Finding the right advisor can seem like a daunting task.
Before you begin your search, ask yourself: Why am I looking for a financial advisor? Perhaps an event—a big promotion, the sale of your company, or an inheritance—means that you are now working with a significant amount of money and you want some investment and tax advice. Or, you may realize that you need a clear plan so you can avoid your own retirement fail. This Checklist will help you assess whether an advisor is the right fit for you.
Following are 7 key characteristics of a great advisor-client relationship.
1. You Trust the Advisor
Trust is the necessary basis of your relationship. Your wealth advisor is going to be one of the key people who will have knowledge of, and even some control over, your family’s financial well-being. When meeting with a potential advisor, listen to your head and your gut. What is the overall feeling you get? Do you feel that this advisor has a passion for excellence as well as a high level of integrity and professionalism?
2. The Advisor Listens and Cares
The real pitfalls of poor financial planning are often caused by matters of the heart. As time goes on, you will need to speak with your advisor about topics that you may not even confide to close friends or certain family members: elder care for an aging parent, asset division in a divorce, the sale of a company, expenses for the care of a child with an addiction, and so on. You want to have these tough conversations with someone who can help and who listens and cares about you and your family. The world of personal finance encompasses much more than numbers and analysis. In your face-to-face meeting with your potential advisor, do you feel like you are listening to a sales pitch, or is the advisor asking about what is most important to you?
3. The Advisor’s Expertise Is Deep and Wide
By deep expertise, I am referring to the knowledge and years of real-world experience of your advisor; by wide expertise, we are referring to the resources and support available to address your questions. There are many designations in the financial services industry, and the string of letters following an advisor’s name can be confusing. It can be tough to know the level of knowledge they truly signify. The top three designations you are likely to see are:
1. The Advisor Has Experience with Your Profession or Life Situation
Many professions or family situations can result in thorny financial issues. Even if your situation is relatively simple now, look ahead to the complexity you may have in the future. You want your advisor to have experience handling the specific issues you face. You seek expertise in particular areas when you see your doctor or attorney, and you should expect the same of your financial advisor. For example:
• Attorneys need to pay special attention to quarterly tax payments, as well as tax issues that result from practicing in different states and internationally.
• Business owners may need help understanding the best pension plans for themselves and the insurance needed to shield them from business risks. Eventually, they may need advice for the big event of buying, expanding, or selling a business.
• Executives at large corporations need to manage the timing and amounts of company stock transactions. They are also extremely busy and need a resource that will handle their personal finances and be efficient with their time.
• Women tend to have a different view of wealth than men. They may need an advisor who will help them achieve goals that are meaningful to them.
2. The Advisor Plays Well with Others
Your financial advisor should be able to work well with the other professionals in your life, such as your estate attorney or tax accountant. Some firms do not have appropriate communication processes in place and struggle with sharing data and other critical information with complementary advisors. Seamless communication is especially meaningful when you want to get things done quickly or are confronting a challenging situation that requires thoughtful communication among all of your professional advisors.
3. The Advisor’s Fees Are Clear and Transparent
You should be able to get a straight answer on the fees charged, the services included, and services that are not included from any firm you are considering working with. If you are being charged a wealth-management fee that is a percentage of assets managed, is the financial planning included? How frequently is your financial plan updated?
The Advisor Is a Forward-Looking Leader
There are many trends and new technologies in wealth management. Having a firm that looks forward and explores new opportunities to better serve its clients is important. Ask how the firm you are considering looks at future trends. Do the advisors understand new investment vehicles, and can they clearly explain why they do or do not invest in them? Are they utilizing state-of-the-art technology to protect your assets and information? Given constantly breaking news events, can they calm your fears by keeping you abreast of the impact on your investments and long-term retirement plans? Are they able to keep you updated on new laws and government policies, such changes to income and estate tax laws that may impact your retirement plans?
Your relationship with your financial advisor is among the most important ones you may ever have, so take the time to find the right advisor for you. You deserve an advisor you trust implicitly, who listens and cares about you, and who has the right experience to serve your needs. An advisor with these essential qualities will be a great asset in looking out for your future and for the well-being of your family.