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Wealth & Well-Being

Questions To Ask A Financial Advisor

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If you are feeling lost or need clarification about financial advice, it's natural to feel overwhelmed. But you don't have to worry because we are here to support you every step of the way. Asking for help with your finances is a significant decision, which is why it is important to find the right person to guide you. A financial advisor can be a valuable resource for establishing and achieving your financial goals. However, with so many advisors available, it can be challenging to know where to start. 

To make things easier, we have put together a list of questions to ask financial advisors. These questions will improve your conversations with any advisor you meet and might even give you some new ideas. Remember, it's not just about making investments and getting returns; it's about finding someone who can help you feel confident about your financial goals, no matter what's going on in the market. So, take a moment to relax, gather your thoughts, and let's start the journey of finding your ideal advisor.

1: Can You Tell Me About Your Qualifications?

Knowing the qualifications of your financial advisor is really important to make sure you are getting good advice. If you are looking for overall financial planning, it's best to find someone who is a certified financial planner (CFP). If you need help with taxes, a certified public accountant (CPA) is a good choice. Keep in mind that not all financial planners are certified, though. 

Some might have different licenses, like the Series 7, which lets them sell financial products but that does not mean they are as qualified as a CFP. It's also smart to pick someone who has been working with clients in your situation for at least ten years. So, when you ask about qualifications, make sure to get details about their certifications and how long they have been helping clients like you.

2: How Much Will I Be Charged For Your Assistance?

Before you decide to work with a financial advisor, it's important to know how much their service will cost and make sure it fits your budget. Financial advisors have to tell you what they charge, but the way they charge can be different. Some may charge by the hour, others might have a fixed fee, or they could charge based on a percentage of your investable assets. Even if the fee is not fixed, your advisor should give you an estimate of what you can expect to pay.

A good financial advisor will be transparent about their fees and help you understand what you can expect to pay. When choosing an advisor, make sure that they are a good fit for your needs and that they can help you achieve your financial goals. Keep in mind that the cost of working with a financial advisor is an investment in your financial future. By finding an advisor who is transparent about their fees and fits your needs, you will achieve your financial goals and make the most of your money.

3: What Kind Of Services Do You Offer?

When you are choosing a financial advisor, it's important to consider the types of services they provide to ensure that they meet your specific needs and goals. Financial advisors offer more than just investment management; they also provide a wide range of financial planning and wealth management services. These may include retirement planning, insurance guidance, tax strategies, estate planning, educational expense planning, charitable giving advice, business succession planning, and cash flow management. 

Some advisors specialize in particular areas such as guiding financial difficulties during a divorce or preparing for retirement. For high-net-worth individuals and families, advisors may provide complete family office services that combine wealth management with administrative support like bill paying. Knowing the full range of services available can help you make an informed decision when selecting the right financial advisor for your unique circumstances.

4: How Can I Reach Out To You For Communication Purposes?

Effective communication is necessary when it comes to working with a financial advisor. You need to be able to reach out to them easily and quickly, especially when you need to make important financial decisions. That's why it's important to confirm clear communication options right from the start. When you meet with a potential advisor, don't hesitate to ask them how they prefer to stay in touch. 

They might suggest phone calls or emails as these methods tend to be more secure than text messaging. Additionally, you could also find out if they prefer meeting in person or having video chats. Although texting might not be an option, having different ways to reach out means you can feel comfortable knowing you can always get in touch when needed. Clear communication is the foundation of any successful client-advisor relationship, so it is important to develop it from the start.

5: Do You Follow Fiduciary Guidelines?

When it comes to managing your finances, it's essential to have a trustworthy advisor who has your best interests in mind. That's where fiduciary guidelines come in. A fiduciary is legally required to prioritize their client's needs and not earn any commissions from recommended investments. This means that they are trustworthy and would not guide you wrong just to benefit themselves. 

However, it's important to note that financial advisors who work for brokerages might not have to follow these rules. Therefore, when you are meeting with an advisor for the first time, it's a good idea to find out if they are acting as a fiduciary to ensure they are working with your  best interest in mind. By asking this simple question, you can safeguard your financial interests and avoid making bad investment choices. So, take your time to choose your financial advisor wisely.

6: Can You Tell Me About The Custodian You Use?

It's necessary to know about the custodian your financial advisor uses to keep your stocks, bonds, and other assets safe. Choosing a reliable custodian can reduce risks and provide peace of mind. When selecting a financial advisor, it's important to ask about their custodian and find out about their fees, security measures, and technology. You should inquire about the portion of your investment they take as high fees can reduce your returns. 

You should also verify if the custodian is regulated and if they have had any security issues in the past. Additionally, it's important to ensure that their technology is easy to use and provides secure access to your account information. By being proactive and asking these questions, you can make informed investment decisions and safeguard your investments for the long term.

7: How Do You Define Success In Your Work?

When it comes to managing your finances, choosing the right financial advisor is crucial. But it’s not just about hiring them; it’s also about keeping track of your progress along the way. That’s why it’s important to work with an advisor who can clearly explain how they will measure your success. While some advisors may compare your investment returns to big stock market indexes like the S&P 500, the best advisors will measure your success based on your personal financial goals.

For example, let’s say you are saving for retirement and have not yet put the maximum amount into your Roth IRA. In this case, simply doing better than the S&P 500 might not necessarily mean you are doing great. Instead, true success might mean that you need to increase the amount you are putting into your IRA each month to stay on track. By understanding how your advisor defines success, you can ensure that you are both working towards the same goals and that your financial plan is tailored to your individual needs.

8: How Do You Define Your Investment Philosophy?

It's essential to know how your financial advisor handles your investments because it can help you determine if they are the right fit for you. A good financial advisor should be able to explain their investment strategy and philosophy clearly. This is important because it's your money that's being invested, and you need to be aware of how it's being managed. Different advisors have different methods of building portfolios, selecting investments, and managing client accounts. 

Some may prioritize short-term trading, while others focus more on long-term investing. Your goals will determine the approach used by your advisor. For example, if you are still far from retirement, your advisor may have a different strategy for your retirement savings than if you are retiring soon. Therefore, understanding your advisor's investment philosophy is necessary to ensure that it aligns with your expectations and goals in managing your money.

9: Who Do You Consider To Be Your Ideal Client?

To get the best financial advice, it is important to understand the type of clients that a financial advisor prefers to work with. This can give you valuable insights into their practice and help you decide whether they are the right fit for your financial needs. You can review the services they offer to determine their ideal client. One effective way to do this is by checking Form ADV. 

This document contains information on the number of high net worth and non-high net worth clients that an advisor has. The numbers can reveal a lot about the type of clients that the advisor is most comfortable working with. This information can be found in "Item 5: Information About Your Advisory Business" of Form ADV, under the Clients section. So take the time to research and understand an advisor's preferred clientele to ensure that you get the best financial advice possible.

10: How Do You Determine Investment Allocation?

Deciding how to allocate your investments is a crucial part of managing your money and ensuring financial stability. To make sure your investments are protected against short-term market changes and will pay off in the long run, diversification is key. This means investing in different types of assets such as stocks, bonds, and cash. Diversification is a strategy that helps to spread risk and reduce the impact of any one investment or asset class on your portfolio.

However, before deciding how to allocate your investments, it's important to talk with your financial advisor about how much risk you are comfortable with. This is because higher-risk investments can earn more money, but they can also lose more money. It's important to work with your advisor to find the right balance of investments that matches your comfort level and your goals. This will help you achieve your financial goals while minimizing risks and maximizing returns.

Conclusion

To find the right financial advisor for your needs, it's important to talk to multiple advisors. Take your time to carefully check each advisor to make sure they fit your preferences, you trust them and feel confident with their abilities. Don't rush this process because it can lead to regret later on. It's better to prioritize finding an advisor you can trust before making any financial decisions.

Northstar Financial Planning understands how important this decision is and we are here to help you find the right advisor for you. Whether you prefer to meet in person or virtually, we will help you through this journey toward financial security and success. Our experienced advisors will work with you to create a personalized financial plan that aligns with your goals and values. We are committed to providing you with the support and resources you need to achieve your financial dreams, and we are excited to assist you every step of the way.

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