How to Work with a Financial Advisor

Happy couple came to an agreement with their financial advisor in the office.

Craig Lemoine, Ph.D., CFP®, Director of Consumer Investment Research

Financial advisors and wealth managers help identify and develop a plan designed to meet their clients’ financial goals. Financial advisors can help their clients through one major life challenge or weave together a comprehensive strategy. Working with a financial advisor can help you define and prioritize goals and map a plan for success.

What Is a Financial Advisor? 

A financial advisor is trained and licensed to provide investment and security advice to their clients. Advisors are generally affiliated with a federally or state registered investment advisory firms (RIAs). Financial advisors may also be affiliated with a broker/dealer or an insurance company. They are required to maintain annual reporting, continuing education and meet rigorous regulatory requirements.

When you work with a qualified financial advisor, you can begin to lay the groundwork to protect yourself from more common, sudden transitions. Developing a life and disability insurance program can protect your dependents and loved ones from death or disability. Having proper estate planning documents can help ensure your assets pass where, when, and how you want them to. Saving monthly for retirement can create meaningful assets to help boost any shortfalls. Building up a three-to-six-month cash reserve can protect you from sudden job loss and unemployment.

What Is Financial Planning?

Financial planning is a process. The process of planning helps you identify and inventory your current financial situation, chart goals for where you want to go and who you want to be, then develop a plan to meet those goals. The process continues in monitoring your progress and adjusting your plan as your goals adjust or the economic fabric they are woven into changes.

The financial planning process adds value to your journey through life, and people skilled at helping clients through that process have spent years developing technical and emotional expertise for life’s journeys ahead. Financial planners study and practice cash flow planning, credit planning, saving for a big purchase, retirement planning, estate planning, wealth management and insurance techniques. They also develop strong listening and communication skills to help you talk through your goals, uncover hidden risks and work to plot a course of success.

What Are Fiduciary Advisors?

Financial advisors affiliated with an RIA firm or those holding a Certified Financial PlannerTM (CFP®) designation are required at act with a fiduciary standard of care with their clients. The concept of a fiduciary is to, at all times, put a client’s best interest before that of the advisor or their firm. This concept does not have a standard checklist, nor is it derived from a single law. The concept of a fiduciary has evolved over time but generally contains the following three elements:i ii

  • Duty of Loyalty – Place the interests of a client over their own, avoid or disclose any material conflicts of interest and property manage any conflicts. Act without regard to the interests of the advisor’s employing firm.
  • Duty of Care – Act with care, prudence and diligence when making recommendations to a client. Consider the client’s goals, risk tolerance and objectives in providing investment advice.
  • Duty to Follow Client Instructions – Respect and comply with the obligations, duties, policies and restrictions of any client engagement.

How to Work with a Financial Advisor? 

Before meeting with a financial advisor, consider your personal goals. What areas of your life do you need help with? How could working with a professional empower your future? Think about your priorities and family. A financial advisor can help define your retirement, develop an education plan, or set a path towards any number of short- or long-term financial goals.

Begin gathering account statements, debt information, insurance policies, tax returns, wills, trusts and estate planning documents. Gather information about your employee benefits including retirement plans, group insurance policies and other employee benefits. Include retirement plan statements you may have with old employers.

Meeting with a financial planner is a great time to revisit your spending, budget, and cash flow statements. Revisit current beneficiary designations on retirement accounts and life insurance policies. If you are a business owner begin thinking about key employees, business continuation plans, financial statements, retirement, and employee befits and possibly an employee census.

Ready to Work with a Financial Advisor?  

We can help you find a financial advisor in your area. Give us a call today so we can match you with a fiduciary advisor who will put your needs first.

This material is written by Dr. Craig Lemoine, a non-affiliate of Cetera Advisor Networks, LLC, or CWM, LLC.

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