posted on January 21st 2016 in Austin CFP Team Posts & Your Financial Advisor with 0 Comments /

Choosing a Financial Planner

Last time you considered working with a financial planner and stepped back to evaluate your wealth, what did you look at? If you’re like most people, it probably included taking inventory on your savings and checking balances, your investment accounts, your expenses, and other things of monetary value.

You’re not alone. When it comes time for choosing a financial planner, most people get ready to share their numbers right from the get go. What they don’t take into account is that financial planning is more than just a numbers game — and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional is someone who won’t just help you grow your wealth by having a handle on your account balances, but will best become your ally by getting to know more about your personal situation and lifetime goals.

Let’s talk more about what really goes into the relationship between you and your financial planner, what you’ll want to share (and know about them), and where to begin your search for the right planner to add to your team.

Building wealth requires more than seeing bank accounts

Building your wealth can’t be done in isolation — it both affects and is affected by nearly everything else in your life. Before working with a financial planner, yes, you’ll want to get a handle on where your money resides, from checking and savings accounts to investment portfolios and college savings plans. But perhaps even more important is what else you’ll want to prepare to give your  CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional the most comprehensive picture of where you are right now and where you want to be later.

Here are a few things you might consider before engaging:

    • Your family life: Your financial future depends heavily on the others who are part of it. Even if you’re planning solely for yourself at the moment, consider future spouse(s), kids, parents, and other dependents who you may have responsibility over.
    • Your immediate goals: Short-term planning requires specifics. What does your current situation look like, and what are you looking to make happen within the next few months or year? Perhaps you want to buy a house or car, or you’re looking to sell off your business.
    • Your extended plan: What is your ideal plan for the future? Consider where you want to live; who’s in your life; your retirement plan. Look as far out as you can.
    • Your lifestyle: Consider both how you currently live and how you’d like to live. Include your necessities, as well as the “nice-to-haves”, including your hobbies and dreams. (That second home on the private island fits into this category.)
    • Your community involvement: What is your role in your community? Do you have a giving plan or certain causes you wish to greater support in the future?

Part of getting in tune with your financial planner is giving them the full picture of who you are, as well as sharing both your strengths and your weaknesses — in planning, spending, and saving — so that your advisor has the most complete picture of how they can help you get to where you want to be.

Turn the table: get to know your potential financial planner

Like most relationships, this isn’t a one-way street. Yes, your planner needs to have a more comprehensive understanding of who you are due to the nature of their services, but it is equally as important that you have an idea of who you’ll be trusting to help you build the wealth that will enable the future you’re dreaming of.

You’ll likely start with the basics, inquiring about pricing, past experience, specializations, and financial approaches. But it’s incredibly important that you use this time to also discover more about who your financial planner is as a person.

Here are a few things to look for:

    • Personality: How does their personality strike you — are they calm and curious, excited and aggressive, or something else entirely?
    • Honesty: Are they more of the “say-what-you-want-to-hear” type, or the “give-it-to-me-straight” type?
    • Types of clients they work with: Do they mostly work with clients who share similar characteristics to you, or would you be a completely unique case?
    • Ethics/beliefs when it comes to money: Do they follow an aggressive approach or have a more conservative viewpoint? What are their major beliefs — and how do they compare to yours?
    • Communication: What’s their preferred method and frequency of communication?
    • Other interests: What’s their role in the local community? How do they spend their free time? What are their values?
    • Initial conversations: How much do they ask about, and what kinds of things are they inquiring about? Do they seem genuinely interested in your goals and who you are?

Of course, part of learning these things means having to know what you’re looking for. In addition,  consider what else you’d need to know to trust your potential planner — it will look different for everyone. Maybe you have a strange suspicion of anyone who’s favorite color is yellow. Take that into account. (We’re kidding, of course — but you see what we mean.)

Trust is huge, and relationship is everything. The overwhelm and uncertainty that are inherent in financial planning are abated when you have someone you trust in your corner.

How to find a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional

A successful financial planner relationship is more than a quarterly statement. It’s important that you find the right person.

To get started, ask friends, family, coworkers, or fellow community members for referrals. Recommendations from people you trust who have real experiences can be the most enlightening. One tip: It’s wise to ask for referrals from people who share some aspects of your situation to be sure you’re getting a qualified referral.

Referrals alone won’t guarantee a good relationship, though. Other objective criteria you’ll want to look for includes:

  • Their accreditation as a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™  professional
  • Their track record
  • Their employment history
  • Their years of experience
  • Whether or not they’re fee-only
  • Their professional reputation
  • Their visibility within the community

Here are a few other places you might look to find your potential financial planner:

You can’t control the performance of the markets or the economy, but you can control who you trust to handle your accounts and act in your best interest.

Build your team; build your future

Our access to money permeates nearly everything we do — and therefore everything we do determines our need for money. That’s why it is incredibly important to be forthright with your financial planner about the full picture of where you’re at right now in order to find the financial planner(s) that can best match your needs and help you on your way.

We’ll leave you with a fun fact: your fellow peers’ satisfaction with their investments, while logically based on the performance of those investments, was also hugely dependent on their overall satisfaction with their financial planner. Like most things in life, relationships are everything — and like a job where you’re happy with the paycheck but not happy with the work or the people, the financial returns from sound investments are that much more satisfying when you’ve developed a solid relationship with a trustworthy financial planner who knows where you are, and where you’re going.

Want to learn more about how to build a successful relationship with a financial planner? Set up a no-obligation call with one of our trusted certified financial planners today.

800-620-4232

about the author: Christopher P. Van Slyke CFP®

Christopher Van Slyke CFPChristopher P. Van Slyke CFP® is a past member of the board of directors of The Financial Planning Association (FPA) of Austin, San Diego and Los Angeles, as well as the western region board of directors for the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. Christopher, a Certified Financial Planner Professional, has been quoted or published in The Wall Street Journal, San Diego Union Tribune, Financial Planning, Smart Money, Financial Advisor, Boomer Market Advisor, MSN Money. Learn More and Contact Christopher for Speaking / Writing Engagements

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