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.