Finding a Financial Advisor You Can Trust

Finding a Financial Advisor You Can Trust

Written by: Soren T. Christensen, CFP®, CIMA®, ChFC®, MBA, Founder & Chief Planning Officer, Advanced Wealth Advisors

Divulging the intimate details of your financial life to another person is tough. Maybe your financial story has rough spots you would rather not discuss. For some, talking about how much we make, own and owe just makes us uneasy. How we manage money says a lot about us. It is all so personal. Yet, sharing this information is essential to financial planning. The even scarier part comes after you share all this information: trusting another person to manage your money. But, if you want a solid financial future, you must take this step.

How can you find the right person — someone who not only has the credentials, but also understands your perspective, and puts you at ease? This article provides tips for your quest to find the financial planner and wealth manager who is best for you.

Start with Education and Accreditations

Knowing your chosen advisor has the experience and credentials required to do a good job is the first step. Verify whether the financial planner or wealth manager has studied extensively in his or her field of practice. Has this advisor gone beyond a bachelor’s degree to complete a master’s program? Did the program focus on financial planning or wealth management? Separate from graduate study, has your financial advisor continued expanding his or her financial knowledge base?

Advanced accreditations in the field are one sign. Ask a financial planner if he is a Certified Financial Planner™ certificant or has a similar accreditation. Ask a wealth manager if she is a Certified Investment Management Analyst® professional or has a similar accreditation. Both Certified Financial Planner, “CFP,” and Certified Investment Management Analyst, “CIMA,” certificants have a duty to act in your best interest at all times.

Confirm Experience and Expertise

Education and accreditations can only take a person so far. To provide high-quality financial advice, an advisor needs real world experience. How long has this person been practicing, and what are his or her areas of expertise? I recommend selecting someone with at least ten years of experience in financial services and with extensive experience in both financial planning and wealth management.

Most people need help in the following areas of financial life: investments, retirement, tax, insurance, and estate planning. An asset manager might not have ample knowledge to plan your estate. A financial planner might not be able to assist with your insurance needs. Understand the strengths and limitations of the advisor you choose, and recognize that you may need multiple financial advisors to cover all your needs.

Ask for References and Verify Standards

Any good financial planner or wealth manager should be able to provide a list of current clients to serve as references. Request this list and speak with a few of the people on it. Beforehand, prepare a list of questions relevant to your individual needs. Ask about the advisor’s professional performance, but also about him or her as a person.

Don’t forget: The internet can serve as a great tool in this process. Search for the financial advisor or the advisor’s firm on Google, Facebook, or Top Rated Local. Do reviews on these sites align with what you’ve heard from the references? Also, ask the advisor if he or she has been recognized for excellence in the field in any publication.

Most importantly, ask if the financial advisor is a fiduciary. Legally, a fiduciary must represent your best interest at all times, unlike a broker, who has a much lower standard. Regardless of education, experience, references and reviews, if your financial advisor is not dedicated to honesty, transparency, and acting solely in your best interest, trusting him or her will be difficult.

Trust Your Gut

The final decision rests with you. After you have reviewed the advisor’s education, experience, credentials, and quality of service, decide what is most important to you. Is it working with a financial advisor dedicated to your best interest? Do you want a fully transparent compensation structure? A customized financial or wealth management plan? Do you want an advisor to aid in all areas of your financial life? Is it important that you work with a financial advisor who gives back to their community? These are just some of the questions you may want to ask. You should create a list of other questions unique to you to help you understand if you can trust and work well with the professional you are interviewing.

Following the steps highlighted here should bolster your confidence about hiring the right financial advisor. If you would like to interview one of our financial planners and wealth managers, please contact us today.