We encourage anyone in the ‘interviewing’ phase to explore these topics with anyone they would consider engaging for financial planning.
- Are you a Certified Financial Planner™? This is one of the most recognized and difficult to achieve certifications in our industry and upholds a fiduciary standard of care and best interest. An advisor who takes fiduciary responsibility is legally obligated to act in your best interests, which is a good thing. The mark also indicates recognition of a high level of mastery in many different financial planning areas, allowing for planning in any scenario – big and small, common or unique.
- How are you compensated, and what are your fees? Though this may involve a broad overview of products and services, a consistent level of transparency on the cost and associated advisor compensation of any service should be crystal clear in a long-term planning relationship. You should always know what you’re paying, and if it is appropriate for your level of service.
- Can you provide independent advice and investment strategies? Many advisors with the big financial “wirehouses” or even smaller boutique firms are compelled by their company to only offer their firm’s own proprietary investment solutions, and may be limited to a pre-determined set of fund families or a one-size-fits-all pre-packaged strategy. Conversely, independent advisors draw upon independent research and resources and may utilize appropriate strategies that range the entire financial world, working with you to help determine a strategy suited to your needs.
- Do you have a Financial Standard of Care? Just as medical doctors have routine procedures that dictate every office visit, financial advisors should have a written Standard of Care that covers what to expect with frequency of meeting and communications, accessibility, planning services commitment, and an expectation that as you journey from one phase of life to another, there should be no wealth planning area that goes undiscovered or undiscussed.
- What technology resources do you use and what is available to me? Advisors should be familiar and comfortable with the latest in financial planning tools, calculators, and online resources. Digital documents, e-signatures, and instant access to your accounts are crucial and should be available and easy to use – anytime, anywhere.