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Working with a Financial Planner
We strongly believe that you should confer with your financial advisor before making any investment decision. A financial advisor can help you create and maintain an investment plan by providing the information you need to make informed and intelligent decisions.
How to benefit from working with a financial advisor
Choosing to work with a financial advisor can be a wise investment decision. Why? For the same reasons you pay a professional to do anything you don't have the time, tools or expertise to do yourself - because the convenience, service and results can be worth the price.
Investment markets change daily, and most people are too busy to keep up with the details. With stocks, bonds and more than 5,000 mutual funds to choose from, many individuals don't have the time or skill to select suitable investments on their own. A financial advisor can help you create and stay with an investment plan by providing the information you need to make informed and intelligent decisions.
Like your dentist, accountant or any other professional, your relationship with your financial advisor can last for many years. Your advisor should be someone you trust and respect, and with whom you feel comfortable. The advisor's job is to help you focus on your financial goals and priorities and recommend investments well-suited to your situation, your objectives and your feelings about risk. When you have confidence in your advisor, you'll also feel more confident about investing. This section of our web site is designed to help you get the most from that long-term relationship.
Choosing your financial advisor
Giving some advance thought to the characteristics you would like your advisor to possess may make the selection process easier:
- Do you want someone with whom you can establish a personal rapport, or would you prefer an advisor who is "all business"?
- Are you looking for a mentor who can help you become a more self-sufficient investor, or would you rather delegate your investment decisions to a professional and forget about them?
- Do you have a specific concern or priority, such as estate planning, running your own business or reducing your tax burden?
Set up a consultation
Your first get-acquainted meeting should be just that - an opportunity to meet with the advisor and make sure you feel comfortable working together. Even if you've been referred by a friend or business associate, you'll want to make sure your advisor is a good match for your style and personality. Find out what types of clients comprise the bulk of the advisor's current business to see if you would be a good match. Ask about his or her education, experience and qualifications, and for references from clients whose goals and financial circumstances are similar to yours.
Your advisor should be able to explain to you the pros and cons of different types of investments and investing techniques - even if your only previous investment experience has been in a bank savings account. Financial advisors can also help you evaluate the potential benefits as well as the restrictions associated with tax-deferred retirement savings accounts such as IRAs, SEP-IRAs and other self-employed retirement plans, and help you navigate the paperwork to establish such a plan.
Discuss your goals and obligations
A financial advisor can help you clarify your goals and suggest investments that will help you achieve them. But in order to do that, you'll need to provide specific information about yourself and your financial situation. Be prepared to be candid about your income, debts, future financial obligations and current assets. Without these facts, you can't expect an advisor to develop a plan that is suitable for your particular situation.
You also should let your advisor know how you want to be treated as a client - whether you want strong and specific recommendations, or prefer information and suggestions that allow you to make your own choices.
Ask plenty of questions
The more you understand about investing, the more control you have over your financial future. Use your financial advisor as a resource. Financial professionals have access to information that could take you weeks to uncover on your own. Good financial advisors are also good communicators - they should be able to explain their recommendations and the performance of your investments in terms that you find easy to understand. If you don't understand something, ASK. It is your money, and you should feel comfortable about the way it is being invested.
Meet or speak regularly
Working with a financial advisor is a two-way street. Your advisor has financial expertise, but won't know the details of your financial situation unless you share them. It is important to provide your advisor with up-to-date information to make sure that your investment plan keeps moving in the right direction. Life changes that may have financial implications include:
- Marriage or divorce
- The birth or adoption of a child
- The purchase or sale of a home
- A change in your or your spouse's work status, including a new job, a new part-time or full-time work schedule, or retirement
- Additional financial responsibilities, such as college tuition payments or care for aging relatives
- An inheritance or other financial windfall
Financial advisors can draw on years of experience in investment selection and wealth-building techniques. They can help you maintain the long-term perspective you need to stick to your investment plan through good markets and bad. You'll get more from your relationship if you are open-minded about your advisor's recommendations. While you may not agree with every idea your advisor presents, being a good listener can help increase your investment knowledge, which is always valuable in the long run.
The bottom line
Since everyone's investment needs are different, choosing a financial advisor is a very personal decision. The most highly recommended professional in your city may or may not be the best advisor for you. Try to be honest with yourself about the type of financial advice you want and need. Finding an advisor with experience, good judgment and a personal style that matches your own may be one of the most important investment decisions you will make.