5 Things You Should Discuss During Your First Meeting With a Financial Advisor
A financial advisor can be an excellent resource to help you make a plan for your money both now and in the future. But if you’re new to this world, you might not know how to make the most of your time during an initial meeting. In today’s “Financially Savvy Female” column, we’re chatting with Jane Voorhees, CFP, director of financial planning at ALINE Wealth, about how to prepare for a first meeting with a financial advisor and what topics you should be discussing.
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What To Do Before Your Meeting
Before an initial meeting with a financial advisor, do some research into who they are and how they work.
“Go to the advisor’s website and read through it,” Voorhees said.
She recommends looking for the answers to the following questions:
- What are the advisor’s credentials (education, professional designations and licenses)?
- What is the overall wealth management philosophy that is coming through or being portrayed?
- Does the advisor have a team and if so, what role does each team member play?
- Does the advisor work as a registered investment advisor (RIA) or do they work under the umbrella of a brokerage firm?
“Understand that RIAs operate under a higher fiduciary standard than broker-dealer firms,” Voorhees said.
What To Bring to an Initial Meeting
Once you’ve done some basic research to ensure you feel confident about the advisor you are meeting with, it’s time to set up the meeting. To make the most of this first meeting, come prepared with the proper financial documents.
“Bring investment and bank account statements, insurance policies, statements/details on debts you owe, your most recent tax return and a budget (if you have one),” Voorhees said.
What To Discuss During Your First Meeting With an Advisor
The first meeting is the time to make sure that you and your advisor would work well together, and that they are someone you are comfortable working with. Voorhees recommends asking about the following topics.
“Ask the advisor about their wealth management process,” Voorhees said. “How do they analyze your individual situation and come up with suitable investment recommendations? How often will they review your portfolio/financial situation and meet with you either in person or by phone or Zoom?”
Their Pay Structure
You also need to find out how the advisor is compensated for their services.
“Will you be charged fees and/or commissions?” Voorhees said to ask. “If an advisor is a fee-only advisor, they cannot earn commissions, fees or trailing fees on any investments they recommend, and can only recommend investments that are in the client’s best interest. By contrast, a non-investment advisor can earn fees and commissions, which are not always transparent.”
“In addition, they are held to a standard of suitability,” she continued. “This means that if two investments are both suitable for you, but one pays the advisor a trailing fee (which will cut into your return), they can recommend the higher cost investment because it is suitable for your needs, but not necessarily in your best interest.”
Their Typical Investment Recommendations
This is also the time to ask about the type of investment products the advisor typically uses and if these products have any additional fees associated with them.
“Does the advisor typically use investment products sponsored by their firm?” Voorhees said to ask. “These types of products may not be the most cost-efficient option. Don’t be shy to ask the advisor to provide you with educational materials on the different fee structures and investment options, as they can get complex. You want to be an educated investor to help ensure you are comfortable with your advisor’s plan.”
Their Reporting Practices
Voorhees said to discuss the type of reporting the advisor uses.
Ask, “Will you receive monthly or quarterly account statements? Will you have online access to your accounts? How does the advisor report on portfolio performance? Will you have online access to that type of reporting?”
Your Financial Situation and Goals
Talking openly about your finances can be uncomfortable — especially if you are not happy with your current situation — but it’s vital that your advisor gets a clear picture of where you are and where you want to be.
“You need to be completely honest and upfront with the advisor about your financial situation and long-term goals,” Voorhees said. “Your advisor cannot help you if you do not disclose your debts and spending habits. A well-crafted financial plan incorporates the full financial picture, including ways to manage your debt and get you where you want to be.”
Other Things To Look Out For
In addition to making the most of your discussion, you should also tune into how the whole experience makes you feel.
“Pay attention to the advisor’s office space,” Voorhees said. “Is it professional and welcoming? Are you greeted warmly?”
You should be made to feel comfortable the whole way through.
“Does the advisor really listen to you and give you the opportunity to ask questions? Do they take the time to make sure you understand what is being discussed? Is this someone you feel that you can develop a long-term relationship with?” Voorhees said. “You should walk away from the meeting feeling comfortable that the advisor is a knowledgeable professional who will have your best interests front and center.”
GOBankingRates wants to empower women to take control of their finances. According to the latest stats, women hold $72 billion in private wealth — but fewer women than men consider themselves to be in “good” or “excellent” financial shape. Women are less likely to be investing and are more likely to have debt, and women are still being paid less than men overall. Our “Financially Savvy Female” column will explore the reasons behind these inequities and provide solutions to change them. We believe financial equality begins with financial literacy, so we’re providing tools and tips for women, by women to take control of their money and help them live a richer life.
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