Questions to Ask Your Financial Advisor Before Hiring Them
What experience do you have with clients like me?
It's important to ask your potential financial advisor about their experience working with clients who have similar financial situations to yours. This can help you get a sense of their expertise in handling your specific needs and goals. For example, if you're a small business owner, you may want an advisor who has experience working with other small business owners and understands the unique challenges they face. If you're nearing retirement, you may want an advisor who has helped others successfully transition into retirement. Don't be afraid to ask for specific examples or case studies that demonstrate their track record of success in working with clients like you.
What is your communication style and frequency?
Another important factor to consider when hiring a financial advisor is their communication style and how often you can expect to hear from them. It's crucial to have an open and transparent relationship with your advisor, where you feel comfortable asking questions and expressing concerns.
When interviewing potential advisors, ask about their preferred method of communication (e.g. phone, email, in-person meetings) and how frequently they typically reach out to clients. Some advisors may prefer more frequent check-ins, while others may only schedule meetings on an as-needed basis.
It's also important to discuss how the advisor will keep you updated on your portfolio's performance and any changes they recommend making. Will they provide regular reports or send out alerts when adjustments are made? Make sure you feel confident in their communication style before moving forward with a professional relationship.
Should I be aware of any conflicts of interest?
It's important to ensure that your financial advisor is providing advice and recommendations that are in your best interest, not their own. One way to do this is by asking about any potential conflicts of interest they may have.
For example, if an advisor is also a broker-dealer or insurance agent, they may receive commissions or other incentives for recommending certain products or services. This could influence their advice and recommendations, even if those products or services are not the best fit for your specific needs.
To determine if your potential advisor has any conflicts of interest, ask them directly about any affiliations they have with other financial institutions or companies. You can also ask if they are held to a fiduciary standard, which requires them to act in their clients' best interests at all times.
By understanding any potential conflicts of interest up front, you can make an informed decision about whether or not to work with a particular advisor.
Are you a Registered Investment Adviser or Broker-Dealer?
It's important to understand the difference between a registered investment adviser and a broker-dealer when choosing a financial advisor. A registered investment adviser is held to a fiduciary standard, meaning they are required to act in their clients' best interests at all times. They are also required to disclose any potential conflicts of interest and provide transparency around fees and compensation.
On the other hand, a broker-dealer may not be held to the same fiduciary standard. They may be compensated through commissions or other incentives for recommending certain products or services, which could create conflicts of interest.
When interviewing potential advisors, ask about their registration status and what that means for your relationship with them. If they are a registered investment adviser, make sure they provide clear information about fees and compensation, as well as any potential conflicts of interest. If they are a broker-dealer, ask about how they are compensated and how that may influence their recommendations.
By understanding the differences between these two types of advisors, you can make an informed decision about which one is right for you based on your specific needs and goals.
Fees and Expenses
It's important to have a clear understanding of any fees or expenses associated with investing through a financial advisor. While most advisors charge a fee for their services, there may be additional costs related to investment management, trading fees, or other expenses. Read our full guide on fees and pricing models.
When interviewing potential advisors, ask about how they are compensated and if there are any additional fees or expenses you should be aware of. Some advisors may charge a percentage of your assets under management, while others may charge a flat fee for their services.
Additionally, it's important to understand the impact that these fees can have on your overall investment returns. Ask for examples of how these costs could affect your portfolio over time and make sure you feel comfortable with the fee structure before moving forward with an advisor.
How will we set goals and adjust as we grow?
It's important to understand how your potential financial advisor approaches setting and adjusting investment goals based on changes in your financial situation or personal circumstances. Ask them about their process for evaluating your current financial situation, understanding your long-term goals, and creating an investment plan that aligns with those goals.
Additionally, ask about how they will monitor your progress over time and adjust the plan as needed. Will they schedule regular check-ins to evaluate any changes in your financial situation or personal circumstances? How will they determine if adjustments need to be made to keep you on track towards meeting your long-term goals?
By understanding the advisor's process for setting and adjusting investment goals, you can feel confident that they have a clear plan in place for helping you achieve your financial objectives even as circumstances change over time.
What certifications and/or designations have you earned?
It's important to determine if your potential financial advisor has any specialized certifications or designations that demonstrate their expertise in a particular area. For example, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) has completed extensive training in financial planning topics such as taxes, investments, insurance, and retirement planning. They are also required to pass a rigorous exam and adhere to ethical standards set by the CFP Board.
Other certifications or designations that may be relevant depending on your specific needs include Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), or Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU).
When interviewing potential advisors, ask about their qualifications and any specialized certifications or designations they hold. This can help you feel confident that they have the knowledge and expertise necessary to provide sound financial advice tailored to your unique needs and goals.
Read our guide on the different kinds of certifications an advisor may have earned.
Choosing the right financial advisor is a critical decision that demands careful consideration. Your chosen advisor should have experience working with clients similar to you, a compatible communication style, and an absence of conflicts of interest. It's crucial to understand their registration status, as well as the fees and expenses involved. Remember, a good financial advisor will aid in setting realistic investment goals and adjust them as your financial situation changes. Their qualifications and certifications should align with your needs and goals. By keeping these factors in mind, you can ensure that you're selecting a financial advisor who is best equipped to guide you towards your financial objectives.