SUMMARY: Have you decided it’s time to work with a financial advisor? Here are a few pointers on what to bring to that all-important first meeting with your new financial partner.
You’ve made the decision to work with a financial advisor. It’s long past time to put your money to work for you (not the other way around), and life events like retirement, college and debt repayment loom just beyond the horizon.
Congratulations! You’ve joined the growing portion of Americans who have opted to increase their portfolio value by as much as 1.5 to 4 percent over the course of their lives, plus have a top-notch disciplinarian, life coach and reality check in your corner as you ride out the markets.
Here are a few pointers on what to bring to that all-important first meeting with your new financial ally.
If you’re single, then feel free to skip ahead. If you’re married or otherwise partnered with someone who has a stake in your financial well-being, be sure that person is with you. It’s important that you work out a shared vision at the beginning of the process and avoid dramatic (and potentially costly) changes in direction down the road.
Your financial goals
These can vary from retirement by age 60 to flying to see the grandkids every month to selling it all and traveling the country in a tiny house. Put all your goals on the table when sitting down with an advisor for the first time. They should then be able to help you answer some of the following questions:
- What do you want to do with your life?
- What is your ideal timeframe for making it happen?
- What will all of this cost (and how will you pay for it)?
There are many hard facts and figures that will answer these questions, but also many unknowns, such as market volatility and unforeseen shifts in your health and employment. An advisor has likely seen it all before and can provide steady direction to move you through any adversity.
Your personal financial documents
These should include (but may not be limited to):
- Monthly budget. Your advisor can’t begin to give you sound financial guidance without a clear picture of how you currently handle your money day to day. Whether it’s a comprehensive spreadsheet or some pencil-written numbers on the back of a shopping list, it will all be helpful.
- Assets and investments. What do you have and where do you have it? Bring your most recent statements for your checking/savings, 401(k), IRA, HSA, college savings and retirement accounts, including Social Security. This will help paint a picture of how much money is going into each of these every month and what this money is doing for you. It also allows your advisor to get a sense of what these accounts cost in taxes and fees and propose strategies for reducing them.
- Benefits and estate planning. Having documentation of any money coming to you in pensions, incentive pay, stock options and other deferred compensation will be useful. Does your employer provide disability or life insurance? Do you have any wills, trusts, charitable giving or other estate planning in the works?
- Taxes. Your personal tax returns are where a professional can really dig in and find long-term savings for you and your family.
These documents can give your advisor a 30,000-foot view from which they can see exactly where opportunities for growth exist.
A debt snapshot
As uplifting as it can be to talk about growing your assets, it’s also necessary to talk about paying off debt, be it a mortgage, student or auto loan or unpaid medical expenses. Better to pull off the Band-Aid quickly and get it out in the open during your first conversation. And if your significant other is in the dark about your debt, that’s an even better reason to discuss it.
Your advisor will help analyze the terms, outstanding balance and interest rate of each debt and craft a plan to efficiently pay it down while staying within your monthly budget.
A good first step
Your first meeting with a financial advisor is much like a first date. You feel nervous and excited, hoping you’re a good fit but not really sure what to expect of this new person who could become an important part of your life.
As with any successful first date, you need to be ready to put your best self forward. For a new advisor, that means a comprehensive stack of documents that tell an honest financial story. At TDECU, our wealth advisors specialize in helping thousands of investors achieve their goals. Our wealth advisor checklist is a great tool for helping you find someone who understands your vision and can help make it a reality.