Working with a Financial Advisor

What does it mean to work with a financial advisor? This is a question I will get from time to time when introducing myself at networking events and parties. I take for granted, growing up with a financial advisor as a father, that not everyone understands what a financial advisor does and if it makes sense to work with one.

I was fortunate to give a personal finance presentation last month and one of the topics they wanted me to cover specifically was working with a financial advisor. For many there is a big question mark that I was more than happy to answer. The conversation went so well, I wanted to share some of the high points with you all!

Do Your Research

This step isn’t necessarily part of working with a financial advisor, but it’s a very good place to start. If you were to scroll through your LinkedIn you might quickly learn that you are connected with lots of folks in the personal finance space. Their titles may range from financial consultant to wealth manager and their approach to working with clients can vary just as much as their job titles.

Before committing to move forward with any personal finance professional, it’s important to do your research and find out more about the person you are talking to and the firm they represent. I recommend asking the following questions to better understand their values as an advisor and business model.

  1. How are you compensated?
  2. Are you a fiduciary?
  3. What are your certifications?
  4. What are my all-in costs?
  5. How will our relationship work? How often will we meet?
  6. What is your investment philosophy?
  7. How do you measure and evaluate investment performance?

This is by no means an all inclusive list of questions to ask potential financial advisors. To see more questions, I’d encourage you to check out this post by GoBankingRates on ‘7 Questions to Ask a Financial Advisor’.

Discovery Conversation

Once you’ve completed your research and have identified a financial advisor to work with, the next step is sharing your personal financial information. In our office, we like to call this our discovery meeting where we will spend most of the meeting asking the prospective client questions about themselves.

Speaking from the advisor perspective, this is my favorite type of meeting. During this conversation I am looking to learn about the prospective client’s values, financial goals, family, and current financial situation. The information I gather from the conversation will be used to create a comprehensive financial plan that will be presented at a second meeting. As the potential client, it’s very important to be open and honest about all the financial aspects of your life. As I shared in this post, advisors are not looking to pass judgement but rather provide valuable solutions based on the client’s financial circumstances.

Financial Plan Presentation + Recommendations

After the discovery conversation, the financial advisor will create a custom financial plan and compile a list of financial recommendations to present in a follow-up meeting.

During this second meeting, the financial advisor will walk the prospective client through their custom financial plan. The financial plan will include financial goals uncovered during the discovery meeting, a net worth summary and a recommended investment strategy. The basic question a financial plan will answer for a client is ‘will I be able to accomplish my goals given my assets and projected savings targets?’.

In addition to presenting the financial plan, this second conversation will address planning gaps identified by the financial advisor after understanding the entire financial picture. Some examples of these recommendations could include, switching to Roth 401(k) contributions, utilizing an H.S.A increasing life insurance coverage, creating an estate plan, etc. This meeting won’t necessarily answer all these questions, but it will point to areas of planning that will be tackled in future meetings.

Identify Investment Strategy

Often when people think of working with a financial advisor they think of the investment management as it’s the most tangible element of the relationship. Working with a financial advisor can help you identify the best investment strategy to match your financial goals because of the time spent getting to know that potential client and effort put into creating the financial plan.

An investment strategy, at the highest level, is how much to invest within the equity markets and how much to invest within the fixed income markets and what type of investment vehicle to use (i.e. stocks, mutual funds, exchange traded funds, etc.). For the do-it-yourself investors, these are decisions they have to make on their own based on their own research which can be a major investment of time. Partnering with a financial advisor, you have access to their investment knowledge and experience and can rely on their due diligence when selecting the best fund and the proper allocation between equity and fixed income.

Implement

Working with a financial advisor means partnering with them to implement the areas of planning and investment strategies uncovered during the previous meetings. While yes, you could certainly take the ideas and strategies outlined and implement them on your own, it takes your resources away from the other things you care about like work, family, or hobbies.

For those looking to delegate these activities to an expert, your advisor will work with you to consolidate accounts through transfers and rollovers and complete the buys and sells within your accounts to meet the investment strategy that supports your financial plan. On the non-investment front (i.e. taxes, estate and insurance), your advisor will act as the quarterback for your “team” and put you in touch with the right expert to execute important documents or purchase policies. Not only will they send you in the right direction, they will follow-up and hold you accountable to completing those tasks.

Monitor + Review

Arguably the most important step in working with a financial advisor is continuing to revisit the financial plan and investment strategy and review. The only constant in life is change, so it’s highly likely that your financial picture and financial priorities will evolve over time. As those priorities change, it’s important to revisit the plan and make changes to ensure you are still on the path towards your financial goals. It’s typical to meet with a financial advisor at least once or twice a year to check-in on your accounts and overall progress but are just a call away when big life events happen like a new job, house or even a new baby.

Did I do a good job of painting a picture of what it looks like to work with a financial advisor? I hope this pulled back the curtain on financial advisors and helped to show we are not scary people who will scold you on financial habits. It’s quite the opposite. I view myself as a cheerleader for my clients and am there to celebrate with them when they achieve that next financial goal and game plan with them when life changes. 

Interested in learning more about how I work with clients? Feel free to reach out through my contact page to schedule an introduction phone call.

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