4 tips to help you hire the right financial adviser

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So you’re shopping for a financial adviser? When it comes time to sit down with a financial professional for an initial meeting, first impressions can go a long way toward determining whether that meeting will lead to a lasting adviser-client relationship.

The person sitting across the table from you could be not only your chief financial guide, but also a valuable and trusted sounding board, strategist, coach and problem-solver. In filling these important roles, a financial professional can have a profound impact on a person’s life, now and for decades to come.

There’s a lot at stake – from saving for near- and long-term goals to managing investments to ensuring your assets are adequately protected – so hiring a financial professional is not a decision to be taken lightly. You need to be an educated consumer. This is the person you might be trusting with your hard-earned money.

To get the most out of that initial meeting, keep the following four tips in mind:

Meet in person. To gauge the caliber of the individual and their firm, the quality of service they provide, and your own comfort level with that person, meet with him or her face-to-face, at their office. Also, you may want to look for a Certified Financial Planner credential.

Be ready to discuss more than finances. Finances on their own are only part of the puzzle. What really matters is how to make the most of your life with the resources you have. Make sure you talk about what matters to you, the kind of life you want to lead and the legacy you want to leave behind.

Ascertain where their interests and conflicts lie. A fiduciary is required by law to always put client interests above their own interests and those of their firm. Be sure to ask the adviser if they are a fiduciary, or if they hold themselves to a fiduciary standard. Do they work on commission, on a fee structure, or a combination of the two? How are those fees/commissions calculated? How much comes out of your pocket, and what value do you get for your money? Do they get incentives to sell any products? You want an adviser who is focused on addressing the financial issues that matter most to you, not on selling a product that matters more to them.

Does he/she ask a lot of questions and come across as a good listener? During a fact-finding, get-to-know-one-another session such as this, it’s the adviser’s responsibility to learn as much as possible about you and your needs. This meeting should be about explaining their process and understanding what types of clients they help. Beware if they make recommendations at this first meeting since they don’t yet have all the information they need to do so. 

JASON E. SIPERSTEIN, CFA, CFP, is the president-elect of the Financial Planning Association of Rhode Island and president of Eliot Rose Wealth Management. He can be reached at jes@eliotrose.com.