Interview Guidelines

When speaking with the financial professionals that you are considering, treat the initial conversation as a mutual interview. The professional should ask you about your goals, your current financial situation, your plans for the future and your personality as it relates to saving and investing. By learning about you, the professional can begin to formulate an appropriate investing strategy. At the same time, you should be prepared to ask questions that will allow you to judge the professional's ability to manage your finances appropriately.

Do not feel that you have to begin a relationship with the first financial advisor that you come into contact with. Remember that it is much easier to control the quality of your advisor than to predict what will happen in the stock market. With this in mind, make sure to interview each advisor thoroughly so that you feel confident in your decision. Just as you would visit several car dealerships and test several car models before making a purchase, you should make sure to check each advisor to make sure that the advisor's qualifications, personality and goals match with yours.

At WiserAdvisor, we wish to prepare you for your interview by teaching you what to expect, what to ask, and what you should know about your financial advisor. By investing a small amount of time now by setting forth personal financial goals, as well as some objective qualifications that you would expect of an advisor, you can save yourself from worrying about whether you made the right decision later on.

Creating Your Personal Financial Goals
Preparing for the Interview
What About Your Credentials and Record of Integrity?
After the Interview
Making A Decision

Creating Your Personal Financial Goals

Author Barbara Stanny once said that a good financial advisor wants an educated client.” This not only pertains to understanding what you want out of an advisor, but also how you see yourself. Knowing what you want your financial future to look like is a very important aspect of choosing the right financial advisor. You work hard each week to support your family and your lifestyle, so it is important that you know what you want your life to be like down the road.

Your goals can be broad, such as wanting to be able to travel upon retirement, or they can be specific, such as wanting to buy a new car within the next few years. Below are some things to consider before you meet with a financial professional. Write down your goals and bring them with you to the interview.

 wiseradvisor-arrow1 What specific things do I wish to save for?
     wiseradvisor-arrow1 Examples: buying a new car, a down payment on a home, vacation, sending your kids to college,
        paying off credit card debt, planning for retirement.
 wiseradvisor-arrow1 How much progress have I made toward obtaining each of these goals to date?
     wiseradvisor-arrow1 Include how much you have saved, where your money is located and how much money you owe.
 wiseradvisor-arrow1 How soon do I wish to accomplish these goals?
     wiseradvisor-arrow1 Break each goal into short-term (1 year or less), medium-term (1 - 3 years) or long-term (5+ years)
     wiseradvisor-arrow1Knowing your priorities is essential, and should be communicated during your interview with an advisor.

Preparing for the Interview

Once you have stated your financial goals you are well on your way to your meeting with a financial advisor! As stated earlier, WiserAdvisor matches you to 1 to 3 advisors. It is important that you give consideration to each advisor so that you can be comfortable with making the most informed decision. This section is aimed at giving you some basic guidelines on what to expect, what to ask, and what you should know about your financial advisor. Make sure to write these questions down and bring them to your interview. Have the advisor answer as much information as possible, and write down the responses so that you are able to compare several advisors objectively later on.

The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) has compiled a set of questions that can be accessed on their website. Make sure to print out these questions to take with you to the interview. Also, keep in mind the following:

 wiseradvisor-arrow1 What Services Do You Provide?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Cash management & budgeting?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1Tax planning?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1Investment review & planning?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Estate planning?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Advice regarding insurance needs?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Retirement planning?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1Recommendations for investments or investment products?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Anything else?
 wiseradvisor-arrow1 What licenses or qualifications do you hold?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1Do you hold professional certifications or designations?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 How long have you held each of these?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 What states are you licensed in?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 What types of investments are you licensed to offer?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Do you belong to any financial organizations or societies? Which ones?
 wiseradvisor-arrow1 How would you prepare my financial plan? Qualified advisors might use the following methodologies:
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Gathering current financial data
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Setting goals and understanding risk tolerance
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Analyzing and evaluating financial status
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Developing and presenting a full range of alternatives and their particular recommendations
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Preparing a written plan
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Counseling on how to implement the plan
 wiseradvisor-arrow1 What continued services will I receive after the initial plan?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Do you sell financial products?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 How often do you send out portfolio reports?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 What are your market research methods?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Will I continue to receive written analysis of my financial situation and your recommendations?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Will you provide continued advice on non-investment financial issues?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Do you take possession of, or have access to my assets?

Look for a financial advisor who provides ongoing services to advise and assist in your plan's implementation as well as future plan revisions.
 wiseradvisor-arrow1 What are your typical clients like, and how have their portfolios performed?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 How many clients do you have? What is the average portfolio size?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 How have portfolios of clients similar to me (risk, portfolio size) performed?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 One year? Five years? Ten years? (make sure that performance takes the advisor’s fees into account)
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Compared to inflation rates?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 How had performance fared in recessionary periods (if the advisor was in business):
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 July 1981- November 1982
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 July 1990- March 1991
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 March 2001- November 2002
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 September 2008

The next important area of questioning has to do with how the advisor is paid. At this point, your examination of what services the advisor provides should have given you a basic idea of how much value you would derive from them. Now, by finding out about the advisor's fees, you can see whether you expect to get your money's worth by hiring him/her. You should ask:

 wiseradvisor-arrow1 How is your compensation calculated?
     wiseradvisor-arrow1 Do you provide an initial meeting at no cost?
        wiseradvisor-arrow1 Financial professionals generally provide a free initial meeting
     wiseradvisor-arrow1 How does the advisor charge for the services?
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Hourly rate
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Flat fee
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Percentage of assets
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Commission (fee per financial product sold)
         wiseradvisor-arrow1 Is the fee schedule flexible?
     wiseradvisor-arrow1 Ask for a written estimate of what the fees will be

Hopefully, by having these questions answered, you will have a good idea of whether an advisor provides the services you desire. Look for a very strong fit here, but keep in mind that the more extensive the services are the more expensive they will be.

What About Your Credentials and Record of Integrity?

The advisors that you visited probably told you of their numerous qualifications. To learn more about what each license and designation means, visit our designation page.

There are two main sources of information that will help you to answer this question: government agencies and fellow clients. Any financial advisor who provides advice about securities must be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and/or the state securities agency, depending on the total value of assets under management. Most advisors will provide a roster of clients who can share their experiences with you.

Obtain a copy of the advisor's registration form, Form ADV. Part 1 discloses information about the advisor's education, business, and whether the advisor has had problems with regulators or clients. Part 2 outlines the advisor's services, fees, and strategies. You can get Form ADV from the advisor, the SEC, or the state securities regulator, depending on the size of the advisor's business.

Call your state securities regulator to see if the advisor has a record of complaints. You can also verify the advisor's educational and professional background. The North America Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) can be reached at 202-737-0900. They can give you the phone number of your state securities regulator.

Check on your financial advisor's credentials using these resources:  wiseradvisor-arrow1 Call the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) at 1-800-732-0330 to verify that the advisor is registered   with the SEC.
 wiseradvisor-arrow1 The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Board of Standards at 888-CFP-MARK(237-6275) will verify whether an     advisor has earned the CFP designation. You can call the CFP Board of Standards (303) 830-7543, ext. 219 to     check on license and disciplinary record of Financial Planners.
 wiseradvisor-arrow1 Call (202) 737-0900 to obtain a state securities commissioner's phone number.
    You can also call (800) 732-0330 to see if an advisor is a licensed RIA.
 wiseradvisor-arrow1 The American College at 800-368-4684 will verify a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
    or Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation.
 wiseradvisor-arrow1 You can reach the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) at 816-842-3600 to verify whether
    an advisor is licensed to sell insurance in your state.

After the Interview

Now that you have met 1 to 3 advisors it's time to start reviewing the information that you have received in order to make a final decision. Remember: make sure to select advisors based upon their qualifications rather than their personalities. While selecting an advisor that you get along with is important, it is even more important that they have the skills and knowledge to effectively handle your investments.
Review the qualifications that each advisor listed. Did anything stand out for each advisor that made you uneasy? Reassured? Make notes of such sentiments while you draw comparisons. Did the advisor listen to what your goals, risk tolerances and questions were?
If the advisor provided you with the names of client references you will want to look for satisfied long-term customers. Basic questions to ask references include:

 wiseradvisor-arrow1 How long have you worked with the advisor?
 wiseradvisor-arrow1 Have you been satisfied with the service that the financial advisor provides?
 wiseradvisor-arrow1 How often do you hear from the advisor? Who initiates calls and what are most calls about?
    Does the advisor respond to your questions and your calls?
 wiseradvisor-arrow1 Has anything about your relationship surprised you or disappointed you?
 wiseradvisor-arrow1 What do you think the advisor does best? Worst?

An advisor's track record is the best indicator of what the advisor will do for you. Explore further if there are any differences between what the advisor told you and what their references told you. And if the references say that the advisor has been great, then chances are you would feel the same about his or her services.

Making A Decision

If you have gotten this far, then you have just about all the information you will need to make a decision regarding which advisor seems the best for you. Don't settle for someone you are unsure of because there are many advisors to choose from. You should be able to find one with a strong track record of providing the services you need at a reasonable cost. Most importantly, you should feel comfortable with the professional that you choose. You want someone that you have confidence in; after all, this is your money that we're talking about. No matter what his or her title is, your professional should seem like the right choice to you.

To get contacted by your ideal financial advisor, click here