How to choose a financial planner

The best financial planners don’t manage money

If that headline makes you scratch your head please read on – it is our hope that the following information will guide you in your search for a firm even if it doesn’t lead you to our firm.

Manage your own money

You are reading this because you already grasp that financial issues are complex and intimidating and the clamor of companies trying to tell you that they know how to take care of your money isn’t helping. While some may try to tempt you with the dream that a financial planner can make all these decisions for you, the truth is that you should never give up managing your money. The best financial planner empowers you with good information and advice so that you make the wisest financial decision. Be on the lookout for good counsel that helps you make the right decisions; counsel that makes you the master of your money.

Understand the difference between a salesman, an expert and a teacher

In financial planning, you will encounter a variety of representatives. The salesman is focused on short-term gain, the expert makes you feel bad about asking questions, but a teacher takes the time to explain until you understand. The best financial planner has the heart of a teacher and will explain the details until you are comfortable.

Understand how the planning firm is being compensated for advice

The simple truth is that how compensation is received may affect the advice you receive. There are generally three compensation models: commission, fee-based, and fee-only. An advisor who is compensated through commission is primarily a salesperson. In this case, you are responsible for evaluating whether or not the advice is in your best interest. A fee-based firm charges a fee, but there is also some payment or commission received. Like the commission based model, this also leaves you responsible for evaluating the appropriateness of the advice. Fee-only, which should not be confused with fee-based, means that the financial advisor charges the client directly for advice and/or ongoing management and receives no other reward for the actions they take on the client’s behalf. The fee-only model is by nature a fiduciary relationship because it takes the potential for conflicts of interest out of the equation so that you can feel more confident that the advice is in your best interest.

Understand what you need

Getting advice without looking at the other areas of your financial picture can yield advice that might be good, but not for your unique situation. The best financial planner will help you address – among other things: estate planning, investments, education funding, insurance and risk management, retirement planning, and senior issues (including health insurance and long-term care). Lastly, take the time to interview a firm and learn about what makes them unique. If something doesn’t feel right, keep looking.

Brown Financial Advisory is not the right fit for everyone. Keep exploring to learn more about our distinctives and services. Want to take the next step? Learn more by scheduling a complimentary meeting, using our contact form, or by calling (251) 928-9498.

If we are not the right fit, we hope this advice will help you find a financial planning relationship that enables you to live with more purpose.

Know the questions you need to ask

When it comes to filtering through financial planners to find the right one for you, there are some critical questions to ask the firm and yourself throughout the process.

What kind of clients does the firm specialize in?

It is a good idea to search for a planner that serves a demographic that is largely similar to you. Although you should avoid firms that feel like experts instead of teachers, your firm should be familiar with the concerns and scenarios common to your demographic while custom tailoring his advice to suit your life.

What services do they provide?

In asking this question, you are able to find out what the firm will not do for you. Some firms seek to simply be investment advisors, while others offer a far more comprehensive approach (retirement, insurance, estate, tax planning, etc.). The investment advice you receive may be good, but if other factors of your finances are ignored it may not be the best for your unique situation.

How personal is my experience with the representative?

This measurement can often tell you if you are interacting with a salesman, expert, or teacher. It is important for the experience to feel like a conversation, not a lecture or a sales pitch. If you find yourself listening 90% of the time, you are not being counseled, advised, and informed, you are being told.

What makes this firm unique?

Be sure to schedule an interview with the prospective planner to find out what the true aim of their firm is for your money. Some firms will be better at maximizing your investments, while others will focus on protecting your hard-earned money in a wise way. If something doesn’t feel right, keep looking.