Working With a Financial Professional

financial professional looking at phone with client

What to Expect

If you’ve never worked with a financial professional before, you may be wondering how the whole process works. The good news is, it’s quite straight-forward.

After you’ve exchanged initial phone calls or emails, you’ll likely meet your advisor in person. This is your chance to tell them all about your hopes and your dreams and learn how they can help you. You can get a lot out of this meeting.

Questions to Ask

Can the professional actually help?

Make sure you’re clear about what you’re seeking. Are you looking for a comprehensive financial plan? Are you looking for assistance with insurance for your business? Do you want to purchase a specific product? Not all advisors are suited for all matters.

How will the professional be paid?

There are several cost and fee models that professionals use. Make sure you understand how your professional will get paid and what that means for you.

How is the financial professional regulated?

Numerous government regulators and professional organizations oversee aspects of the financial services industry, including state insurance commissioners, state and federal securities regulators, and credentialing organizations.

Will you be working with just the professional or a team?

Not all financial professionals manage all aspects of their clients’ finances. Find out if others will be involved in providing advice and services and take the time to meet with them as well.

What’s the professional’s track record?

A good professional won’t mind sharing references if you ask; so feel free to ask. Also, ask about their track record, particularly if they will be handling investments for you. Very few investors beat the market consistently, but good professionals will be upfront about their strategies and the opportunities they can offer.

Is the financial professional credentialed and in good standing?

If you found your professional through our financial professional search, you can be certain their credentials are verified. You can also check a professional’s credentials with our designation check. To ensure a professional has no adverse history, such as disciplinary action or criminal conviction, you can turn to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), SEC, and/or your state securities department and insurance department.

Qualities to Look For

In addition to skillsets specific to your needs, the right professional will possess:

  • Plenty of transparency. Good professionals will be upfront about the way your relationship will work and any costs you might incur.
  • A focus on your goals and your personality. A good professional will be committed to you and your best interests, measuring your risk tolerance and taking that into account along with your hopes and time horizons. 
  • Broad, proactive advice. Even if your main interest is in a specific area — like investing — a good professional will provide guidance in additional financial areas so you don’t lose sight of the big picture or miss out on good opportunities.
  • Knowledge sharing. A good professional will work hard to keep you educated and informed about financial systems, options, opportunities, and the realities of your particular financial situation.
  • A caring attitude. You’re serious about your goals and a good professional will be serious about you, willing to meet with you when you have concerns and eager to help you make the kinds of smart financial choices that can lead you to your desired future.

What to Expect in the Short-Term

During your first meeting, your professional will also ask you a number of questions about your finances and your hopes and dreams. They’ll also want to gauge your risk tolerance and may have you fill out a questionnaire designed to uncover how aggressive you want to be in financial decision-making.

After that first meeting, your financial professional will draw up a plan and you’ll likely meet again to go over the various details and sign any paperwork. The nature of your plan — and the paperwork — will depend a lot on why you chose a professional in the first place and what kind of future you’re looking to build. Nevertheless, make sure you’re comfortable with it all. A good professional will readily make adjustments if needed.

What to Expect Over the Long-Term

A good financial plan is not a one-and-done proposition. The best professionals will work with you to regularly reassess your situation and discuss how your goals may have shifted. As your life changes, your professional will help you adjust your financial plan accordingly.

In other words, your professional is your partner, there for the long-haul. It’s a relationship that can be exceptionally beneficial to not just your finances, but the way you live your life. And the more you’re willing to follow the plans you and your financial professional develop, the more long-term success you’ll likely see.

The longer and better you prepare for the future, the more you can control what it will be like.