10 Questions Your Financial Advisor Should Ask You

Zinkevych

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Finding an advisor can be tough. A potential client told me the other day that he’d met with two other advisors besides me, and we’re all very different. People who go by the same title, advisor, can offer services that really aren’t that similar. Not being able to compare apples to apples makes your decisions that much harder.

Because there aren’t any hard-and-fast guidelines to define advisors’ roles, you will have to make more of an effort to find an advisor that fits your particular needs. A lot of that involves asking the right questions.

You’ll find many a guide out there giving you “tough questions you should ask your financial advisor.” These include asking whether the advisor is a Certified Financial Planner™, how he/she gets paid and whether that person is required to put your interests before his/her own.

Those questions are important. But have you ever considered what your advisor should ask you?

You can learn a lot about an advisor’s philosophy and intentions by considering what he/she wants to know about you. Here are ten questions that I think your advisor should ask and why they’re important.

  1. What are your most important financial concerns?

Most people first seek out advisors when they have specific financial concerns. Those concerns should be addressed. That’s not to say that other issues won’t be uncovered, but remember this is about you. So you should be the focus.

  1. How do you make important investment and financial decisions?

 I’ve learned that people have all kinds of ways of dealing with money. Some people meticulously track everything because the organization and control gives them a sense of security. Some people hide their head in the sand because money creates so much anxiety that they don’t want to deal with it. Others need some sort of deadline (e.g., the end of open enrollment, the 401k rollover grace period or April 15th) to get things done. Your advisor should want to know your approach so he/she can figure out how to best work with it.

  1. How do you envision your life 1 year from now? 5 years from now?

Most people think financial planning is about retirement, which for a lot of my clients is 20 to 30 years down the road. But there’s a lot more to your financial life — you could be getting married, buying a house, having children or all of the above. All of those things play a huge role in your overall financial well-being. A good planner should not only help you create the life you want in the future but help you address the things you want and need now.

  1. What changes do you expect in the future in your finances that you wish to plan for?

 If you’re in your 20s, 30s or 40s, you’ve likely already experienced a lot of change in a short period of time. Just as much fluctuation is likely on the horizon. Your advisor should understand all of the potential changes coming your way and be able to help you prepare for them.

  1. Is your outlook generally optimistic or pessimistic concerning the future?

 Now we’re getting into things you may have not initially thought a financial advisor would address. But your money mindset is key to understanding some of your behaviors around money. So knowing traits like whether you’re optimistic or pessimistic about the future can help your advisor address any underlying issues about money you may have.

  1. What are your most important non-financial concerns and objectives right now?

Money is almost never a problem in and of itself. It’s a tool to help you get what you really want out of life. Dick Wagner in his book Financial Planning 3.0 put it best when he said “so much of the financial planner’s work takes place in conversations about feelings, dreams, meaning and purpose.” Your advisor should explore what really matters most to you and help you align your money with those values.

  1. Have you ever worked with a financial advisor before?  

 Your previous work with an advisor is important for a couple of reasons. First, as I said, “advisors” covers a wide range of concepts. So it’s good to understand what experiences you’ve already had and how they’ve impacted your understanding of what financial planning is. Second, if you’ve never worked with an advisor before, your new advisor should help you understand what his or her process is like and how it may differ from other advisors.

  1. What are they keys to making the financial advising relationship successful for you?

 Advisors are in a relationship business, and the key to a good relationship is making it work for both of you. You should know for yourself what an ideal planner relationship looks like and that should be clear to your advisor as well. If you’ve never had an advisor before, think about other service relationships you’ve had in the past and why they were or weren’t fulfilling.

  1. What would you like to accomplish through financial planning?

This is similar to other questions about your financial and non-financial goals, but gets a little more in depth on what you think financial planning is and what you hope to accomplish. The key here is making sure that you and your advisor both have the same expectations.

  1. Why do you think you need help?

Lastly, now that you know what you want to accomplish and why, your advisor should want understand why you think you need help. I’ve met plenty of do-it-yourselfers who just want a roadmap. Other people want more handholding because they don’t like dealing with money. So whatever that reason is for you, your advisor should understand and serve that need.

 

These questions are just the beginning. Your advisor won’t be able to learn all about you in an hour-long, introductory conversation. The relationship should be a continuous process of discovery and understanding. But I hope this helps you understand the types of questions your advisor should ask in order to truly plan in your best interest.

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