At this point in your life, managing your wealth is becoming a bit too complex. You’re thinking it might be time to bring in the professionals. But we get it – there are a lot of businesses touting themselves as the right solution to your financial planning needs. Finding the right fit is paramount. Without trusted referrals from folks whose needs are similar to your own, this process can be a lot to tackle.

You’ve come to the right place. We can help you simplify this process with some of the best questions to ask a financial advisor as you seek a prospective partner for your financial planning needs.

A real financial planner will go beyond making investment suggestions, especially for those with intricate financial needs. Whether it’s deciding how to best cover rising tuition costs, aggressively saving for a looming retirement, or navigating complex tax issues associated with your equity compensation, your individual situation deserves tailored solutions. With many diverse services available, it’s crucial to know what you’re looking for based on your current financial situation, future goals, and personal values.

Getting Started with Your First Financial Advisor Meeting

Why is it important to choose your advisor carefully?

There are many advisory firms out there who market themselves as financial planners when they do not have the expertise or proper credentials necessary to provide you with comprehensive financial planning and investment management services.

Some investment advisors work on commissions, making money on the back end of each investment decision they make on your behalf in addition to the fees billed to you.

Not every financial advisor is a fiduciary. A properly qualified financial planner has a fiduciary duty that legally and ethically binds them to act in your best interest.


When do you need a financial advisor?

Working with a financial advisor is advisable if you are holding more than $50,000 in liquid assets or if your finances are complicated by equity compensation or other factors like tax management. Financial advice is also helpful during major life changes.


What does a financial advisor do and how can they help me?

Financial planners offer their expertise to help you navigate intricate financial situations such as wealth management, efficient tax management, complex compensation, investment strategies, long-term savings, and charitable giving.


Questions to Ask A Financial Planner

As you’re looking to address the complexities that have sprouted up in your finances over the years, it’s wise to have a seasoned professional by your side who can  competently and confidently manage your wealth. You want to look for an advisor who will work not just for you, but with you to craft a financial strategy that suits your lifestyle, goals, and unique values. To get you started, here are a few questions to ask a financial advisor in the first meeting.

1. What are your qualifications?

We recommend seeking an advisor with the certifications that meet your needs and at least ten years experience working with clients like yourself. It’s equally important your advisor has a clean record, free from regulatory issues or legal problems. You can check public records and professional groups for their background. 

Once you begin doing research on financial planners, you’ll notice that the variety of designations is a bit dizzying. Frankly, a large part of them are marketing ploys disguised as expertise. While this list isn’t exhaustive, they’re a good sampling of the credentials worth looking for: 

  • A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP® Certificate) has the expertise to offer a range of financial planning services, including guidance on wealth management, investment strategies, and portfolio management.
  • Certified Private Wealth Advisors® (CPWA®) work with particularly high-net-worth individuals, specializing in the ongoing development and execution of strategies designed for accumulating and protecting assets, tax burden reduction, and distribution of wealth.
  • A Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA®) has completed comprehensive training in investment strategy and advanced money management. Their expertise is in financial research, portfolio management, investment consulting, risk analysis, and risk management.
  • A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a professional accountant who has met specific education, experience, and examination requirements, and is licensed by a state or jurisdiction to provide a range of accounting services, including auditing, tax preparation, and financial consulting, to individuals and businesses.

2. What is your approach to investing?

You’ll want to know about your prospect’s investment and planning style, the types of investments they prefer, and how they approach market twists and turns. We suggest engaging them in a detailed discussion of how they manage portfolios including tax efficiency strategies. 

A quality advisor will seek to understand your specific financial situation and reasons for investing. Expect detailed questions about your immediate needs, short- and long-term goals, and risk tolerance. 

3. Do you have a fiduciary duty?

An advisor with a fiduciary duty is legally and ethically bound to prioritize your financial interests over their own. Not all advisors operate under this standard, so understanding their obligations is vital. Some may be fiduciaries in certain aspects of the relationship but not across the board.

Some advisors simply have a “suitability” standard of care, meaning their recommendations have to sort of make sense. But they may not necessarily be the best thing for you. Understanding where your advisor’s incentives and legal standing lies may help you understand their recommendations better. 

As regulatory bodies keep an eye on fiduciary duty requirements, periodic reviews of your advisor’s obligations are essential. Remember, a fiduciary duty is your guarantee that your financial well-being is top priority.

4. What services do you offer?

Come to the table with an idea of what your needs are. Financial planners can offer a variety of services including comprehensive financial advice, investment management, retirement planning, wealth management, tax advice, and estate planning. They may also have specializations in areas such as tax law, insurance, and debt management.

If you require specialized advice like business planning, ask about their expertise and practical experience. You’ll also want to inquire about their track record in providing business planning services, specifically in managing cash flow and strategizing for growth opportunities. A thorough understanding of the advisor’s service portfolio and proficiency in tailored financial areas ensures a strategic and informed collaboration.

5. Who is your custodian?

A financial custodian is a financial institution or entity responsible for holding and safeguarding your investments, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other securities. Knowing what custodian your financial advisor uses can tell you a lot about the safety and integrity of your investments. Trusted custodians, like Charles Schwab, Vanguard, and Fidelity, are known for their reliability and commitment to maintaining the security and well-being of your financial holdings. 

6. How do you charge?

Financial planning services may be charged in several ways, so it’s wise to ask for specifics up front. There are hourly rates, fixed fees based on the type of services, and fees based on a percentage of the investments they’re managing for you (generally about 1%). 

Be cautious of commission-based fee structures as these lend themselves to conflicts of interest since your planner earns commissions on each investment made on your behalf. Fee-only advisors are paid directly by you, without commissions or back end charges paid by investment or insurance companies. This helps align your financial planner’s compensation with your overall financial goals. Sometimes, advisors will arrange their payment system as a hybrid of these fee structures. Your advisor should clarify how he or she expects to be paid for services rendered.

7. What can I expect from our working relationship?

It’s important to gain an understanding of the various roles in your prospective advisor’s firm, and what each of those individuals do in managing various aspects of your working relationship. Ease of contact and quality communication are crucial. You’ll want to ask who the client service specialists are on your team, and who your point person will be regarding inquiries into your portfolio, financial plan, investments, and any special requests.

Final Thoughts

You want to hire a financial planner you are comfortable working with, someone who understands and respects your needs, goals, and concerns. We recommend working with someone who is completely transparent with their management of your portfolio and who does not earn commissions on your investments. 

At SK Wealth, our fee-only service structure and our commitment to our fiduciary duty ensures that your best interests are our main priority. We are committed to proactive communication and we’re readily accessible for whatever you need.

Over the past twenty-five years, we have honed The Integrated Financial Advantage™, an exceptional financial planning approach designed to offer clients personalized guidance. This approach empowers you to live with intention tomorrow and today.

Click here to find out more about SK Wealth’s specialized financial planning and investment management services.

Andrew Cayer

Author Andrew Cayer

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