Preparing for a First Meeting with a Financial Advisor

Congratulations! You have scheduled your first meeting with a financial advisor to explore their services and how they can best help you. You’re taking an essential step in forging a path to financial confidence and clarity. Now what? This meeting will be more than just a casual chat. It’s a critical conversation to determine if this professional is the right fit for you. You’ll need to equip yourself with the right questions, clarify your goals, and more.

Start with Clarity

Take a moment to consider your financial goals and what motivated you to reach out to a financial planner or advisor in the first place. Whether it’s building retirement savings, planning for college expenses, or simply gaining better control over your finances, having clear objectives will guide the conversation. Remember, it’s normal not to have everything figured out—that’s precisely why you’re seeking professional guidance. That said, get clear on your need for a professional relationship – it’ll typically be one of the first questions the financial advisor will ask.

Conduct a FINRA Check

Before meeting with a financial advisor, it’s important to perform due diligence. A crucial part of this is reviewing the BrokerCheck resource with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). This will reveal their background, experience, and if there have been any disciplinary actions against the advisor or their firm. A FINRA check can provide peace of mind that the financial planner is in good standing and has adhered to industry standards and regulations. It’s a simple but effective step in ensuring the advisor’s credibility and legitimacy.

Explore their Digital Footprint

In today’s digital age, a financial advisor’s website and online content can be as telling as a face-to-face meeting. Take the time to explore their website, read through any articles they’ve written, watch any videos they’ve produced, or see the organizations and communities they are involved in. This content can give you a sense of their knowledge, expertise, and the type of advice they provide. It’s also an opportunity to see if their financial philosophies align with your personal values and goals.

Establish Your Criteria

Reflect on the qualities that are most important to you in a financial advisor or planner. Consider their experience, their client communication style, or their history of dealing with similar financial situations to yours. Knowing your criteria will help you evaluate whether the advisor is the right fit for your financial needs. Think about whether you prefer someone who takes a conservative approach to investments or someone who is more aggressive. Do you want an advisor who specializes in a particular area, such as retirement planning or tax strategies? Establishing these criteria beforehand will streamline the selection process.

Prepare Questions in Advance

Prepare a list of questions that will help you uncover the financial advisor’s approach and suitability for your needs. Here are a few questions to consider:

• “What does your typical client look like?”
• “What should I expect in terms of communication and collaboration with you?”
• “Can you share your professional background and experience?”
• “How many clients do you serve, and how personalized are your services?”
• “What is the cost structure for your services?”
• “What planning tools or resources do you use, and will I have access to them?”
• “Who comprises your team, and who will I directly work with?”

These questions are designed to give you insight into the financial advisor’s experience, their approach to client relationships, and the resources they bring to the table. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or more details if you need them.

Trust Your Instincts

After the meeting, assess how you feel. Were all your questions answered to your satisfaction? Did the financial planner make you feel at ease? Your instincts can be a powerful gauge of whether the advisor is someone with whom you can build a trusting relationship. Pay attention to how they communicated with you—did they listen carefully to your concerns, or did they seem more interested in pushing their own agenda? Trust your gut feeling; it’s an important part of the decision-making process.

No Pressure

An ethical financial advisor will understand that choosing an advisor is a significant decision that should not be rushed. Be wary of any financial planner who pressures you to make a decision on the spot. A genuine advisor will give you the space and time to consider your options. They should respect your need to think things over and discuss them with your family if necessary. If you feel pressured or rushed, this might be a red flag indicating that the advisor may not have your best interests at heart.

Gather Documentation

To make the most of your first meeting, gather all relevant financial documents. This can include bank statements, investment account information, tax returns, insurance policies, list of your assets and liabilities or any financial document that you feel may be of as assistance in developing a more complete understanding of your financial picture. Having these documents on hand will allow the financial advisor to get a comprehensive view of your financial situation. It also shows that you are serious and prepared, which can set a positive tone for the meeting. Some examples include:

• Personal Investment account statements – IRAs, 401(k)s, etc.
• Bank or credit statements.
• Most recent paystub
• Most recent mortgage statements.

Discuss Your Risk Tolerance

Understanding and communicating your risk tolerance is a crucial part of the financial planning process. Be honest about how comfortable you are with taking risks in your investments. Your financial advisor can help you determine your risk tolerance by discussing different scenarios and how you might react to them. This conversation will help ensure that your investment strategy aligns with your comfort level and long-term goals.

Consider Their Fee Structure

Financial advisors can be compensated in various ways, including flat fees, hourly rates, or commissions on the products they sell. Make sure you understand how the financial planner charges for their services and what that means for you. Ask for a clear explanation of all fees and how they are calculated. This transparency will help you avoid any surprises and ensure that you’re comfortable with the advisor’s compensation structure.

Review Their Credentials

In addition to checking their background through FINRA, look into the financial advisor’s professional credentials. Certifications such as Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), or Certified Public Accountant (CPA) can indicate a higher level of expertise and commitment to ethical standards. These designations often require rigorous exams and continuing education, so they can be a good indicator of an advisor’s professionalism and dedication to their field.

Look For Red Flags

Be on the lookout for any red flags during your interaction with the financial advisor. These can include a lack of transparency about fees, vague or evasive answers to your questions, or a hard sell approach to certain products. Trustworthy financial planners should be open, honest, and willing to explain their recommendations in detail. If something feels off, it’s important to address it directly or consider looking for another advisor.

By embracing these steps, you’re not only preparing for a meeting but setting the foundation for a long-term partnership that aligns with your financial aspirations and personal values. Here’s to finding a financial advisor who can help you navigate your financial voyage with confidence and trust. We welcome the opportunity to meet with you and have this conversation. Click here to book your first meeting.