There are many reasons to consider hiring a financial planner: Maybe you’re feeling unsure about your finances, are weighing a big purchase, or have increased cash flow you need help managing.
Financial advisers are professionals that help families manage their money. Many advisers are certified financial planners, meaning they took a rigorous course to become financial experts.
Financial planners aren’t cheap — the average comprehensive financial planner costs around $2,400 — so you’ll want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. We asked certified financial planners for tips on how to get the most out of your financial planner.
First, think about what you want from your financial planner and what you hope to accomplish together, said Bart Brewer, certified financial planner at Global Financial Advisory Services. What areas of your finances are most important for you? How in-depth financial planning do you need?
Most planners aren’t one size fits all. Some specialize in certain areas, like retirement planning, while others offer a more holistic approach. Some even have additional credentials that allow them to perform certain financial actions, like offering specific investment advice or purchasing an insurance policy on your behalf.
Typically, once you find a planner, you’ll have an introductory meeting before they’re officially hired. This is a good time for a gut check — you want to like the person you’ll be working with.
Ask lots of questions during this meeting, like:
What do you think makes a successful financial planning relationship?
How do you measure success for your clients?
Can you walk me through your financial planning process in detail?
How should I bring up questions as they come?
“You need to have chemistry on both sides,” said Kashif Ahmed, certified financial planner at American Private Wealth. “If you can't tolerate the other party in the same room, this is a recipe for disaster.”
Don’t show up to your first meeting empty handed, said Sarah Carlson, certified financial planner at Fulcrum Financial Group. The more financial information you have on hand to give your planner, the more help they can offer at the first meeting.
Gather documents like bank statements, retirement account information, investments, assets and estate planning documents, if you have them. Next, consider your current income and spending habits. Do you expect to make more money? Do you have any upcoming expenses that could affect your budget? Thinking through your financial behaviors beforehand can help you more easily convey that information to your planner.
While your planner will typically ask some guiding questions to understand your financial situation better, don’t be afraid to jump in and explain what you’d like to get out of your planner. This can only help the planner tailor their advice to you, said Brewer.
“The more organized and specific you are when you communicate with your advisor, the better the relationship will be. Try some self-prep before calling or meeting,” he said.
Most importantly, take stock of your emotions. Money is an emotional topic, and your feelings about money may affect your financial behavior and actions. Most financial planners understand how certain cognitive biases can affect your decisions — explaining where you’re coming from can help them make a more realistic plan for you.
Money can be a sensitive subject for some, but being open and honest with your financial planner will help them give you a more accurate financial plan. While it can be difficult, remember your planner isn’t there to judge you. Your planner can’t fully help you if you don’t disclose all the details of your financial life, especially around difficult topics like estate planning.
“Don't hold anything back. The planner isn't there to judge you. We’re only there to help you make things better, so be truthful. Tell them what you really feel and what you really think,” said Glenn Downing, certified financial planner at Cameron Downing.
Once your planner has all your financial information, they can make the best comprehensive plan for you that can help you achieve your goals.
A good financial planner will hold you accountable to your financial goals, so it’s important to be open to feedback or suggestions — after all, they’re only trying to help you.
“I view this as very similar to a doctor-patient relationship. The common denominator is trust. You need to feel comfortable telling the advisor anything financially, and that can only happen if you are convinced that the advisor is not out to take your money,” said Brewer.
While it’s OK to disagree with your planner, try to keep an open dialogue about why you disagree with a certain recommendation and what potential resolutions could be.
Most financial planning relationships last months, if not longer. If you’re looking for other financial professionals, like an attorney or accountant, your financial planner can typically help you make a referral.
Ready to get started? Check out our guide on finding the right type of financial planner.
Image: Giorgio Trovato