Finding your ideal financial advisor is definitely worth the effort, and should not be difficult. This is so important because your retirement security and personal financial well-being is dependent upon things that you do. That’s right, the Government, Federal and otherwise, will not take care of you, at least not to your liking. You need to take personal accountability for your fiscal health. I think you should consider five things most relevant in finding your ideal financial advisor: comprehensive perspective, self-awareness, qualifications, independence, and compensation.
Most importantly, your ideal financial advisor must take a comprehensive view, considering all your assets and risks, including retirement plans and money held outside their firm, and address protection needs, like life insurance, longevity risk, even intelligently selected property insurance coverage. Anyone who does not consider all these things is simply not an ideal financial advisor.
Your ideal financial advisor must also have a high degree of self-awareness, recognizing their own strengths and weaknesses. That usually means having a team of associates qualified to help with specialized areas like estate and tax planning.
When selecting your ideal financial advisor, qualifications are also important. Getting a referral is always a good start, and you certainly want someone who professes to take a holistic view. Someone who truly does craft personalized financial plans. Experience is generally a good indicator, too, as are certifications, like a CFP designation. Beyond this, here are some resources you can look to online, FINRA’s BrokerCheck (http://www.finra.org/Investors/ToolsCalculators/BrokerCheck/) and the CFP Board website (http://www.cfp.net/utility/find-a-cfp-professional).
I also encourage you to find an independent advisor, but caution that it is not essential. What I mean by independent is that your advisor unaffiliated with a “career” force, like the traditional insurance companies had – and some still do. The red flag is when your potential financial advisor self-describes as “an XYZ Company agent.” That is not, necessarily, a non-starter, but it should raise a red flag as they may be constrained in the product selection they can offer, a so-called “closed system.” Simply stated, your “XYZ Company agent” might only sell “XYZ Company” products. Just ask if they have such constraints, then decide. Even in closed systems, the products may be competitive, and the training and support they receive may more than offset the downside.
Finally, there is the matter of compensation. Have a frank discussion with your prospective financial advisor about their compensation. It may seem appealing to pay a flat fee or even a percentage of your account value, but do not forget that many financial products have compensation elements such as time-of-sale and trail commissions. Ideally, your advisor will present you with a full accounting of their compensation, so you can both make educated choices. Fee based advice and no-load products are a great combination, just unlikely that every product you need will be available on a no-load basis. Be educated and open about compensation, and you should be fine.
Follow these five steps, and you should be on your way to finding your ideal financial advisor.