Unless you are significantly more financially savvy than the average consumer, chances are good that at some point in your life you will need a financial advisor. Couples and singles, widows and divorcees, parents and childless adults all have unique financial goals. As you progress through life, you may find that your previous ways of handling money aren’t working well for you anymore.
Buying and selling homes, paying for education or starting a business, and retiring are all major milestones that can drain your finances, or, ultimately, pay handsome dividends. Knowing how to manage your money so that it grows, while still obeying the letter of the law, can be tricky, to say the least. If you find yourself with more questions than answers regarding money, it may be time to find a professional to help you sort everything out.
So, how do you find the best financial advisor for your particular needs? This article touches on a few helpful ideas to get you started. Keep in mind, however, that knowing your financial goals before you schedule a consultation will save you and the professional you are talking to a considerable amount of time. As with most everything, time equals money, so do your homework before you go.
1. Ask for Referrals From Friends and Family
People you know who are in a similar station in life as yourself may be using an advisor who would meet your needs. Ask around your workplace, your social group, and your relatives for names of agencies or individual planners who charge a fair rate and make financial planning simple. Depending on your goals, you may want to check out investment brokerages, day-traders, analysts, or insurance agents.
2. Figure Out the Cost
There is no set way for financial advisors to be paid, so you will want to know up front how you will be billed. Ask which of these three methods are used:
- Some professionals charge by the hour, which is great if you only need a small amount of help. Shop around for a fair price, and be sure you are comparing apples to apples.
- Others earn a commission on the products they sell, which can lead to a conflict of interest if they are more concerned with padding their own bank account instead of yours.
- A third category of advisors earn a fee based on the value of your portfolio. The more money you are making on your investments, the more your advisor will earn. This can be very fair for both parties because the advisor has an incentive to work hard for you.
3. Go For a Personal Touch
The firm or individual that you hire to help you with your money will have a very intimate knowledge of your personal finances. In order to be sure you are comfortable with the arrangement, schedule a face-to-face consultation with prospective advisors before you hire them.
Also, because you are paying them a portion of your hard-earned money, you’ll want to be certain that you receive a high level of personal service. Nobody wants to be just another number in a ledger, so strive to get the most attention possible from your advisor.
4. Verify Credentials
Just as you would want to be certain that the person setting your broken bone is a certified medical professional, you need to confirm that your new financial advisor meets certain criteria. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has a page on their site where you can type in a company’s name and do some fact checking.
Whatever your financial needs and goals are, be sure to hire a professional who is qualified. Verify the fee schedule, meet with them in person, and make certain you feel comfortable with their personality and level of service before you make a commitment.