By Rene Bruer
If you’re in the market for a financial advisor, one of the biggest questions you may have asked yourself is “how do I find the right person?” Think about what brought you to this point; a life change, a complicated financial situation, receiving a financial windfall, retirement, starting a new job with new benefits, tax management, selling a business, etc. More than likely it’s a substantial event and you believe that you need help.
So, how do you find an advisor? You may turn to a family member, a friend, a lawyer or CPA, or the internet to find the right financial advisor for you. What should you look for? What questions do you need answered and how much help do you need?
I would like to provide you with some guidance and even more importantly, clarity. My opinions are sourced from over a decade of experience listening to our clients and working with individuals, families and businesses who are seeking to work with a financial advisor.
No one sought a meeting with me to be sold a financial product, no one. Instead, they wanted to meet with someone who would listen to what’s going on and to understand and empathize with their circumstances. They want an advisor to listen and help them put that situation in perspective with their resources. They want clarity and advice, not a product pitch.
My and my team’s advice is rooted in transparency. Being fee-only, fiduciary advisors we have to earn trust. We cannot sell it. We have been a part of highly sensitive conversations with individuals and families where we address fears, relationships (family and friends), values, opportunities, and money. The transparency and trust factors are formed in these discussions and they should dictate your comfort with the advisor.
The advisor has to “walk the walk.” You may be meeting with a good and empathetic listener, but are their interests aligned with yours? How (and by whom) are they paid? Fee-only, fiduciary advisors have to do what’s in their client’s best interest. What that means is that they have to put your interests in front of their own. If they have conflicts, they have to be mitigated and fully disclosed. Fee-only, fiduciary advisors are paid by their clients. They cannot accept commissions or any form of compensation or incentives from third-parties like mutual fund or insurance companies. Smith Bruer Advisors is a fee-only, fiduciary registered investment adviser (RIA) that is only paid by its clients.
Advisors should have the requisite amount of experience and credentials. A license is simply a requirement to provide advice, but it’s not enough. A well-trained advisor will have spent time learning a financial planning process, sitting in client meetings with more experienced advisors who served as their mentors. They should also be seeking (or possess) advanced degrees and/or designations like the Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) or Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA), to name a few. The process to “form” a qualified advisor may take years before that person is ready to give advice. This is the type of training and experience that Smith Bruer Advisors mandates from our advisors.
When you meet with an advisor and are given a financial plan, take your time reviewing the information and recommendations. You should not be rushed. If you’re unsure of what you have received, ask questions. If you’re still unsure, seek a second opinion. You want to enter into this relationship with a long-term outlook which means that you have to be comfortable and confident.
I would also like to share two beneficial resources that may help you in finding the right advisor:
Certified Financial Planner Board’s 10 Questions to Ask Your Financial Advisor
National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) – Registered Financial Advisor
There are a lot of good advisors out there. My hope is that you find one that listens, answers your questions, is qualified, puts your interests ahead of their own and helps you establish a strong and long-term financial plan.