Choosing Your Financial Professional

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Choosing your team of financial professionals, and especially those who may advise you on investment decisions, takes some careful planning and reference checking on your part. You need to have a very clear understanding of the services and associated costs when hiring a financial professional. Whether you need the help of an investment advisor, a stock broker, or a financial planner, you’re the final decision maker and if you don’t feel comfortable with your financial planners or their performance, you should not hesitate to take action. If you’re in the market looking for a financial professional, here are some helpful tips to find a professional that is best for you.

Select Some Preliminary Candidates

If you don’t know anyone in your area, you can check the yellow pages of your phone book, but a better idea is to work from referrals. Ask your friends, work colleagues, and family members for their recommendations. You also can contact professional organizations for names of professionals practicing in your area. To do this, call toll-free, or check their websites. You can visit these web site and get a list of financial professionals by your zip code or city name.

National Association of Personal Financial Advisors – Website | Phone 1-888-FEE-ONLY
Financial Planning Association(FPA) – Website | Go here Phone 1-888-806-PLAN
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants – Website | Phone 1-800-862-4272
Once you have selected a few names from the list, you are ready to move on to next step.

Check References

Call the financial professionals on your list and ask for the type of services they offer. Request them to send you information by mail on their company, past performance and name of some client they have recently worked with. Make sure that the reference they provide you includes couple of clients who requested identical financial services as you’re looking for. For example, there is no reason to talk to a client who only bought a 529 college saving product while you don’t even have children or don’t need a college fund. Focus on the clients who were looking for the help in the same area as you. You can get a good feel for how a financial professional will work with you by the way that person treats you on the phone and through the mail. Pay special attention to the financial professionals’ credentials. For example, CFP designated professionals are usually better than the fresh college graduate working as interns. Another important thing to look for is the ease of contact. If you can only get hold of a a personal assistant or an intern at a firm, chances are either their financial professionals are too busy to cater for new business or they don’t take you seriously. Focus your energy on finding a financial advisor who is easy to reach.

Set up a face-to-face meeting

If you have liked the information you received and references have checked out fine, this is the next step. First of all make sure you have plenty of time for this meeting. Do not squeeze this meeting in your busy schedule with other important appointment right after this one. You want to make sure you could spend some extra time with your financial advisor if you have doubts or lot more questions. Also, make it clear that you would like at least an hour of their time for this meeting. When you finally meet with your advisor/planner, it is time to ask some important questions.

Ask them what they like about their jobs, what kind of services and products they offer and how long they have been in this business. Ask them how do they get paid for their services. Most of them work on a “fee for a service” basic but there are some who get paid commission from the financial firms for offering their products to you. You should prefer a financial planner who works for a flat fee because he/she is looking for your best interest instead of trying to make more money in commission by selling you a poor product.

Make an Educated Decision

Once you have met a couple of financial planners, you are ready to make your decision. Put down their names on a piece of paper and write down what did you like most about each of them. You need to figure out if you have found a professional who is respectful and responsive to your needs. Did you find someone who is courteous yet firm in directing you in the right direction? Did you find one who is not afraid to point out your mistake and is willing to admit their owns? And finally did you find one who understands your needs and treats you in a professional manner without wasting your time? Once you’re ready to pick one, make sure you request a a written agreement that details the services to be provided. Demand the best. Keep up your end of the relationship by providing prompt and accurate information about your current financial situation, your short- and long-term financial goals, and your tolerance for investment risk. Advisors are required, by law, to make recommendations that are suitable for you; so they need to know a lot about you and your objectives.

Remember, selecting your financial professional, and especially someone to advise you on investments, is only the first step. You will be working hard to build this relationship and getting the most payback for your investment. You will need to stay on top of things by monitoring and reviewing your portfolio periodically, at least yearly, to be sure your investment strategy will help you reach your financial goals. Make sure you review monthly statements carefully and understand what they say. Hiring your financial advisor is only a start. Being an active part of that relationship will increase your chances of making wise investment choices. Often, financial professionals stay with you for a lifetime and can be as great an asset as a solid net worth so choose wisely.