Your first meeting with your new financial planner is an important event. This is the person you’re trusting to advise you on matters that will materially affect your life and the lives of your family members for years to come. A productive first meeting is important to starting the relationship off right. Here are some things to watch for and some tips for getting the most out of it:
You should expect to talk plenty. The point is not to listen to a sales pitch about how the advisor is the smartest guy in the county. The point is to get a feel for what you want and need from the advisor and to imagine what working together will be like.
You should have some financial goals. Even just fuzzy ones. Part of the reason for this meeting is that you have decided you are going to create your future instead of just wait to see how your future happens to you. So, imagine what you would wish to be true:
- Right now. What financial matters keep you up at night? What financial things do you talk with your spouse about most?
- Over the next five years. Are you saving for a new car? Do you want to get some new furniture or carpets?
- Over the next ten years. Would you like to buy a lake place? A winter condo? Be able to stop working for money and start working for fun?
- Over the next 30 years. Do you have specific goals about where you will spend your older years? What sorts of options would you like to have as you age? Location? Services?
Make sure you ask her advisor these questions:
- How long has she been in the business?
- Three years or less. Historically about 75 percent of financial professionals don’t stay in the business past three years.
- Ten years or more. The Great Recession started in 2007 and cratered in March of 2009. So, advisors who were working with clients before, during and after that time have some great perspective and experience.
- Twenty years or more. A successful practice with more than 20 years’ experience brings great perspective, but you should raise questions about who will be helping you five or 10 years down the road.
- What credentials does she have and why?
- What do the letters after her name mean? I suggest you locate a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ This credential is the industry standard for training and competency.
- Why did she choose to pursue her chosen credentials and not others?
- How did she earn the designation? What are the academic requirements, competency exam, continuing education?
- Is she a fiduciary or not and why? A fiduciary advisor places the client’s interest first. I’m always a fiduciary for my clients. Some advisors offer fiduciary services, but not all the time.
- Is she fee or commission and why? The financial industry has an amazing variety of compensations schemes. Since money often motivates people, it’s important to understand this.
- Sometimes a person is legally a broker and receives commissions on sales of products. (No cost to you!)
- Sometimes the parent organization rewards volume in certain products. (Win an invitation to our “educational conference” in the Bahamas if you write 10 contracts this month.)
- I like to work with clients on a fee-only basis. I only get paid through a fee from the client. This way, I’m free to recommend and implement for my clients any solution I believe will help them reach their goals, without any financial conflict of interest.
- What are her areas of expertise?
- What does the advisor do best?
- What services does she provide most?
- Where does the advisor add the most value to your situation?
- Who will work with you? Will it be the advisor herself, an assistant, a junior advisor, or will it vary from meeting to meeting?
- How often will you talk or meet?
- It’s a good idea to meet at least once each year.
- Often clients will meet with their advisor several times in the early months to establish a game plan.
- It’s very common to have at least a quarterly check-in and this might be via phone.
Pay attention to chemistry. You are considering an advisory relationship that deals with a lot of personal information and some very important goals. Be sure you are comfortable and at ease when you deal with the advisor.
In a blog post earlier this year I discuss how to find a great financial planner. You may find it helpful.
Yes, I am a CFP® professional. I’m always a fiduciary and I only work on a fee basis. And yes, I’m still taking on a few great families to be part of my financial planning practice.
If this article has you thinking about your own circumstances, contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am always happy to meet with people who are working on their financial goals. Dunncreek Advisors does not provide legal or tax advice, nor is this article intended to do so.