Do Your Homework and Reveal Your Faults when Interviewing Advisors

Before an initial sit-down, prepare a written statement of what you want from this relationship, and the specific reasons why you are seeking help now. This ensures that the interview will cover your most pressing current needs and your long-term expectations.

Make a list of your interview questions so that you don't forget to ask everything you consider important. And if the advisor sends you advance paperwork about your assets and intentions, complete it.

Smart Investor Tip

Make a list of your interview questions so that you don't forget to ask everything you consider important.

Don't hide your financial blemishes and mistakes.
Most of us don't like discussing money, especially when it covers what we've done right and wrong with it. Our money foibles are often our most intimate secrets.

You need to trust that any advisor will care for those secrets and treat them like the sensitive information they are. You can't worry about what this advisor will think of you or your past decision making. Advisors understand the need for confidentiality -- anyone with an advanced professional credential probably has a code of ethics to live by -- but you need to understand the need to be completely honest. You must disclose all relevant information so your advisors can make informed decisions; no advisor can meet your expectations and help you reach your goals without a complete and truthful picture of your situation.

Many advisors say that clients frequently fudge debt problems during initial meetings, trying to make their finances look better than they really are. Then, when the advisor takes them on as a client and finds out the truth, it nullifies a lot of work that has been done; instead of plowing ahead with investments and financial plans, the advisor is now working to reduce the debt, a situation that is particularly likely to anger an advisor who was counting on money being put to work in order to generate a paycheck. Lying about your finances or overlooking your faults gets the entire relationship off on the wrong foot.

In preparing your interview questions, be sure to think about your personal habits and circumstances. If you are the kind of client who intends to call every week or every time the market hiccups, you need to tell the advisor; if your personal quirks would drive an advisor crazy, then he or she is not the right person for you. Reveal any unusual life circumstances that might affect the advisor's work. If you have a child with special needs who requires a lifetime of support, for example, the advisor needs to know that up front, because it impacts every move they suggest. Likewise, a gay individual or a couple in a nontraditional relationship may be reluctant to share this information right away, but there are special rules and strategies that come into play in these situations, and not every advisor has the technical expertise to handle them.

Ideally, you want an advisor to "hire" you as a client every bit as much as you want to have them help with your finances. The best way to know if you are the kind of client he or she would enjoy working with is to give them the whole picture.
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 2020. Content published with author's permission.

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