerous ways to invest and protect your assets.
A financial advisor may be just the guide you need to navigate this new landscape. In addition to helping grow your portfolio by as much as 1.5 to 4.0 percent over the course of its life, an advisor can act as a life coach, disciplinarian and reality check for when markets get volatile.
Start with high expectations
This is your money. The advisor you entrust with its care should meet your highest professional and personal standards.
Other key factors to ensure they follow are to:
- Always work with your best interests at heart and offer low-cost solutions when appropriate.
- Respond to questions about certification, experience and compensation with straight answers.
- Advise you on the areas of your financial life that go beyond investments, such as insurance, retirement, college, estate planning and taxes.
Needless to say, not every wealth advisor possesses these qualities. But if they can answer the following questions, they’re a good place to start:
1. What are your qualifications?
The first item on your list should be to make sure the advisor is a certified financial planner (CFP). CFPs are regulated, licensed, subject to mandatory continuing education requirements on ethics and finance, and take extensive exams administered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.
Many professionals from other industries—stockbrokers, accountants, realtors, insurance agents—may offer financial advice, but CFPs are the gold standard and you should accept nothing less.
2. How do you work with your clients?
Trust is essential in building a relationship with a financial advisor. You will spend quite a bit of time with this person, working through numbers and matching them to goals and dreams, while delving into personal fears and figuring out what lies just over the horizon.
What’s the advisor’s process? Can you take them out for a test drive? Can you see a sample financial plan? Humility, transparency and warmth are essential qualities. They indicate very quickly whether someone has your best interest in mind or if they only see you as a line item on their balance sheet.
3. How available are you if I need to talk?
It’s not important how many other clients your advisor has, as long as they pick up the phone when you call or quickly shoot you back an email. When sitting across the table, does your advisor actively listen? Or are the pings and beeps of a phone competing for their attention?
Even if your advisor isn’t available—or leaves the business or retires—they ideally will be one of many who can provide guidance over the course of years or decades.
4. What tools will you use to accomplish our goals?
A successful advisor isn’t necessarily measured by fast facts and figures—one investor’s success is another’s failure. Hollow metrics and exaggerated war stories won’t get you very far.
On the other hand, someone who has a deft command of tools and technology—and can clearly explain them—has a much better chance of crafting a winning strategy for your specific circumstances. Want to retire at 55? Confused about compound interest? The ideal advisor will be able to illustrate complex ideas and show you how they apply to the path you’re on to achieve your goals.
5. Where can I find you on social media?
This may sound odd at first glance, but a potential advisor’s posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram can say a lot about what they think and believe. General wisdom is that professional references aren’t always reliable—although you should still ask—because they will, of course, suggest you speak with clients whom they know already love them.
6. OK, where do I start?
Wealth advisors at a financial cooperative like TDECU can be an invaluable source of financial information, cutting through the clutter and using their industry expertise to present you with clear, concise information.
A financial advisor is only as good as their experience and intent. Thousands of people have benefited from working with TDECU wealth advisors whether it be to reach their goals for retirement, savings or investing. Let’s start planning your future today, we’re here to help.