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A friend of mine posed an interesting question to me the other day. His parents are beginning to think about retiring in the next few years, and they didn’t leave their recent meeting with their financial advisor feeling overly confident that they were in good hands, so he asked me what questions they should be asking. I may get tarred and feathered by others in my line of work for sharing this, but today I offer you some of the questions I think you should be asking your current or prospective financial advisor.
- Do you feel my investments are appropriate (particularly if it has been a while since you met or your investment accounts were rebalanced/reallocated)? If the response you get is only a “Yes,” you should follow up with “Why?” I really think that having a general understanding of why you are invested the way you are is important. It gives you confidence through the market's ups and downs, and it ensures that your advisor’s strategy is in line with your goals and your objectives.
- What fees have I paid you? An advisor may not be able to rattle this off on the spot, but if they can’t get you a clear answer pretty quickly, this may be a red flag. Contrary to how some practice in the industry, fees and expenses don’t have to be hidden. It also doesn’t hurt to ask an advisor how they get paid based on the investments they recommend. If you hear the word “commission,” you need to at least consider the possibility that your advisor could have a conflict of interest.
- What licenses and credentials do you hold? There is so much alphabet soup out there that I don’t even know what some of the acronyms stand for! That being said, some licenses and credentials are impressive and should be confidence-inspiring, but some, not so much. You’re looking for things like CFP®, CFA®, and CIMA® from an investment advisor in addition to advanced degrees from respected business schools.
- How can I access my funds and my information? In today’s world, you should have the ability to view your account any time and withdraw money within a few days. If you don’t, you may want to see if your advisor has booked a one-way trip to the Caribbean…
- Who is your typical client? What’s good for one type of client is often good for another, but not always. If your advisor is used to working with people with backgrounds, needs, and amounts of money drastically different than your profile, you may want to find an advisor better suited to work with you. You want to be your advisor’s "bread and butter" and a client that is right in their wheelhouse!
I’ve been asked lots of crazy questions from clients including why I couldn’t guarantee an 8% return every year, why a particular beverage wasn’t for sale in their local grocery store, and if I was dating anyone (because their granddaughter liked blondes), so my proposed questions should be softballs for your current advisor. If your advisor's answers leave a lot to be desired, I’d suggest you ask these very same questions when you are interviewing candidates to be your new advisor.