Choosing a Financial Advisor
When you make decisions that will affect your financial future, you don't want to go about it alone. It's helpful to get input from a financial advisor who can provide guidance and pinpoint opportunities. Take your time choosing a financial advisor, though, because there are many factors to weigh as you go about your search.
Things to Consider
Financial advisors charge clients in different ways, so ask about fee structure before deciding on one. Some advisors charge a fee that's a percentage of your assets, others charge an hourly fee and some earn money through commissions from products they sell or from a combination of commissions and fees. You may prefer an advisor who earns only fees and not commissions because then there wouldn't be a conflict of interest in recommending products that he or she benefits from. On the other hand, if your assets are high in value, a fee-based advisor may cost you more. Whatever system an advisor uses, make sure you understand and that you're comfortable with the payment terms before you hire him or her.
Be sure to also research their qualifications and experience. An advisor should have a track record of advising people with similar goals. For example, if your goal is to save for your children's college tuition, look for someone with experience in planning for educational expenses. And just in case, it's a good idea to check that the advisor hasn't received any sanctions or reprimands from any regulatory or professional organizations.
Another thing to think about is whether the both of you share the same attitudes toward risk and financial returns. For example, if an advisor recommends investing aggressively for faster growth while you prefer to keep savings in less risky investment vehicles with less volatile returns, you likely won't see eye to eye. Ask about their investing philosophy and how they manage risk to see if you're comfortable with their approach.
Finally, look for a financial advisor who tailors his or her recommendations specifically to you. If they tout investments or try to pressure you to commit to a standardized plan without first learning about your needs, keep looking. An advisor should ask you questions about your goals and learn about your finances before recommending any plan of action.
Where to Look
Banks are a great resource during this process — they often have affiliate investment firms with financial advisors on staff who can assist you, and if you need an advisor with specialized expertise, they can recommend someone who's qualified.
Your financial advisor should be someone who can give you expert guidance as well as someone you trust. Don't hesitate to interview several advisors and compare your options before you decide which one is right for you.