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Achieving and maintaining financial stability is a goal many Americans have. Everyone wants peace of mind knowing that their money is being handled properly. Wealth Managers play an important role in helping you make smart financial decisions to meet your short- and long-term goals.
It’s not always an easy task to make a solid connection with a complete stranger who is going to advise and manage your hard-earned money. Here are six general characteristics to look for when searching for a great financial advisor.
1. Knowledge Base and Continuing Education
Money is an essential part of peoples’ lives, and you want to ensure that the person who will be handling your money is knowledgeable. A few questions that you can ask include:
- Where did they get their education?
- What licenses, designations, and certifications do they have?
- What is their niche (i.e. high net-worth, slow and steady savers, etc.)?
- What continuing education courses do they concentrate on?
You wouldn’t hire an electrician to do your taxes and this is no different. You should seek out a professional that has prepared him/herself with the appropriate training and industry knowledge. It’s important to hire a wealth manager whose investment philosophy and foundation for advice makes you feel comfortable and aligns with your goals.
Important topics they should know and factor into any financial plan are: planning for future purchases, paying for an education, or what it means to retire comfortably. Make sure to explicitly ask your potential wealth manager what they would factor into your plans.
Along with someone who has financial knowledge, you also want your wealth manager to be someone who is attentive to your needs and will help you meet your financial goals. Although great wealth managers will have other clients, you’ll want to choose someone who makes you feel like they care about you and the important choices you will need to make regarding your future.
Don’t be afraid to ask a wealth manager what their typical relationship with a client looks like. Make sure to discuss expectations on both fronts to ensure that both parties are happy with the relationship. If after meeting with a potential wealth manager, you feel like you are going to be treated like just another number, you may want to consider looking for another candidate.
3. Ability to see your life’s “Big Picture”
Money is an important tool in planning your future and will play a big role in how the chapters of your life unfold. Your wealth advisor should fully understand your goals, fears, and what is truly important to you in your life.
He/she should ask you A LOT of questions. Many of them will be personal. It is crucial that he/ she take all the factors of your life into account; for example: major life purchases, dependents, college savings, retirement plans, and estate planning wishes.
As with all relationships, communication is key. Although some people may not feel the need to meet with their wealth advisor as often as others, it is important to keep the lines of communication open. Meeting once a year is sometimes not enough for everyone considering a lot of things can happen in a year (marriage, baby, etc.) which may affect your finances or shift your goals. You both should consider whether more frequent “check-ins” are available or needed, whether over the phone, video conference, or face-to-face.
It’s also very important that you and your wealth manager see eye-to-eye in terms of goals. A great wealth manager should empathize with their client’s interests. If you want to leave your estate to a charity instead of your children, you should be able to do so without feeling judged. A great wealth manager should give you objective, unbiased information to help you make smart decisions that make you feel at ease.
5. Ability to Teach
The ability to teach goes hand in hand with communication. A great wealth manager is also someone who can explain your financial plan in layman’s terms. Meeting with a wealth manager—especially initially—can be an overwhelming process as it is, so understanding their lingo is crucial. You need to feel comfortable and ensure that you are on the same page.
If you come across something you don’t understand, just ask. A great wealth manager should always be willing to take the time to explain your finances to you. They are there to help teach, guide, and advise you.
Like most relationships, one of the most important traits to look for in a wealth manager is trust. It is important for you to have complete trust in your wealth manager. You can ask for referrals from people you trust, like friends and family.
Entering a relationship with trust will ensure that you can make these decisions knowing your wealth manager has your best interest at heart and will help you sleep better at night. Your wealth manager should be someone you can feel comfortable forming a long-term relationship with.
The tricky part of finding a great wealth manager is evaluating these characteristics and determining what is most important to you. Everyone has their own “wish list” of what they want in a wealth manager, so take your time, do some research, and meet with a few different individuals until you find your perfect match!
Victoria Penn is the AVP of Marketing for SWBC. She manages a team that develops traditional and digital marketing strategies for SWBC's lines of business.