I’ve never worked with a financial advisor before. What should the experience be like?

I’ve never worked with a financial advisor before. What should the experience be like?

April 24, 2024

Question:

I’ve never worked with a financial advisor before. What should the experience be like?

 Answer:

We have the pleasure of working with many clients as their first experience with a financial advisor. During the initial meetings with them, we want to ensure that they understand what a proper financial advisor/ client relationship should look like.

A common misconception is that all a financial advisor does is manage your investment portfolio. In actuality their influence on your life can go far beyond that, from help with budgeting, to cash flow analysis, to tax planning, estate planning and retirement planning as well.

This is the key difference between a financial advisor and a stockbroker. While a stockbroker’s job is to take investment orders and help you buy and sell securities, a financial advisor’s job is to understand your full financial picture and to help you define and work toward your goals in life.

This is why many financial advisors use the words advisor and financial planner interchangeably. Their job is to help you plan out your finances, not just your investments.

Below, we discuss some of the key pillars of what working with a financial advisor should look like.

  • Initial Planning Meeting: When you first meet with your financial advisor there should be several different things you discuss with them. This includes understanding your income and debt, what your monthly cash flow is, if you have any retirement savings, if you have any children or dependents and what assets you own, among others. This information will help to build the foundation of your financial plan.


  • Financial Plan Review: After you have completed your initial planning meeting, the next step is for your advisor to devise a plan to help you pursue your financial goals. This plan should include your investment tolerance, time horizon to meet certain financial goals you have, tax planning strategies and attention to your current financial habits, among others.

 

  • Financial Plan Implementation: The next step is now to put your plan into action. This will include activities like investing your money in a portfolio that is right for you and even helping you develop financial habits that are consistent with your goals.

 

  • Monitor and Review: The last feature of your financial plan is where your relationship really takes off with your advisor. No plan, no matter how long the time horizon is, should be “set it and forget it”. A financial advisor that is doing their job properly will continuously monitor and review your portfolio and should speak with you regularly to ensure that nothing has changed in your financial picture.

Now since we discussed what the planning process can look like, let’s discuss some questions you should be asking your advisor before you start your relationship with them.

 

Questions to ask your financial advisor:

 

  • What services do they offer: There are a wide range of services that financial advisors can offer. These include financial planning, estate planning and tax planning services as well as philanthropic strategies and risk management planning.

 

  • Do they have any regulatory disclosures: If you are a licensed financial advisor and have been accused of wrongdoing by your firm or a client, the case is logged in a publicly available database along with the resolution to that dispute.

 

  • Is your advisor a fiduciary: Being an advisor acting in a fiduciary capacity means that you are legally bound to put your client’s interests in front of your own. Though every advisor’s standard should be to do so, this adds an extra level of protection for the client if issues arise.

 

  • How will you create my financial plan: Financial planning should be viewed on a case-by-case basis by a financial advisor. Every client has different needs and is in different situations in their life so making sure the plan makes sense for your lifestyle is of the utmost importance.

 

  • What fees are you paying: There are a few different ways your financial advisor may get paid by you and it is important to ask how yours will. Is there an asset-based fee on the amount of money they are managing for you, a flat fee for the financial advice they give you or do they receive commission for the trades they make in your portfolio. These different pay structures can add up to vastly different charges in the long run so understanding exactly what you will be paying can help give you confidence.

 

Ultimately, we feel as though having a relationship with a financial advisor can be beneficial for adults of all ages and income status. The helping hands an advisor can give to you while helping you pursue your financial goals can be a key differentiating factor in how prepared you are in your financial life.

 

Of course, if you would like to discuss how we would be able to help your financial plan take shape, please do not hesitate to reach out!

What topics do you have questions about? Let us know in the section below and we hope you found this helpful!