Finding the right wealth advisor can be a time-consuming endeavor, especially one that can address your unique financial goals and design the road map to meet them. Thankfully, if you know the right questions to ask a prospective wealth advisor it can help take some of the guesswork out of finding a good fit.
In this post, I have outlined 11 questions to ask a prospective wealth advisor to ensure that you find someone you can trust, that is knowledgeable, and that can grow with you throughout the many stages of your life.
Questions to Ask a Prospective Wealth Advisor: The Client Experience
- What types of clients do you typically work with? You want to work with an advisor who has experience in helping people like you! So be sure to dig into what type of clients the advisor works with and what issues they help those clients resolve. This ensures the advisor has the proper client experience to meet your needs.
- What would our first year together look like? This question is especially important for individuals who have always managed their own investments and may have never worked with a wealth advisor before. It helps to set the right expectation about what first-year communication and accomplishments will be.
- How frequently will we be in communication? After many of the common planning items are tackled in the first year, it’s typical to meet in-person two or three times per year with a wealth advisor. Asking this question helps set your ideal meeting frequency if you are wanting to meet less or more often.
- Do you use your own proprietary financial planning software or use software developed by a third party? Advisors are not in the technology business, and it’s common for advisors to leverage third-party financial planning software. If the advisor uses their own, it’s not a bad thing, but be sure to dig into whether or not it is robust enough to handle the comprehensiveness of your needs. Security can also be an issue with homegrown solutions.
- What is the average expense ratio (%) of the underlying funds used in your client’s portfolios? There are few better predictors of future investment success than how low you keep your investment fees. In the words of John Oliver, “keep your fees like your milk, at or less than 1%.”
Questions to Ask a Prospective Financial Advisor: Your Best Interests
- How are you compensated? There is likely no more important question to ask a prospective advisor. Advisors can be paid through a fee, like an annual planning fee or percentage of assets managed (“AUM fee”), commissions, or some combination. Make sure this is fully documented in a written client agreement so there is no confusion. BerganKDV is a “fee-only” firm meaning we cannot receive commissions from third parties of any kind.
- Are you held to a fiduciary standard? Surprisingly, not all financial professionals are required by law to act in your best interest. If the advisor acknowledges that she or he is held to the fiduciary standard, this should be found in the newly required Form CRS. If yes, keep the conversation going! If not, we would recommend heading for the exit.
- What credentials do you carry? The gold standard for financial advisors is the CFP® designation or Certified Financial Planner. To use the CFP® marks, advisors must have a bachelor’s degree, completed financial planning coursework, have a minimum of three years of experience, and have completed a six-to-ten-hour exam. You can verify your advisor’s CFP designation here.
- What conflicts of interest (if any) may exist if we were to work together? Conflicts of interest are not bad in and of themselves, it’s pretending they don’t exist that should raise concerns. Conflicts can be something as simple as referring business to a mortgage consultant that just happens to be your brother. Having an open dialogue about any and all conflicts that could arise is a critical first step to building trust and investors can also see an advisors Form ADV and CRS to verify information further.
- Have you been cited by a regulatory or professional governing body for disciplinary issues? If you get anything other than an unequivocal no, it’s likely time to continue the search elsewhere. To verify that your advisor has a clean regulatory record, you can use the SEC’s advisor search and FINRA’s broker search to verify.
In addition to asking good questions about fees and compensation, there should be room for asking personal questions that will help you get at the heart of the most important question—is this somebody I like and trust enough to do business with? If the answer is not a resounding “yes!”, then keep looking. There is no shortage of qualified and ethical people out there who would love to help you navigate the financial complexities of your life.
At BerganKDV, our wealth advisors are focused on helping empower you to live your best life. Want to learn more about our CLEAR process and how it can help you live your best life? Let’s talk about it.
The views expressed are those of BerganKDV Wealth Management. They are subject to change at any time. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other firm. Investment advisory services and fee-based planning offered through BerganKDV Wealth Management, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor.