By Mike Gertsema, CEO & Wealth Advisor
There’s a list a mile long on what people are looking for regarding financial advice and a financial advisor. So, I decided to write this guide for you – “7 Questions to Ask When Looking for a Financial Advisor” – based on my 30-year experience in the industry.
1. Are they qualified to be giving you advice?
Does the advisor have the proper designations that qualify him or her to give advice?
In some cases, your advisor may be a veteran of 20 or 30 years and has many security licenses under their belt – not to mention a lot of experience of the markets and the financial services industry.
In today’s environment, it’s all about the designations and, in some cases, a lack of experience. There’s comfort working with firms that have both.
2. How do they get paid?
Are they paid by commissions, hybrid of fee and commissions, or fee only?
There is a lot of confusion around this issue because a lot of advisors are calling themselves “fiduciaries” and the consumer may wonder if that’s true.
For example, if your advisor is recommending an investment for you and is paid by commission, it makes clients wonder if it’s as good for you as might be for him or her.
3. Are they the hybrid advisor (those who have the option of what title they are at different times)?
Example: If they are selling you an insurance product, stock, or bond for a commission, they are functioning as a broker. If they are charging you a fee for assets under management, then they’re functioning as the fee-based advisor.
They have the best of both worlds – which is good for them but makes the consumer wary.
Next, we have the fee-only advisor. They may charge per hour, a flat fee per customer, on assets under management, or a combination.
They generally provide a comprehensive financial plan, give advice and recommendations, and keep in touch with you on a regular basis to update you on your progress and notify you of changes that may affect your plan.
They work in your best interest and are a fiduciary in action (not in name only).
The bottom line: find out how the advisor is compensated and if he or she is a true fiduciary or just calling themselves a fiduciary.
Make sure you’re comfortable with their answer. Most clients want their advisor to have their focus on them and not the products they’re selling.
4. Are they listening to your needs and do they truly understand your situation?
Discover if they complete a financial plan breaking your situation down into pieces, options, and advice.
This includes multiple sub-questions to consider.
- Is it personalized and addressing all your concerns?
- Is the technology available to be flexible to make changes as your life changes?
- Is it instant or do they print another book that they call the financial plan?
- Is the advice in a common language that you can understand?
- Are they educating you and, in some cases, having the heart of a teacher and making sure you understand the topic being discussed?
- Is the advice proactive or reactive to your ideas and uninformed on what you are trying to accomplish?
- Is he or she willing to call your CPA and attorney to help you in your endeavor within your financial plan?
5. Are they pleasant and friendly?
This can be an odd question, but in many cases, customers tend to “put up with” the advisor for many reasons. However, at the end of the day, life’s too short to put with a person that doesn’t treat you with respect and dignity.
Some advisors, for some reason, will talk down to the clients which makes them feel uncomfortable or foolish.
Keep in mind, you are paying this person.
If he or she is not treating you and your husband, wife, or partner with respect and dignity – it may be time to move on.
6. Is the advisor a problem-solver?
Is your advisor solving my problems, listening to my concerns, or pitching me a product?
Think if they are finding a solution to your problem – or, are they trying to make your problem fit their solution instead?
Your financial advisor can help you avoid making mistakes that would harm your financial future long-term.
It’s been illustrated in many ways that your financial advisor brings a lot of value by keeping their clients in the market for the long pull, reducing emotion, and not being reactive to the market’s ups and downs.
Their clients have a financial plan and a portfolio that is designed specifically for their goals, needs and dreams.
7. Lastly, does your advisor keep in touch with you?
Advisors should care about what’s going on in your life.
They need to think about your situation when rules and laws change because that could have a positive or negative impact on your financial future.
Ask yourself: Are they keeping you notified?
Many advisors share the information they have available that could affect you or be of interest to you to know at least the basics on.
In order for this to be helpful, advisors need to be up to date with information and technology.
Notice how I didn’t bring up money, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, or annuities?
Most people already know that there are thousands of different investments available and almost every broker thinks theirs is the best.
Clients want to make money, achieve their goals and live comfortably. They want confidence and clarity of knowing that they are working with an advisor and firm that cares about them, understands them, and that makes the complex simple.
True wealth is what money can’t buy and death can’t take away – make sure to find the advisor best fit for you.