1. Ask for referencesGet references from current clients, and/or from other professionals like an accountant or lawyer. If an advisor cannot produce some referrals, that could be something to be concerned about. Then call the references you receive. Many people ask for references, but never use them! You can never learn too much about the person you are considering using for your major financial decisions. Take the few minutes to talk to these people. It will be worth it!!2. Ask if they charge a fee for their services No one works for free! If they are not charging fees, they must be making money from the sale of products. If the are making 100% of their income from products, they must sell enough to make up for the people who did not buy. If there is a price to be paid, it must be paid by either the planner or you. Which one do you think it will be?
3. If they do not charge fees, ask them how you can be sure that the advice they will provide is in your best interests. Make them tell you how they analyze a situation, and what process they go through to arrive at recommendations. What you want to hear is that they first find out how you fell about your money and finances. Then, they will get a detailed understanding of your income, assets, debts, company benefits, etc. Finally, the will work up an action plan that addresses all of your concerns and gives you choices. Choices of the different ways your concerns can be handled with pros and cons for each choice. THEN, and only THEN, will you be able to choose for yourself which way to go. This process allows you the ability to make decisions from an educated basis, instead of from salesmanship. There is nothing wrong with being sold financial products, as long as they fit your needs, and not those of the salespeople.
4. Ask if they sell products as well as provide financial planning advice. If the planner says “yes”, this should not be taken as a negative response. However, you should recognize the potential conflict of interest that exists. You must ask the planner if he/she has any special incentives or reasons to sell you the things he is proposing. If the motivation is to get you what you need, that is fine! If you sense from the answer that there is some hidden reason, such as extra bonuses or incentives you need to move carefully. This can happen with a captive advisor who works only for a specific firm, as they’re incentivized or even force to recommend certain products their company pushes them to sell regardless of the clients’ situation 5. If the planner sells products, ask if the products can be obtained if no plan is prepared. Buying financial products without a plan is like having surgery without an exam and diagnosis. Call me crazy, but I sure wouldn’t want a doctor to operate on me until he knew what was wrong with me. A doctor who performs surgery without an exam would be an idiot! The same holds true for a financial planner who sells product without an analysis. If you take away the planning process, you are left with nothing more than a product salesperson. Do not let yourself be deceived! Now, a plan may be many things, It can be a short one pager, all the way up to a thick set of charts and graphs. And, one is not necessarily better than the other. It just depends on how detailed your needs are. Even if the written plan is short, the interview process must not be.
GARBAGE IN: GARBAGE OUT!!
The best planning we have seen is not due to the actual written area, but because of the depth of the interview. The planner must ask about all your issues. Not just the ones he can make money on. For example, they should ask about your taxes, education funding, home financing, company benefits, insurance, estate planning, retirement goals, investments etc. A good planner knows how to get to know you, your goals, and your fears. If you truly feel he truly understands your emotions, as well as your finances, they you are with a real planner!
6. If the planner sells products, tell the planner you would be more comfortable implementing their strategies with someone else. Note whether the planner starts to squirm at the thought of you buying elsewhere. If the planner tries to convince you that no one can implement their strategies as well as he/she can, tell the planner that you will consider that fact after the plan is completed. If they have faith in their own ability, the relationship will most likely continue. Otherwise, you have probably taken the first step towards being told that you are not a suitable client for their service
7. If there is a fee do not pay more than 50% of the fee in advance. Although a retainer is often requested, most professionals do not require 100% of their fee in advance. Paying the balance upon completion of the plan assures you that the job will be finished to your satisfaction.
8. Ask about the planner’s financial background. As a rule of thumb, consider only using planners that have been providing financial services for at least 5 to 10 years. Although there may be some very good planners with less experience, why take the chance. I was once an inexperience planner, and when I was I got my experience working with people who were also just starting out. Select and advisor that has more financial experience than you do.
9. Seek only those professionals that have recognized financial designations. Education is an important ingredient in selecting a financial advisor. An educated financial advisor should have at least one of the following credentials:
CPA- Certified Public Accountant
CFP®- Certified Financial Planner ™
ChFC- Chartered Financial Consultant
CLU- Chartered Life Underwriter
The above organizations require that the professional pass an exam and obtain continuing professional education. By seeking a planner or advisor with one or more of the above designations, you can be assured that the planner has made a commitment to obtain sufficient knowledge to excel in financial planning.
10. Ask if they will put their arrangement with you in writing. We strongly recommend whatever manner the planner says they will work with you, that you get it in writing. Most will not have a written document that details what the relationship is between both parties, nor what their duties, responsibilities and potential conflicts of interest are. If they don’t have a written agreement for you to review, you should really think whether or not you want to deal with such an important part of your life without a written arrangement. We know that sometimes these are hard questions to ask, because you may feel you are going to be insulting the person.
DON’T HESITATE TO ASK THESE QUESTIONS, EVEN IF IT FEELS UNCOMFORTABLE!
We are talking about your money here.
Being shy has no place in this process. If you feel too embarrassed to ask the questions yourself, have a trusted friend or relative ask for you. Whatever way you get this quizzing done, just be sure to GET THE QUESTIONS ASKED AND ANSWERED!!
Why am I so insistent about this? Because getting the right help is so important! For example, did you know the government tells us that:
94% OF ALL AMERICANS WILL NOT BE ABLE TO RETIRE ON THE SAME STANDARD OF LIVING THEY HAD BEFORE THEY RETIRED!
(Source – Social Security Administration)
Why is this the case? Possibly because most people spend more time planning their vacations and evenings out then they do planning their family finances!
Vacations, for example, are planned very carefully.
When will you leave? What do you need to do before you go? What will you bring with you? How will you get to the airport? What will you do when you get there? How will you get to the hotel and around town? Where will you eat? And so on…
PLANNING FIRST, SOLUTIONS LAST!
The only way to be sure you receive a plan is to work with a professional who will provide you with a complete examination before recommending any solutions for your problems! Choose an advisor that recognizes the need for a thorough analysis of your situation.
As you might have guessed, that is the only way we work.
Initially, we provide a FREE, NO OBLIGATION interview to find out what your concerns are, and determine if we can be of help. Hopefully, we can show you, as we have for many others, how to potentially:
✔ Save Income Taxes!✔ Maximize Your Company Benefits!✔ Build A Retirement Fund That Can Fill Your Needs!
✔ Have Enough Money To Send Your Children To The Schools Of Their Choice!
✔ Diversify Your Investments For An After Tax Rate of Return That Has An Opportunity To Beat Inflation With Safety!
✔ Make Prudent Decisions, Instead Of Pressured, Impulsive Moves!
Sounds good, doesn’t it?
If all this makes sense, and you are curious about our approach to financial planning, when we call you in a few days, you have two choices.
One is to say “No Thanks”
The other is to take us up on our invitation for a FREE, NO OBLIGATION interview to find out anything you want about us and financial planning. At that time, we can discuss any concerns you may have.
NO PRESSURE! NO SALES! NO HYPE!
No one is going to try to sell you anything. This is simply a chance for you to meet us, and see if our services can benefit you. If, after our meeting, you believe there is no benefit to be derived from working with us, you simply leave and that is that. If, however, you find that you could use our help, we will discuss how we proceed from there.
Either way, we wish you good luck with your financial efforts.
Roxane Blade, CFP®
P.S. No matter what else you do, commit to doing some form of planning today! Planning will significantly increase your chances of being among the 6% that are successful. And make sure to ask the right questions before you hire anyone!
P.P.S. Be sure to ask us all these questions! I know you will like the answers you get from us!