Communication, decision-making and resources that an advisor brings to the table are equally critical. Remember, reaching financial independence is not a final destination. It’s a lifetime of good financial decisions.
What is “financial independence” to you? When we sit back to determine what being financially independent means, we tend to see scenarios, accomplishments and basically the end result of what we want. Seeing where you want to be is the easy part. Knowing how to get there can prove to be the challenge. This is usually when we decide to reach out for help…to ask a financial advisor for their guidance, experience and resources. We reach out to our friends, our mentors and anyone we know who has had a “great” experience, and who could recommend us to their advisors. Or, the scarier path, is to simply pull a name out of a hat and hope for the best.
When it comes to finding the right financial advisor, you want to go in armed with the best questions to ask. The problem is, you may not actually know what the best questions are. In truth, the questions actually start with you. What kind of support are you actually looking for? Do you simply want someone to manage an investment account and that’s all? Or do you want a relationship with an advisor who will be with you every financial decision at a time as you work towards your financial independence? Knowing what your expectations are is the first step to finding the right financial advisor.
Once you know what your expectations are, the next step is to make a decision about which financial advisor to work with. Here are just a few basic questions that will help you discern who might be a good fit for you:
- Are they a fiduciary? – Not every financial professional is a fiduciary. Being a fiduciary means they morally, ethically and legally must put their clients’ best interest ahead of their own in regards to the advisory services they offer. Advice and planning take priority over any kind of specific investment product or service.
- Are they a captive agent or representative? Or are they independent? – Some financial professionals work for specific investment companies. This tends to put the advisor into the role of a salesperson, as the investment companies tend to have specific expectations of the advisor. On the other hand, an independent financial advisor tends to not have ownership interest in any particular product or service. They tend to walk in objectively and prepared to look at a wider scope of options to help us make good decisions.
- How are they compensated? – Some financial professionals are compensated solely through commissions. Financial advisors who take a fiduciary role tend to be fee-based. Some financial advisors are a hybrid of both these scenarios. Get clear confirmation of their business practices up front.
- Do they work alone, or with a team? – A financial advisor who has a team to back them up can prove to be more helpful than a solo advisor. Not only would our advisor draw experience, wisdom and support from their team to help us make good financial decisions, but the level of service and support we receive can prove to be more solid and in-line with our expectations.
- What is their service model? – Ask ahead of time what you can expect in regard to communications. Some financial professionals who focus on the sale of products might not commit to a relationship beyond just an annual phone call. However, a financial advisor who is acting on behalf of your relationship as a fiduciary usually has a well-planned communications and service model. They will also tend to be far more accommodating with communications needs and flexibility.
At the end of the day, there are a plethora of questions you can pose to your potential financial advisor. But the most important thing you need to do is to find an advisor you believe you can trust. That trust is not based solely on products and services. Communication, decision-making and resources that an advisor brings to the table are equally critical. Remember, reaching financial independence is not a final destination. It’s a lifetime of good financial decisions.