So you've finally made the wise decision to work with an advisor. You realize that especially in today's volatile environment, hiring a professional to mind the proverbial store is certainly better than trying to master everything yourself, but where will you find this professional? When it comes to managing your financial future, cracking the phone book and calling the first advisor listed just isn't enough — you need to do some independent research before making a commitment. Think of it as a marriage of sorts: after all, you wouldn't put that ring on just anybody's finger. That's what dating is for, little opportunities to see if the match works for both parties.
Ask the trustworthy people in your life who's opinion you value
There is one significant difference (among the many) when it comes to seeking a life partner versus an insurance and/or financial advisor, and that is why when you date different people, there are certain qualities you know you're looking for in a spouse. But which qualities should you look for in an advisor?
To help answer that question, the nonprofit LIFE Foundation has a few pointers on how to go about locating a good, reliable financial professional to meet your needs, many of which are summarized below.
Ask around for Good Referrals
This is by far the easiest way to begin gathering names of some good financial advisors. Ask the trustworthy people in your life who's opinion you value — in addition to your family and friends, these sources can include other professionals with whom you work, such as your accountant or attorney — for recommendations. This is especially useful if the people you ask for referrals share similar circumstances and goals.
There are plenty of other places to turn for recommendations, such as online agent or advisor locating tools from nonprofit groups like the LIFE Foundation or the Certified Financial Planners Association website for a list of local professionals who've not run afoul of the industry's regulatory body.
Ask about their Education and Training
Knowledge is power, so it's important to know where a specific advisor stands on the issue. Look for financial professionals who go the extra mile to attain challenging certifications and designations, many of which require extensive coursework, difficult testing standards and ongoing continuing education. In most cases, you don't have to look much further than the business card. Professional designations that, depending on your needs, work in your favor commonly include the Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF), Financial Services Specialist (FSS), and Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU).
The above list just scratches the surface of the myriad training opportunities available to insurances and financial professionals, so if you don't recognize one of the acronyms listed, ask them to explain what it means and what they had to do to earn that particular designation or certification. It can all start to look like alphabet soup, so don't be shy about asking. Any professional worth their salt is more than happy to demonstrate their educational prowess.
Learn their Specialties
In this industry, it's difficult for one single advisor or agent to be a generalist, so like lawyers or physicians, most develop specialties. The key is discovering whether one of those specialties applies to your specific situation and needs at the time. If you're looking for retirement income, an advisor who specializes in reverse mortgages would not an ideal match make, for example. On the other side of the coin, however, is how these specialties can really work for you. Many advisors have niche markets they're most comfortable working with, and these niches run the gamut from divorced women to affluent retirees to veterans of the armed forces. If you fall into their niche market and can offer the products you desire, it's often the ideal situation. After all, who better to seek advice from as a divorced woman than someone who works extensively with women just like you?
Inquire about Professional Memberships or Affiliations
It's easy for consumers to overlook this important quality when vetting financial pros, but many of the better known professional memberships groups have strict codes of ethics to which all members must adhere. They must also commit to lifelong knowledge and skill enhancement, and always put the needs of their clients ahead of their own. As with any service, and especially those that directly involve your financial livelihood, working with an ethical professional is vitally important. Important associations to watch for include the National Association of Financial Advisors (NAIFA) and the Financial Planning Association (FPA).
Have an In-Person Meeting
Before deciding to work with anyone, take the time to interview a few agents or advisors. You'll invariably find that you just “click” better with one professional over the others. Not only is it a good way to make comparisons based on education, fees, qualification, values, specialties and personalities, but it's also a good time to request client references.
Finding the right fit when it comes to working with a financial professional is just as important as making the decision to get help in the first place. It ultimately comes down to one all-important question: Do you trust that they have the expertise, skills and ethical approach to entrust your financial future to them?
If you are looking for a Trustworthy financial professional give us a call at Stangier Wealth Management, we have been providing clients with practical financial advice and planning solutions customized to their individual needs for over 15 years.
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