Speaking from experience, the relationship between financial advisors and their clients is incredibly important. Whether you rely on your advisor to help with retirement planning, saving for college, or meeting other goals, this individual will help determine how you approach some of life’s biggest financial decisions. That’s why it’s critical to ensure you’re working with the right person. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing an advisor.
Find someone who shares an interest in your future. Your financial advisor should ask questions about your hopes, dreams and concerns. Steer clear from someone who offers a cookie-cutter approach to financial planning. Instead, find someone who will be around for the long haul. Your advisor should not be someone who only talks at you, but also listens to you. The individual should help you feel at ease and communicate clearly.
Your advisor should know the marketplace. The number of financial products and solutions available are almost too numerous to count. A good advisor should offer a tailored plan based on your goals — whether it’s building cash reserves, protecting your income against death or disability, or creating a balanced portfolio.
Financial advisors shouldn’t be know-it-alls. A smart advisor knows when it’s time to gather input from other experts, such as tax and legal professionals. Find an advisor who is willing to use a team approach to help you reach your goals.
Select an advisor with a solid reputation. Great references are crucial. As you interview advisors, ask for references and ask them for specific examples of how they helped clients like you reach their goals or weather difficult financial times. Also, check the advisor’s educational background and note any professional designations they have earned. You may find this information and more about advisors on websites like FINRA.org.
Once you choose an advisor you can team up to start customizing a financial plan that fits your unique needs. Here’s what to expect during the planning process:
Set Goals: Your advisor will ask questions to help you identify your financial needs and dreams. These might include:
- When you envision your future, what’s next for you?
- Where do you see yourself living?
- What lifestyle goals are important to you?
- Do you want to help provide for your children’s education?
- How do you envision your retirement?
- Do you want help to reduce the effect of taxes on your assets?
Don’t worry if you can’t provide detailed answers. As you go through the financial planning process, your responses will become clearer to both you and your advisor.
Determine the Facts. After setting goals, you will assess your current financial picture. This includes gathering account statements, income and expense information and other materials so your advisor can get a clear picture of your present situation.
Create the Plan. Your financial advisor will work with you to establish a course of action designed to help you achieve your goals. This strategy may cover things like:
- Your needs, goals and values.
- Current assets and liabilities.
- Investment portfolio recommendations.
- Retirement plan.
- Insurance audit and needs analysis.
- Estate planning analysis.
- Product recommendations and action items.
Implement the Plan. After reviewing your strategy and consulting with your financial, tax and legal professionals, you and your advisor will implement the plan. This may include establishing a regular savings program, adjusting insurance coverage, purchasing investment products, repositioning assets, and setting up tax-efficient ways to transfer wealth.
Meet and Review. Now that your plan is in motion, you will want to meet once or twice a year to review progress and make updates. Be sure to contact your advisor when you experience any life-changing events like marriage, the birth of a child, a death, disability, or divorce. This helps to ensure your strategy and beneficiary designations reflect your wishes.
Selecting an advisor and creating a financial plan does take some time and effort, especially if you’re just beginning. Once you take action to achieve your goals, however, you’ll likely discover how life’s challenges can be better managed with the security of having a plan in place.
Jeff Mushen, MSF, CFP, ChFC, is a Financial Advisor and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER practitioner ™ with Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. in Edmonds, WA. He specializes in fee-based financial planning and asset management strategies and has been in practice for six years. To contact him, go to his website at www.ameripriseadvisors.com/jeffrey.m.mushen.
Advisor is licensed/registered to do business with U.S. residents only in the states of OR, IL, AK, and WA.
Brokerage, investment and financial advisory services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA and SIPC.
© 2012 Ameriprise Financial, Inc. All rights reserved.