6.5 MIN READ
A financial planner helps you with your most important asset - your money. However, before you hire someone to help you manage your finances, it’s a good idea to ask them a few questions to find out how they work, what services they provide, and what they charge for their services.
These questions will give you a better idea of if they are a good fit for you. It might feel a little bit awkward, but it’s crucial to vet anyone you’re trusting with your money thoroughly.
What Can a Financial Planner Help With?
To begin, you should know what a financial planner can help you with. A financial planner provides advice and actionable steps to help clients reach their financial goals, whether those goals are big or small. Each situation looks different depending on the client and their personal or business needs. Contrary to popular belief, financial planners can help anyone regardless of their income level or the number of investments. An excellent financial planner simply wants to help you make your money grow.
A few common areas that financial planners can help with include:
Saving an emergency fund
Saving for specific goals
Tax optimization (minimization)
Creating a full financial plan
Before you interview financial planners, decide what type of financial advice you want. Are you struggling with debt of some kind? Or are you hoping to save up for a house? Are you looking for investment advice? There’s no wrong reason to seek out a financial planner. Knowing in advance what you want to accomplish with your money will make it easier to sort out what kind of financial planner will best meet your needs.
For example, if you're not looking for investment advice but want a complete financial plan put together, you would look for a Certified Financial Planner.
Make sure you're honest with any advisor you talk to. Let him or her know your full plans and what you need help with. If you're completely lost, tell them. You'll know right off the bat if he or she can help you. If they seem overwhelmed at what you bring to the table, then they aren't the right advisor for you.
Since advisors work with your money and ultimately help you build your net worth, you want someone you can trust and have a long-term relationship with. Take your time when you look for financial advisors, as ideally, you only want to look for a financial advisor once in your life.
How Do You Interview a Financial Planner?
Interviewing a financial planner is a lot like interviewing someone for a job. They are handling your money, after all. Whether you have a high net worth or you are in over your head with credit cards and other personal debts and need a way out, you'll want to make sure you're working with the right person.
Before you meet or talk to any advisors, prepare yourself. Write your list of questions beforehand so that you don’t forget anything important. Writing the questions down ensures that you'll ask everything that's on your mind because you might get sidetracked or even overwhelmed when talking to advisors. You shouldn’t worry about asking too many questions or bothering advisors; they are used to being questioned by potential clients. This is how they get the 'job' to work with their clients.
It's also a good idea to bring a pen and paper with you, so you can write down the answers to the questions to make sure the advisor fits your needs.
There's no wrong way to interview a financial planner and no checklist of things that will ensure that you’ve found the perfect person. However, here are some signs to look for:
A good rapport between the two of you; you should be comfortable with the person who handles your money
Affordable fees, whether the advisor is fee-based or charges a percentage of your net worth
A method of communication using a medium, such as an email or phone calls, that you're comfortable with
Methods and principles that align with your beliefs
A plan that you think is achievable and that you feel good about
The bottom line is that you want to work with an advisor that understands your perspective, has similar ideas to you, and will help you reach your financial goals. If you don't feel comfortable with him or her or find yourself holding back on sharing your thoughts or goals, it may not be the right advisor.
When you work with a financial advisor, whether out of necessity because you can't get out of debt or because you want someone to guide your financial decisions, you want someone you can trust.
What Should You Ask a Financial Planner?
Every person will have their own set of questions that they want to be answered, but here are some common questions to get you started. You will probably want to tweak them when you talk to a financial planner, depending on your own personal circumstances and goals.
How many years have you been a financial planner?
What type of clients do you usually work with?
Are you a fiduciary with every client?
Do you give investment advice?
What are your qualifications?
What services do you provide?
How will we communicate, and how often?
What are your fees and what's included? What can result in additional fees?
What certifications and education do you have?
What type of experience do you have with clients with goals similar to mine?
What Is the Difference Between a Financial Planner and Financial Advisor?
In general, there isn't a big difference between a financial planner and a financial advisor. Both professions provide financial advice and help you to organize and manage your finances.
However, a financial advisor is better equipped to offer you investment advice. If you want investment advice, you should only work with a Registered Investment Advisor who passed the Series 65 exam or who works under one.
If you’re NOT looking for investment advice, then it doesn’t matter if you choose to work with a financial planner or financial advisor, so long as you find someone you feel comfortable working with. These interview tips will help you find someone who you can trust with your money.
About the Author
Sahil Vakil is the Founder & CEO of MYRA Wealth – a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) in NY/NJ that provides Personal Finance services to International & Multicultural individuals in the United States – a large majority of whom are 1st & 2nd generation immigrants. As a 1st Generation Immigrant himself, Sahil is on a mission to make MYRA Wealth the “home away from home” for this vibrant and thriving International & Multicultural community.
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