Ask the Expert: Finding the Right Financial Advisor
As we head into the last quarter of 2015, most of us would like to earn more, save more, and invest more money in the year ahead. We asked Bruce Helmer, noted financial advisor, author, speaker, and radio host, for his advice.
“If you want to make your money work harder and smarter, hire a professional financial advisor,” says Helmer. “The financial services industry is big on quantitative research, and study after study proves that people who use financial advisors enjoy better overall investment performance than people who don’t. Even Vanguard, the kings of do-it-yourself investing, recently published a study that shows a good financial advisor can add as much as three percent to a client’s annual return on investment.”
Unlike a traditional stockbroker who only buys and sells securities, a financial advisor takes a holistic approach to managing your assets. He or she will spend time with you to understand your short-term and long-term financial goals, develop a comprehensive plan, and work with you to implement the plan. “Depending on your individual needs, your personal financial plan may include investment and savings strategies, tax-reduction strategies, future value forecasting, risk management, Social Security analysis, estate planning, life and disability insurance, long-term care insurance, and more,” says Helmer.
If you don’t currently have a financial advisor, or are dissatisfied with your current advisor, ask your family and friends for referrals. Your attorney, accountant, or other professional may also be willing to provide a recommendation. “The financial advisor should be a registered representative with a Series 7 brokerage license, which allows him or her to place trades on your behalf,” says Helmer. “Look for an advisor who works for an independent brokerage firm, not a large Wall Street firm, and make sure that he or she is a fiduciary. Unlike stockbrokers, who are not required to put their clients’ interest ahead of their own, a fiduciary, by law, must provide advice and investment recommendations that he or she believes to be best for the client.”
Before you make your decision, do your due diligence and interview potential advisors individually, in person. During the interviews, invite the advisors to talk about themselves and their careers. Ask them why they chose to work with their firms and how they charge for their services. Talk about what defines a successful client relationship—what can you expect of them? How available are they? Will they meet with you on a quarterly or annual basis? What will they expect of you? Ask what happens if the relationship doesn’t work out. Will there be a fee to close the account or other costs?
“As you talk with each advisor, listen to your intuition. Money is deeply personal, as it affects every area of our lives, so it’s important that your advisor has the right balance of financial acumen, integrity, and empathy for your individual needs,” says Helmer. “If something doesn’t feel right to you, the advisor is probably not going to be a good fit. Take your time to find a person who makes you feel comfortable, understands who you are, and what you find meaningful in life. Once you’ve found a great financial advisor, you’re on your way to making your money work harder and smarter.”
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