During a recent conversation with a friend and professional acquaintance, I was asked, “how do you even go about finding the right financial advisor and what questions should I ask to make sure they’re a good fit for me and my situation?”. As much as I wanted to say, “uh hello, I’m an advisor, use me!” I had to pause and remember this decision is not about me, it’s about her and her unique preferences. Maybe I’d be a great fit, maybe I wouldn’t and that’s ok.
There are a lot of financial professionals out there and so many different practice styles, philosophies, and experiences that it can feel daunting to explore the landscape. And probably the most important aspect in choosing someone to work with is, how do I know I can trust the person to have my best interest in mind? So, I looked my friend in the eye and said, “That’s a great question and I bet it can feel a little intimidating so let’s write down some questions to ask a potential advisor but before we go there, let’s start with you…..”.
If this is your first time working with a financial professional or if you’re looking to make a change, I think it’s an incredibly helpful and healthy exercise to start with a few self-reflective questions. These are great journaling questions and will prompt you to think about money in a way you might not have previously. Get out a pen, pour a tea, coffee or wine (we all know I’m going for the latter) and write.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing a Financial Advisor
- How has my current relationship with money been shaped by my past?
- What did my parents teach me about money?
- What is the best financial decision I’ve ever made? What was the worst?
- What kind of life would I like to have starting today?
- Based on the life I want to have, what must change?
- When it comes to money, what does enough look like?
- How much of my income could I save for my future? 2%? 5%?
- What is the end goal with my money?
- What does retirement look like? Never working again? Working part-time? Pursuing another passion?
- What type of help do I need? Investment management? Budget and cash flow help? Tax planning? Risk management planning? Some combo of everything?
- What’s most important to me in my relationship with a financial professional?
You absolutely do not need to go through this exercise to meet with a financial professional, but it certainly will give you a baseline understanding of what you may want to accomplish or not accomplish and why. Plus, most advisors should ask you these questions in the discovery meeting anyway and having thought about this prior to will help you feel prepared for the discussion.
Next, here’s a list of questions I believe to be helpful for anyone “interviewing” an advisor. Our industry’s landscape is constantly evolving and vast are the ways a firm may engage with clients. Some are fee-based, some are fee-only and some are a combination of the two. Some charge fees for financial plans, some don’t do retirement projections, some are investment management focused and some take a wholistic view to planning. The differences in these models is a topic for another day so, for now, here is a list of questions I find most relevant to helping you find that trusted relationship.
Questions to Ask When Interviewing a Financial Advisor
- How will our relationship work?
- How much access do I get to you?
- Are you a fiduciary and how do you get paid?
- What is your planning and investment philosophy?
- How do you measure success with your clients?
- How will you coordinate your advice with my tax situation?
- Do you have any minimums?
- Do you specialize in certain types of clients?
- Why did your last client quit?
- Why did your last client hire you?
- How does your team work together to work with me?
- Describe for me your client experience
I hope these questions are helpful in guiding your conversation and give you some confidence that you’re asking the right questions on your journey. On a final note, it doesn’t hurt to interview more than one person.
One Last Tip…
A referral from someone you know, trust and like is always best but if that’s not an option, don’t be afraid to take your time and ask your questions. Sometime, going with your gut can be a great policy too!
Securities and investment advisory services offered through qualified registered representatives of MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC (www.SIPC.org). Gambin Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. Supervisory Office 5001 Louise Drive, Suite 300 Mechanicsburg, PA 17055, 717-791-3300.