5 Questions to Ask Before You Trust Someone with Your Money
That said, this is also one of the most confusing roles out there: What do they do? What credentials do they have? How do they get paid? And how can I tell good ones from bad ones? Part of the confusion is that financial advisers aren't like doctors—anyone can claim to be one. There's no one standard certification or credential. That makes picking a financial adviser difficult.
But confusion shouldn't mean you ignore the opportunity. The right financial adviser can help you increase your money and plan for the future at a much better rate than most people can do on their own—not only because of his or her expertise, but also because of the accountability that comes with talking through your financial picture with a pro. For starters, the best way to narrow down the list beyond a Google search is to ask for recommendations from people you trust who are—in assets, or perhaps profession—similar to you. This will give you a starting spot. Once you narrow it down to some possibilities, then you can look at the major issues or questions.
Here's What to Ask:
1. How will we stay connected? Will we schedule meetings? Will I meet with you or associates?
What You Want to Hear: "Let's talk about that." You want to hear that the adviser is going to work according to what you're comfortable with—not his or her preference. If you want to meet often, that should work. If you'd rather just have yearly check-ins, that's fine, too, although you should consider coming up with a list of scenarios (e.g., an investment imploded) in which the adviser will reach out to you in between.
2. Do you work with other clients like me?
What You Want to Hear: "Yes, like x, y, and z." (Note: Your adviser doesn't have to name names, and in fact shouldn't without permission from those individuals. General descriptions are fine unless you're asking for references—see below.) It's especially helpful if the adviser works with people from your same company and so will know benefits and retirement plans and structures. If you own your own business, you want someone who is skilled at setting up plans for entrepreneurs.
3. Do you have references?
What You Want to Hear: "Here they are." Always important to get a sense of how this person works with perspectives from other people. BTW: It's not enough to get references; you also have to call them.
4. Do you also own shares in or a part of the investment you'll recommend to me?
What You Want to Hear: "Yes" or "No, and here's why." There are reasons the answer to this question could be no—different goals, different time horizon. But knowing the answer is yes provides a certain degree of satisfaction.
5. How did you handle 2008?
What You Want to Hear: "I talked with my clients about how they were positioned to weather down markets, and the fact that we knew this period would eventually come, and encouraged them to stick with their plan." You want to know that your adviser has the ability to lead you through both boom times and recessions. How often did he or she communicate with clients? Did he or she change course in a meaningful way? How did he or she handle clients who insisted that they wanted to dramatically reduce their exposure to equities?
This is an adapted excerpt from the book AgeProof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip by Jean Chatzky and Michael F. Roizen, MD. Copyright © 2017 by Jean Chatzky and Michael F. Roizen, MD. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Life & Style. All rights reserved.
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