Preparing For Your First Meeting With a Financial Planner
- Not knowing what to expect can be a barrier to scheduling an intro with a financial planner.
- Intro meetings don't have to be scary, and a good advisor will ensure the meeting is conversational and will give you time to express yourself.
- The first meeting is all about getting to know each other and allowing both you and the advisor to determine if working together is a good fit.
You finally decided you would like to begin working with a financial planner. Your income is going up, your investment accounts are growing in size and number, and you need help planning for multiple goals. But if you haven't worked with a financial planner in the past, fear of the unknown can create anxiety over that first meeting. Knowing what to expect when you meet a potential advisor for the first time can relieve the butterflies and make it a great experience for you and the advisor!
Before you gather up your statements and before you decide to rollover that 401k, start thinking about what the purpose of your financial plan is in the first place. Many people haven’t given much thought to this, but some questions to ask yourself are:
- What are my goals for the next 1 year, 3 years and 5 years? I like to give clients who are having trouble with this a list of common goals to get them thinking outside of the box.
- What are the obstacles to achieving those goals? (lack of time, lack of knowledge, poor money habits?)
- What do I want my money to do for me, and for my family? If you had all the money you needed and more, what would you do with it?
- Why is it important for you to have a financial plan?
These are questions you might not expect to be at the top of the agenda, but if your financial advisor is interested in building a comprehensive plan that really helps you live a better life, understanding the “why” behind your plan is key. Many clients do not come in prepared to discuss these kinds of topics, so giving them some thought ahead of time puts you light-years ahead of most others. Also, for you as the saver – identifying the purpose behind your plan creates an additional level of motivation. If you're sending money to an account just for the sake of watching it grow it can be easy to divert that money elsewhere or abandon the savings plan all together. When you know that account represents next year’s vacation, getting your kid through college debt free, or retiring at age 55, its much easier to stick to the plan as every dollar brings you closer to a meaningful goal.
During the meeting
Expect this first meeting to be fairly conversational with plenty of opportunity for you to express your answers to the questions noted above. Your potential advisor is seeking to first understand what your needs, wants, and wishes are and what challenges you think the advisor can help you overcome. Your background is important as well – your advisor may want to learn more about your family, your work life, and even your experiences with money over time.
This meeting is also your opportunity to learn about the financial planner's business. What will the financial plan cover? How is the planner paid? What is the planner’s experience? See this article from the XY Planning Network for some ideas: 5 Questions You Must Ask Before Working with a Financial Advisor.
Some basic financial information may be necessary to help your advisor understand your current financial position and what sorts of problems you will need to work together on (Do you own multiple properties? Do you own a business? Do you receive stock options or other special forms of compensation?). However, this first meeting should not be all about gathering every detail about your finances. That comes later. This first meeting is really to get to know each other and find out if you and your potential advisor are a good fit.
After the meeting
So, how did you feel about your intro meeting with your potential advisor? Did the advisor seem experienced in the areas you need help on? Did the price for working with the advisor seem clear and fair? Did you get along (after all, you will be spending a lot of time together, particularly at the start of the relationship)? These are some of the questions to ask yourself as you decide whether to hire a specific financial planner or not.
Depending on each advisor’s process, you may have already scheduled a follow up meeting to address any additional questions that come up. This follow up conversation allows you to make sure you are comfortable with the advisor’s approach to your plan and have all your questions answered before you sign on the dotted line.
Don't let expectations and anxiety over hiring a financial planner keep you from scheduling that first meeting. Identifying your "why" behind your financial plan and being ready to have an open conversation with your potential advisor about what you'd like help with goes a long way to taking the stress out of that first meeting and setting up a great, long term financial planning relationship.