A Good Start is Everything!
Whether you've worked with a financial advisor before or this is your first time, being prepared for your initial meeting can be helpful in getting the financial planning process — and your relationship with your advisor— off to a good start.
1. Prepare a list of questions you may have for your advisor. Chances are you've decided to work with a financial advisor because you have questions or concerns about issues such as taxes, retirement, college savings, budgeting, legacy planning or small business finances. Write them down so you can be sure to cover them in your initial meeting. Also, if you are unsure about fees, what services you'll receive, how the relationship with the advisor will work or anything else, your initial meeting is the ideal time to get your questions answered.
2. Think about your priorities for your financial future. Ask yourself these questions and be prepared to discuss your answers with your financial advisor.
- What's important to you—in terms of your financial future, as well as your future in general?
- What are your values? What matters most to you in life?
- Where do you see yourself in a year? Five years? Twenty years?
- What are your hopes and concerns regarding your finances now and in the future?
3. Your advisor will have specific questions for you in order to understand where you are and where you want to go. Be honest. Holding back or providing partial information will prevent your advisor from fully understanding your financial situation and goals. The following are examples of some of the kinds of questions to expect:
- Have you worked with a financial advisor before?
- What are your current financial goals and what have you been doing to achieve them?
- Do you feel like you're making progress towards your goals?
- Why do you think you need the help of an advisor? What do you hope to achieve?
- What worries you when you think about finances—now and in the future?
- Was there a recent event or change in your life that caused you to seek out a financial advisor—or do you anticipate one in the near future?
- Are you currently saving for a child or grandchild's education or for something else, or do you need to start doing so?
- Do you have concerns about family members or significant others that may affect your financial future?
- Have you thought about when you'd like to retire and what you like to do next?
- If you're already retired, do you have any concerns about your money lasting or what happens to it once you're gone?
- Have you thought about your “legacy”?
- What are your values? What's important to you, not including anything related to your financial future or security?
- How do you envision your life a year from now? Five years from now? Twenty years from now?
4. Your advisor may ask you to bring documentation that will help summarize your financial situation. Some of the documents you may be asked to bring include:
- Income tax returns for the last two years
- Investment account statements
- Social Security statement if you're not currently receiving Social Security. You can access your statement by creating an account and signing in at https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/
- Pension statements and/or estimates
- Outstanding loan statements (auto, home, credit card, etc.)
- Bank account information (checking, savings, CD's, money market)
- Life insurance and long-term care insurance policies and statements
- Savings bonds
- Wills and/or trust documents
- Annuity statements
- IRA/retirement account statements
- Listing of real estate holdings
What to Expect at the Meeting
Every financial advisor does things his or her own way, so there's no set standard for how a first meeting is conducted. However, there are certain things that will likely be covered.
- Your advisor will provide you with a summary of what he or she plans to do for you. Be prepared to discuss how often you'd like to meet, how you'd like to communicate with each other, and how you'd like to work together.
- Your advisor will likely also take some time to get to know you personally. You should do the same. Feeling comfortable with your advisor will be important in maintaining a beneficial relationship.
- Your advisor will answer any questions you have. There's no such thing as a “dumb” question. You need to feel that you fully understand what your advisor can and will do for you, and whatever else is necessary to have a high level of comfort with and confidence in your advisor.
- You'll review and sign any relevant paperwork. If you don't understand anything, ask.
- Your advisor will ask questions to get a clearer understanding of your financial situation and goals. You may be asked to complete a survey or questionnaire that will provide more insights. Always be honest.
- Your advisor may offer some initial thoughts on next steps or ask for a subsequent meeting.
After the Meeting
Get started on any “next steps” your advisor may have given you. If this is your first time delving into financial planning and investing—and you have the time and interest—you may want to start increasing your financial literacy.
You can take advantage of the many educational resources available online to increase your understanding of financial planning and investing. One in particular is: “Financial Literacy Resource Directory from the US Department of Treasury, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.” Ask your advisor for additional recommendations.