Financial planning is vital to your future security, but if you don’t really know what you are doing, you would be well-advised to hire a financial advisor, rather than relying on the helpful comments of your friends and family. Before you do so, however, there are a number of things that you should consider to ensure that you choose the one who is best for your particular needs.
Areas of expertise
You really need to know any potential advisor’s areas of expertise. He may specialise in investment portfolios when you really want to know how you can pay off your debt without losing your home. Don’t just accept what he says either; check that he didn’t just study the subject at university, but then have branched out into different areas during his working career. If the advisor becomes defensive while you are asking questions, then don’t back off; you will be paying for his expertise and therefore need to be sure it is suitable for you.
Financial advisors come in many different guises. The one you are looking at may work for a large firm, in which case, he may try to persuade you to buy certain products in which he has a vested interest. On the other hand, he could be freelance, but, because he is new to the job, or because he has other interests, he may only have a handful of clients. Find out who these clients are and, if possible, make contact with them and ask them for their experience. Make sure that the clients are people in a similar financial situation to you.
Be very careful when choosing a financial advisor that you know exactly how you are going to be paying for his services. There are a number of different ways that financial advisors charge, including an hourly rate, a flat fee, commission-based, or a combination of ways. Some people think it is rude to ask questions about charges at the beginning of a relationship, but unless you want nasty surprises, it is best to be as upfront as possible. It also ensures that your financial advisor knows he can’t pull the wool over your eyes.
Ideally, you will be able to talk to a couple of your advisor’s other clients, but whether that is possible or not, you should at least ask for references and follow them up. The more you find out about your financial advisor in advance, the better. If, as a result of your enquiries, you find out something that is not to your liking, then it may be in your interest to keep looking. Ideally, you should look at least two financial advisors so that you have a point of comparison. It may seem like a lot of hard work, but it will be worth it.
Your financial advisor may be a complete whizz at his area of interest, but that isn’t much help if you cannot understand what he is saying. You need to be confident that your advisor can explain things at your level in clear and succinct English. If you feel that he is likely to be abrupt or irritable because you are unable to understand what he is saying, then look elsewhere. You will be paying for his services and you need to ensure that his manner is pleasant and helpful at all times, even if he is not in a particularly good mood.
Depending on your needs, you may need an advisor who is able to give you an immediate reply or get back to you within 24 hours. If you are considering someone with a large client base, you may find that he cannot commit to doing so. Think about what you want from the service being provided. If you suspect that his availability will be patchy, then you may need to think again. Paying a little more for someone who can be at your beck and call when you need them may be be worth it.
Make sure you are in control when hiring a financial advisor. You are paying for his services, so check you are happy with him and don’t let him intimidate you.