No matter where you are in life, every major financial decision can affect your future. From the career path you take, to how much you contribute to retirement plans, and how you manage debt, even the insurance you select — your choices and habits are impactful. 

For many people, working with a financial advisor is an easy way to navigate the present and set a course for a successful future, including retirement. Is it right for you?

Why work with a financial planner?

It’s easy for many of us to procrastinate, especially if we have a significant amount of time before retirement. But you have to remember; there are many occasions to plan for. You may want to buy a home, send a child to college, or even purchase your own business. I’m sure most of us can agree, there are probably ways we can manage our money better.

That’s where a financial advisor can help. Here’s how. 

Financial planners can help you remain disciplined about your financial strategies. They advise clients on how best to save, invest, and grow money. This is usually through buying stocks, bonds, annuities, and insurance. 

After they start your portfolio, they’ll monitor your accounts throughout your relationship. They will help determine what changes are needed to improve your investment performance or accommodate life changes.

Though it doesn’t end there, they can also assist with tax laws, legacy planning, and small business planning — among a list of other services. You’ll learn what’s available to you when you schedule a financial consultation.

Do you know your ideal asset / equity ratio?

What is a financial consultation?

Simply put, a financial consultation is a discovery meeting (usually at no cost to you) where you get to know an advisor. 

What to expect

An advisor will ask you specific questions about your money, so he or she can learn where you are now and where you’d like to be. So it’s important to know — and be able to share — your budget and spending habits. 

This person will also want to know what’s most important to you and what your goals are. So dream big, within your expected means, of course, and share those dreams. Your advisor will need to know this so they can create strategies that will get you in the financial position to make them happen. 

How to prepare

The best way to be ready for your financial consultation is to have the following documents ready to share:

  • Bank statements
  • Investment statements 
  • Insurance policies
  • 401(k) statements
  • Pay stubs
  • Employer benefits statement
  • Tax returns for the past two or three years
  • Debt statements (mortgages, credit cards, student loans, business loans, personal loans, etc.)
  • Beneficiary information/expected inheritances (are you part of a trust fund?)

What questions should I ask a financial advisor?

A financial consultation is not just about interviewing you. It’s just as much an opportunity for you to interview the advisor, so you can see if he or she is a good match for what you need. Understanding that, there are a few essential questions you should be prepared to ask. They include:

  1. Are you a fiduciary? 

If so, this means your advisor will operate in your best interest, regardless of how they’re compensated.

  1. How are you paid, and what services are included? 

Find out if you pay a flat fee, hourly rate, or percentage of your assets, and don’t forget to ask about any commissions involved. The section below will go into further detail and additional options.

  1. What area do you specialize in?

Are they focused on investment strategies, debt management, estate planning? Are they retirement planning specialists? Do they lean toward helping clients further out or close to retirement? Understanding their strengths and what they enjoy doing can help you decide if they’re the right fit.

  1. How often will we work together?

Every client has different needs and expectations. Your advisor should commit to being available when you need them — whether it’s a regular schedule or a more relaxed “as questions come up” approach.

Financial planning costs 

Costs begin after the discovery meeting, once you’ve decided to hire an advisor. Often, they are the reason why people do not move forward with hiring a financial planner. People assume they can manage and invest money on their own so that they can reduce expenses. 

But that’s not always your best option. It’s crucial to remember financial planning can save you money in the long run. Plus, not all advisors have the same cost structure. Some advisor fees may be deducted directly from your portfolio, while others may be billed directly. So, if you don’t like what you were presented with, continue seeking out financial consultations with other planners. You’re sure to find a good fit at a price that’s right for you.

Here are a few things to consider when reviewing financial planning fees.

Fee-only

Fee-only financial planners are registered investment advisors with a fiduciary responsibility to act in their clients’ best interests. There’s no commission involved. Instead, you pay for advice, plan implementation, and the ongoing management of assets. This can be an hourly rate, a percentage of your assets, or a flat fee depending on the advisor you choose.

Many people prefer the fee-only approach because you know how much you are spending. There is no commission involved, and it’s a transparent process. However, the downside is that fee-only advisors may be less experienced or have a smaller scope of products they can offer.

Fee-based

Most fee-based financial planners offer a set fee for a specific task, such as creating a detailed estate plan. Other alternatives include hourly rates, an annual retainer, or a percentage of assets under management. But wait, there’s more. Other sources also pay fee-based advisors. This means they can earn a commission on the products you purchase. So you have to be careful when selecting investments. What the advisor is offering you may not be in your best interest, especially if it’s providing a significant commission to them.

All in all, the fees you pay should be structured around your needs and preferences. To make the best decision, you’ll want to decide how much help you require and how often you need that help.

Building your financial plan

The decision to hire a financial advisor requires a careful cost/benefit analysis. Yet, it also requires finding the right person to assist you. The costs involved are more than justifiable if your consultant can strengthen your investments. 

Seek out advisors with widely-recognized credentials, including Certified Financial Planners. This means they’re regulated and have completed rigorous training and testing. Plus, they’ve taken mandatory classes on different aspects of financial planning.

At Triangle, our financial planners have many years of experience.

Contact us today for a personal finance evaluation.