More and more people are meeting with a financial planner or advisor. They are not for the very wealthy anymore. Perhaps you need a check-up on your current finances or you want to make sure you have enough to retire or you need someone to manage your money or you have a life change and want to check in with a financial professional (i.e. new baby). To get the most out of your meeting and relationship, the following list will provide guidelines and questions to ask.
1) Are you aware of my goals? If you want to buy a house in the next 5 years, your money will be invested differently than if you don’t want to touch it for at least 10 years.
2) What is your investing style? Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, large-cap, to name a few. Many financial planners specialize in certain areas of the market and you want to ensure it matches your goal and you remain diversified.
3) What is your strategy with my portfolio for my goals? You want to make sure they are aligned with your risk level.
4) What are your commissions and how do you get paid? There are two main ways financial advisors get paid: flat fee based on a percentage of assets (average is between 1-2%) or a commission based on sales. Make sure you know how they are getting paid. If they say they don’t get paid by you, remember they always get paid.
5) Will I be able to speak with someone regularly? Or will you be calling me regularly? Some advisors seem to forget about their clients. You are paying a lot for service so you want to make sure you get it!
6) What kind of periodic reports will I receive? Will I meet with you regularly? Have them go over the reports with you.
7) How many years of experience do you have? And what did you do before you became a financial planner?
8) What are the names and numbers of other clients that can serve as references?
You can also check an advisor or broker’s record with regulators by phoning the National Association of Securities Dealers by www.nasd.com.
There are also fee-only financial planners that get paid on a hourly basis. Many of them are completely independent. Therefore, they will be able to give you an unbiased analysis of your personal finances. To get more information, National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (fee-only) www.napfa.org. At the end of the day, it is going to be about your connection with the financial planner. With that being said, don’t forget about the financial fundamentals and how they benefit you.
(Copyright Down-to-Earth Finance LLC 2006)