Your financial advisor can be one of the most important people in your life — you know, minus your family. They can help you plan your entire financial life: your retirement, college savings, investment opportunities. And there are tons of people in this country who need a professional financial advisor, but don’t have one. A lot of people consider them prohibitively expensive — a consultation can run you up to $350 per hour, and a comprehensive financial plan can cost you a few thousand — but many don’t consider how much money they lose by not seeking advice from an advisor.
Unfortunately, looking for a financial advisor can be an arduous process — gathering referrals, digging through Google results, scheduling in-person meetings — with no guarantee that you’ll find an advisor who matches your needs. GuideVine, an online matchmaker for consumers and financial advisors, wants to make it easier for you to not only find financial advisors, but to find the right financial advisor.
How you know you need a financial advisor
Do you ask yourself the question, "Hey, do I need a financial advisor?" Then there’s a good chance you need a financial advisor. When you have an issue in your life, whether it’s medical, legal, or otherwise, you seek the advice of an expert. Why should it be any different with money?
No matter where you are in your life, you can probably benefit from solid financial advice. However, there are specific life events that usually motivate people to look for a financial advisor:
- When you enter your first career where you are no longer living paycheck to paycheck.
- When you get married.
- When you buy a home.
- When you have a baby (first child or otherwise).
- If you come into money, as in an inheritance or perhaps the Powerball.
- If you have overwhelming debt.
People in their twenties and thirties also tend to have parents pushing them to seek a financial advisor.
What, exactly, financial advisors do
Obviously, financial advisors are there to give you advice about what you should do with your money. But a good financial advisor doesn’t just give you the same cookie cutter advice. Your advisor should meet with you and discuss your financial goals — not just for the next few years, but for your entire life. Then, they’ll work with you to build a plan that helps you prepare for every major financial milestone in your lifetime.
Depending on your lifestyle, these milestones could be anything from a college fund for your children to a vacation home in Malibu. Of course, one huge milestone that (almost) everybody plans for is retirement. Even if you’re just starting out in your career, and have no short-term plans to start a family, talking to a financial advisor about your retirement savings strategy can be hugely beneficial.
Some financial advisors are also investment advisors. In some cases, this just means that they can add some investment advice to your overall financial plan. You can also choose to have an investment advisor directly manage your assets. Typically, this will cost you anywhere between 0.75% and 1.5% of your total assets every year.
If investment advisors sound similar to automatic investing services like Betterment and Wealthfront, that’s because they are. But while Betterment and Wealthfront can help directly manage your wealth, they can’t discuss your financial plan with you over coffee or tea. While I strongly believe that robo-advisors like Betterment are great for young investors dipping their toes in the water, or for older workers looking for cheaper direct management, they don’t replace the value of talking over your financial plan with a real human being.
GuideVine: the best way to find a financial advisor
Alright, so by this point, you’re convinced that you should start seriously looking for a financial advisor. But how?
A few years ago, two of Raghav Sharma’s friends were facing the same question. They had just gotten married — trigger! — and were comfortable with the idea of asset management. They started with a referral from a friend, and then, as we all so often do, they moved to Google. The couple compiled a list of ten advisors, made appointments, and met all ten of them in person. If that sounds grueling, wait for the kicker — they didn’t even find one that they liked.
It was a classic "There’s got to be a better way!" sort of moment, one that inspired Raghav and his co-founders to start GuideVine. You can think of GuideVine as a sort of dating website, but with financial advisors instead of potential romantic partners. After answering just three questions about yourself and your financial needs, you’re matched with a set of potential advisors.
From there, you can view each advisor’s profile, watch an introductory video, and look at their regulatory information. You can see reviews and feedback left by other GuideVine users. If you don’t want to commit to a free consultation, you ask each advisor a short question. All of this is designed to help users get a sense of each financial advisor’s personality and expertise.
You also don’t have to use your set of matches — you can change the search criteria or look at a full list of advisors in your area at any time.
Does GuideVine cost money?
GuideVine is completely free for consumers. You don’t need to pay to search, and you don’t need to pay a "finder’s fee" to GuideVine if you find an advisor through their platform. You can get also get one free consultation, either over the phone or in-person, with an advisor. Once you hire a financial advisor for one of their services, you will pay them directly, with no middleman.
What makes GuideVine better than referrals or Google?
"Everyone’s situation is different," Raghav told me, "and you don’t know if their financial advisor will be right for you." One example he gave me was a cousin at a family barbeque. She might be telling you that her financial advisor is great, but she’s also twenty years older than you, her kids have already graduated college, and she’s looking at retiring within five years.
If you’re still decades away from retirement and trying to save for multiple college educations, your financial plan is necessarily going to have to be completely different than hers. Additionally, not all financial advisors have the same expertise — if your children are already done with college, for example, you don’t need someone who focuses on college savings.
It’s also hard to compare financial advisors online. Raghav says that because of U.S. Government regulations, financial advisors are limited as to how they can describe themselves on their personal websites. Many end up using the same buzzwords, making it difficult for consumers to compare them.
GuideVine was designed to cut through this noise by focusing on the two details that matter most: experience and expertise. Here's one example of how GuideVine's advisor profiles parse out important information:
In my tests, I found it much easier to compare financial advisors through GuideVine than searching for those same financial advisors on Google. GuideVine also has a huge advantage with their embedded video introductions from the advisors themselves, which allow you to put a face and voice to the name.
How do I know these financial advisors are any good?
For starters, GuideVine doesn’t just scrape information off of the web and present it with a pretty interface. Every financial advisor on the platform applied to be on GuideVine, and was vetted by GuideVine’s staff. Advisors must meet certain minimum requirements — how many years of experience they have, how many people they’ve worked with — as well as a clean history with the Securities and Exchange Commision (SEC). They must also be fiduciaries — people with a legal obligation to do what’s best for their clients.
A member of the GuideVine team personally interviews the advisor to make sure she is the right fit for the platform. Assuming everything checks out, GuideVine then helps the advisor create an introductory video.
In addition to that whole process, it’s important to note that each advisor pays an annual subscription to stay on the GuideVine platform. This fee is the same for every advisor, no matter how many clients they get through GuideVine. "[This fee] creates the right incentive for us," Raghav told me, "which is getting consumers over to the right advisor." If advisors paid GuideVine based on the amount of customers they received, GuideVine would be more motivated to convince you to pick anyone, regardless if they’re the right fit, as quickly as possible.
Currently, there are three hundred advisors on GuideVine nationwide, with another fifty to seventy in the process of joining this year.
What else can I get from GuideVine?
A big part of the GuideVine platform is their concierge service. GuideVine’s concierges are experts in the asset management industry, and their sole role is to help consumers find the right financial advisor. You can talk to a concierge about what you need from a financial advisor, and your concierge will help you narrow down the choices in your area. In some cases, Raghav told me, consumers ask the concierge to pick an advisor for them, based on their conversation and what the concierge knows about GuideVine’s advisors.
GuideVine also places a huge emphasis on financial education and literacy. GuideVine’s blog focuses on topics like "Smart Money Moves in your 30s" (as well as 40s, 50s, and beyond), home prices, market movements, and more. GuideVine’s YouTube channel also features videos from their advisors answering questions around financial planning, retirement, investing, insurance, and more.
Should I use GuideVine?
If you’re looking for a financial advisor, you’re doing yourself a disservice to not check out GuideVine. It’s free, it’s simple, and it’s the best alternative out there to a random Google search. Even if you don’t end up finding your financial advisor through Guidevine — which, frankly, I would be surprised about — or you decide not to hire a financial advisor, you can still use GuideVine’s free educational resources to become more financially literate.