If you’ve never worked with a financial advisor before, your first visit to their office could be intimidating. Here’s what I would suggest you have front-of-mind when you find yourself in your first meeting, sitting across the table from a financial advisor.

Talking about money can be emotionally charged, so as the meeting begins, take the time to center yourself. A great way to clear the mind is to have a short list of questions that are important to you. This is an opportunity for both of you to mutually interview each other and determine if you’d like to work together. You may not be a good fit for the advisor, and the advisor may not be a good fit for you. 

These are my three strongest questions for that first meeting:

 

1. Is this someone with whom, over time, I could build a high-trust relationship?

One of the most wealth-destroying mistakes I’ve seen in my years of practice is panic-selling into a plunging market. There’s a perfect storm of behaviors that feel right in the moment, but cause the average investor to underperform over time. Industry studies suggest the value of an advisor coaching you away from these harmful behaviors leads to a 2.0% increase in investment returns over time. 

These behavior changes aren’t easy, though. There may be a point where the news is scary and it hurts every time you think about your investments. That’s when many clients turn to their financial advisor to make sense of the market and give them courage to weather the financial storm. At that point, will you be able to trust this advisor’s judgement?

 

2. Does the advisor’s investment philosophy complement my investing strengths and weaknesses?

If you interpret good investment management as lots of active trading, you probably won’t be happy with an advisor who doesn’t trade much, no matter how reasonable the advisor’s rationale. It’s the same for the opposite position; if you don’t like to see lots of trading on your account, make sure your investment advisor’s philosophy involves fewer trades. 

Your advisor should be able to give you a sense of how they trade in both bull and bear markets, and what to expect in market panics. They should also be able to coach you on how your portfolio, specifically, is expected to perform in those same markets.

 

3. Will I fully understand your services and their costs before engaging you?

When you’re hiring a financial planner, you’re hiring an educated and experienced individual to shepherd your investments, the proceeds of your life’s work. There are a lot of excellent professionals out there with many different business models. It’s easy, in the enthusiasm of talking about the services, to forget to ask how they’re paid. Your advisor should be able to respond readily with how they’re paid, both specifically how much and when.

 

Your first meeting with a financial advisor can be the gateway to a valuable, rewarding relationship. I believe the three questions above, along with any other questions on your mind, will lead to a productive first meeting.

 

Abigail Hollar, CFP, is a financial advisor for Conger Wealth Management, a nationally acclaimed fee-only wealth advisory firm in Little Rock, where she addresses client’s financial worries and helps them balance their lifestyle with their long-term goals. You can practice your new financial-advisor-meeting skills by calling her at (501) 374-1174 or connecting with her on LinkedIn. Investment advisory services offered through Advisory Alpha, LLC DBA Conger Wealth Management, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor.

 

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