Prepare in Advance when Meeting with an Advisor

You don't want to waste an advisor's time -- or your own -- so do some legwork, either by phone, on the advisor's website or with his or her assistants, to try to make sure you have the potential for a good match.

For example, ask about costs and account minimums up front; it's silly to interview a financial planner with a $500,000 account minimum when you have $50,000 in assets.

You also want to get the basics on whether you fit with the profile of the advisor's average client. If you're scheduling meetings with financial planners about making estate plans or helping you make the most out of the sale of your small business, for example, make sure prospective advisors actually handle those matters regularly.
Many financial planners specialize in money management and may not be focused on the need that has driven you to seek assistance.

Whenever possible, talk directly with the advisor, rather than an assistant. While most advisors will not turn away potential business unless they are too busy to handle new accounts, what you hear in their voices will go a long way toward helping make your decision. Obviously, as you lay out the basics of what you are looking for -- and the size and scope of the job -- you should be listening for interest and energy.

Smart Investor Tip

Talk directly with the advisor, rather than an assistant.

Once you are certain you want to meet with an advisor, set up an initial meeting 10 days to two weeks into the future, so that you have time to prepare thoroughly. It may take a few days to properly check on an advisor's background; unless you have checked on his or her regulatory history before ever calling to chat, you will want to have that work done before you get acquainted.

In addition, many advisors send prospective clients advance materials to streamline the interview process. Leave enough time to read everything, complete any paperwork they send, and gather necessary documents and records.

Include Your Spouse or Partner in the Selection Process

If you are married, your spouse should look everything over and should be included in the initial meeting, even if he or she is not the primary decision maker on these matters. Remember you are purchasing trust, so you want to make sure your partner knows what is going on and has faith and confidence in the advisor.

A good advisor will want to hear from both of you; if one partner sits in the room silently, a high-quality counselor will try to draw him or her out. Equally important, you want your partner to concur on your goals for this advisory relationship and to be comfortable turning to this counselor in the event anything happens to you.

If you like the advisor, but your significant other dislikes the advisor's clothing, dress, manner, or anything, you may need to keep looking. While it may seem silly to get rid of a potential financial helper because of a bad haircut, anything that makes your partner uncomfortable -- and less likely to call on the advisor in a real time of need -- is a valid reason to keep looking. For all of the information these articles will help you get from an advisor, there's no denying that an advisor's gender, age, personality, and the convenient location of his or her office will have a lot to do with who you ultimately hire. No matter how much detail and science you apply to choosing helpers, "gut feeling" will always be a key determinant of whom you actually hire.

If you are hiring an advisor to help with an estate plan, consider bringing along a family member who will be involved in disposing of your estate, preferably your chosen executor. Remember, once the plan is in place, it will be your family -- and not you -- who deals with the advisor; that person needs to be as comfortable and confident in the advisor as you are.

By Chuck Jaffe
Chuck Jaffe is a senior columnist and host of two weekly podcasts at MarkWatch. He has also been a guest speaker on several television and radio shows.

Copyrighted 2016. Content published with author's permission.

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