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Everyone wants peace of mind knowing that their money is being handled properly. Financial advisors play an important role in helping you make the right investment decisions.
There are many different types of financial advisors available to help you with your financial planning including Estate Planners, Registered Investment Advisers, Accountants, Certified Financial Planners, and Insurance Agents. The type of advice that you are seeking will determine what type of advisor is the right match for you since they all provide a different set of expertise.
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.
- Knowledge Base and Continuing Education
Money is an essential part of people’s lives and you want to ensure that the person who will be handling your money is knowledgeable. 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 a plumber to do your taxes and this is no different.
It’s important to hire a financial advisor whose investment philosophy and foundation for advice make you feel comfortable. 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 ask your potential financial advisor what they would factor into your plans.
Along with someone who has financial knowledge, you also want your financial advisor to be someone who is attentive to your needs and will help you meet your financial goals. Although great financial advisors 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 financial advisor what their typical relationship with a client looks like. Make sure to discuss expectations on both fronts of being a client and an advisor to ensure that both parties are happy with the relationship. If after meeting with a potential financial advisor you feel like you are going to be treated like just another number, you may want to consider looking for another candidate.
- Ability to see your life’s “Big Picture”
As the adage goes, “Money isn’t everything,” but it is an important tool in planning your future and will play a big role in how the chapters of your life unfold. You want your financial advisor to fully understand your goals, fears, and what is truly important to you in your life.
Your financial advisor should be asking you LOTS of questions. Many of them will be personal. It is crucial for your financial advisor to take all the factors of your life into account; for example: major life purchases, 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 financial 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. 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 financial advisor see eye-to-eye in terms of goals. A great financial advisor 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. Your advisor should give you objective, unbiased information to help you make smart decisions that make you feel at ease.
- Ability to Teach
This attribute goes hand in hand with communication. A great financial advisor is also someone who can explain your financial plan in layman’s terms. Meeting with a financial advisor can be an overwhelming process as it is, so understanding their lingo is crucial. You need to feel comfortable and ensure that you and your advisor are on the same page.
If you come across something that you don’t understand, just ask. A great financial advisor should always be willing to take the time to explain your finances with you. They are there to help teach, guide, and advise you.
It is important for you to have complete trust in your financial advisor. One of the best ways to do this is to ask for referrals from people you trust, like friends and family. If you don’t trust your financial advisor as a person, how can you trust them to handle your finances?
Entering a relationship with trust will ensure that you can make these decisions knowing that your financial advisor has your best interest at heart and will help you sleep better at night. Your financial advisor should be someone that you can feel comfortable forming a relationship with long-term. Much like a relationship with a CPA, or a doctor, you should be able to put 100% faith in your advisor.
The tricky part of finding a great financial advisor is evaluating these characteristics and determining what is most important to you. Everyone has their own “wish list” of what they want in a financial advisor. So take your time, do some research, and meet with a few different advisors until you find your perfect match!
Kelly Tramontano is President and CEO of SWBC Investment Services and SWBC Investment Company. Since assuming this position in 2001, Kelly has created a Broker Dealer and Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), doubled the number of institutional clients, established a Wealth Management solution, and developed a platform for independent advisors. Kelly’s outstanding achievements qualified her as an MVP, and a member of the Century Club, Ambassador’s Club, and the President’s Club. She was named as Financial Network’s Outstanding Financial Institutions Division Representative of the Year in 1999 and was recognized as a Top Ten Achiever for 2001. Kelly was also named as one of San Antonio’s top “40 Under 40” Rising Stars and serves on a variety of boards and committees in the community.