This is the fifth part of a six part series to help simplify your search for a financial advisor.  Our fourth installment discussed What Should I Consider When Looking for a Fiduciary?

Once you’ve narrowed down a few financial advisors that you’re interested in, its time to get to know them better.  Schedule a meeting with each advisor in person, over the phone, via Skype, etc. Aim to get a sense of their style, how they work with clients and whether that meshes with what you’re looking for. They should be able to explain things in plain language, and they should be open to explaining anything you don’t understand. We recommend asking the following questions:

Background

  • How long have you been an advisor? How long have you been at the current firm?
  • Are you or your firm a Registered Investment Adviser (RIA)?
  • How many people work at your firm, and what do they do? How many are responsible for investment decisions?
  • How many clients do you work with?
  • What are the smallest, average and largest client accounts you manage?
  • Have you been cited by a professional or regulatory governing body for any disciplinary actions?
  • Can you provide references from other financial professionals?
  • Do you have experience working with people like me? (This could mean your profession, life stage, gender, investor profile, etc.)

Investing

  • Will you have access to my assets? (Avoid permitting an advisor to have physical custody of your investment assets, which is the ability to make withdrawals or transfers without your specific written consent each time).
  • What is your investment approach?
  • How well have your investments performed relative to their respective benchmarks, like the S&P 500? What steps did you take to achieve those returns?
  • Do you provide ongoing and consistent performance monitoring of my portfolio?Interview potential advisors

Management style

  • What level of involvement do you expect from me, and what level of communication will you provide?
  • Can I call if I suddenly have a question? Or do I need to make an appointment?
  • Will you be my main point of contact, or will an associate of yours work with me?
  • What happens to my account if something happens to you?
  • Can I see a sample financial plan?

Compensation

  • How is your firm compensated?
  • Will you serve as my fiduciary and put my best interests first?
  • Are there financial incentives (like a commission) for you to recommend certain financial products over others?
  • Does any member of your firm have ownership of, participate in or receive compensation from financial products you might recommend to me?
  • Do you receive referral fees from attorneys, accountants, insurance agents, mortgage brokers, or others?
  • Are you currently engaged in any other business as sole proprietor, partner, officer, employee, trustee, agent, or otherwise?

After each meeting, ask yourself:

  • Did the advisor ask about my financial situation, knowledge of investments and risk, and short- and long-term financial goals? The more questions an advisor asks, the better she will be able to provide comprehensive financial advice.
  • Do I have a clear understanding of the advisor’s process and methodology?
  • For couples: Does the advisor speak only to one person and ignore the other? You want an advisor who respects and values both partners.

The last post in the series will address online investing platforms also known as Robo-Advisors.  If you’re asking yourself What’s the Deal with Robo-Advisors?  You will want to check back!


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GuideVine

From time to time, the team at GuideVine highlights certain topical videos and content from expert financial advisors. We find these helpful and hope you will to for your managing personal finances. To learn more, you can view and find potential advisors through our advisor matching service and listings, ask one-on-one personal finance questions to these experts, and view “How to” videos on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJopbGDSgc1szGZaoUPqTrA).