What to look for in a financial adviser.
by Grace S. Yung, CFP
When seeking out savings and investment advice, there are many choices available to you. Yet, it can still be difficult to find the right financial adviser. Just like choosing legal and healthcare professionals, it is important to look for a perfect fit when choosing an adviser to map out your financial future.
This is especially true for LGBT individuals, whose planning needs can be somewhat different. The good news is that there are ways to narrow down whom you work with—a process that can also help you become much more involved in planning for your financial future.
Who’s the Best Person for the Job?
In many ways, choosing the ideal financial adviser can be compared to hiring someone for a job. This makes sense, as the individual who you work with should have experience and expertise, as well as a proven track record. It also helps if he or she possesses additional certifications and is someone you “click” with.
In today’s financial services world, just about anyone can call themselves an adviser. To narrow your search down to the real professionals, start by asking the following questions:
- How long have you been in the financial-services business? Time in the business is crucial. The market can have its ups and downs, so you want to work with someone who has worked through both good and bad times. Going with an adviser who only has a year or two in the business can be risky in several ways, and you may find yourself seeking a new adviser within a short period of time if that individual decides to jump ship when the going gets tough.
- Where did you get your training? Where an adviser got his or her training can also make a difference. For example, independent advisers who have a major broker/dealer background can bring diversity in ways of thinking to the table. Independent advisers can also be more objective, as they do not have proprietary products. Therefore, clients can feel assured that their advisers are not being encouraged to promote one product over another.
- What is your investment philosophy? In addition to what the adviser does, what is equally important is how the adviser does it. For example, will the adviser monitor your portfolio regularly and make any necessary adjustments in order to keep your investments on track with your goals? Will they keep you informed—in both up and down markets? You don’t want someone who will keep you in the dark when things aren’t going well. So be sure that the person you choose to work with will be your guide and help you to navigate your portfolio through both up and down markets in order to get you where you want to be financially.
- What licenses do you hold? Financial advisers are required to hold different licenses, depending on the type of products they offer. Overall, though, most should at minimum hold an insurance license, as well as a license to offer securities.
- Have you earned any additional certifications or other accolades? Going with an individual who has earned additional industry certifications such as the CFP (Certified Financial Planner) can be a real plus. Oftentimes, going after these additional designations means that the adviser is likely more committed to their career in the industry. Typically, in order to keep these designations, the adviser will be required to complete regular continuing-education courses. These courses can help to keep the adviser up-to-date on various industry trends, products, and topics. Recognition in the industry by peers or clients—such as the Five Star Wealth Manager award (an annual acknowledgment in Texas Monthly) is also a plus.
You may consider working with a friend or family member who is a financial adviser. For some, this can work well, as you know that the individual is trustworthy. In other cases, it may be uncomfortable having someone close to you knowing all of your intimate financial details. Here, it is really a personal preference.
“Do You Want the Truth, or What You Want to Hear?”
Once you have chosen an adviser to work with, one of the first orders of business will be to review your current assets. This will typically lead to developing an overall plan. This plan can be viewed as a blueprint of sorts that will help direct you toward your ultimate financial goals.
In some instances, an investor may not have enough to reach their goals within their desired time frame. This could be due to large market losses, improper asset allocation, or from simply not saving enough.
In any case, it is your financial adviser’s duty to tell you whether or not you are on track—even if breaking the news to you may be disappointing and difficult to hear. A truly good financial professional, however, will be able to use what you have as the starting point in developing a new or alternative route for you.
The Bottom Line on Finding Your Ideal Financial Adviser
There are lots of choices when it comes to getting financial advice, and narrowing down whom you should work with can be a challenge. Whether you’re just beginning the process, or you’re seeking out a new professional, you need to keep in mind that you’ll be handing over the reins to the growth, protection, and management of your life savings—so the decision is definitely a big one. The bottom line is that the ideal financial adviser for you will be the one who is not just experienced and professional, but the one who has your best interests at heart.
Personal finance-related questions may be e-mailed to [email protected]
Grace S. Yung, CFP, is a certified financial planner practitioner with experience in helping domestic partners plan their finances since 1994. She is a principal at Midtown Financial LLC in Houston and was recognized as a “Five-Star Wealth Manager” in the 2014 September issue of Texas Monthly.