1. Tell me about your ideal client.
I love working with people who have sense of humor and people who can take direction. It helps if a potential client has a general idea of how they want me to help them, yet they are also able to keep an open mind.
As for what kind of advisor you should be looking for: for one thing, you want someone who has expertise working with people in your situation. Find a financial advisor that has expertise and interest in working with clients with similar interests and goals. If you’re about to retire, and he or she tells you they typically only work with young families, maybe this isn’t the person for you I personally like to help people make the most of their assets, whatever the next stage of their life may hold.
2. How long have you been practicing as a financial advisor?
I’ve been a Certified Financial Planner for approximately thirty years, working with a wide range of individuals and couples of all ages and from all walks of life. I suggest that you, as a minimum, find someone who has at least five years of experience managing an d helping to diversify and protect portfolios. A potential advisor may have years of experience as a CPA, or have been in the mortgage or banking industry, but that doesn’t mean they have expertise as a financial advisor. I would also suggest you work with a professional who has the designation Certified Financial Planner. That level of training and expertise can make a big difference.
3. I’m new to financial advising. Can you walk me through it to make sure I’m not in over my head?
Whenever I’m thinking about taking on a new client, I first gauge their experience. If you’ve had financial advising experience prior, I can move a little quicker and dive right into the heart of the matter. If you’re brand-new I take it slowly, to make sure you understand everything and are comfortable at every step we take. If you have questions, I will listen carefully, and then provide you with the needed explanation in the simplest way possible.
If you find yourself in a meeting with a financial advisor who treats you in a dismissive fashion, uses jargon, or tries to move too quickly for you, you might do better to cut your losses and find another advisor. These are your hard-earned assets– you don’t want to pretend you understand something out of embarrassment and then making a serious mistake that can adversely affect your present and future.
In the initial meetings, I ask new clients to come prepared to talk about:
- Big events in your life, including marriage, having a child, preparing to welcome a grandchild, sending a child or grandchild to college, getting a divorce, retiring, selling a business, selling property, a potential inheritance & status of your health.
- Your financial goals for the short and long term, including buying a vacation home, selling a home and moving, starting a college fund, paying off debt, starting a new business & testamentary wishes for your loved ones … etc.
- Specific investment pursuits. If you don’t currently have them, do you want to? How would you like them to be implemented? For example, ask about the difference between passive vs. active investing, and which is right for you, how much of your money should be in stocks or bonds, and the possibility of a laddered bond portfolio, to name a few.
- How much involvement you want to have in the process. Some clients want to be more hands-on, while others trust me to take care of everything. I find the ideal is a balance between the two, but it’s up to you.
It’s also important to be upfront about your current financial situation. You can exaggerate or underestimate all you want, but a good advisor will be able to tell where you’re huffing, puffing, or bluffing once he or she looks at your statements.
4. What should I bring to my first meeting?
You should expect to discuss a wide range of topics. To make the meeting as productive as possible, bring with you the following documents: the last two years of tax returns, wills and trusts and any business agreements currently in place. Please bring your most recent bank statements as well as investment account statements where you currently have assets positioned. We ask that clients bring their life insurance policies to our meeting. Any information on retirement plan accounts (IRA, Pension, 401K, Annuities) are necessary for us to review. Lastly documentation concerning your debt service, monthly expenses and other miscellaneous assets should be brought to the meeting.
5. How are you compensated?
We charge an annual fee, which is a percentage of the overall assets that we manage. When we implement insurance products we are paid a commission by the carrier.
Some advisors work, only on an annual advisory fee, others work on commission, and some do both. It is an entirely personal decision on the advisor’s behalf. I suggest that you pursue a relationship with an advisor that is clear and where the mutual benefit for both of you is evident.
6. Will you be the only person working with me?
You will be working directly with me. However, I have a talented support team that helps me take good care of your assets.