How to Choose a Financial Adviser

The value of financial advice can be priceless but taking that first step in selecting an adviser and meeting with them can be daunting.  It is a common misconception that you must have lots of money to benefit from financial advice, so many do not feel they can achieve anything from a relationship with an adviser.  Additionally, there exists the fear that if you do have funds available for investment, you will be coerced into buying and using products that only benefit the adviser.  Fear is an entirely normal emotion especially when it comes to the management of your livelihood, but the apprehension we feel regarding advice is often based on negative stereotypes or a flawed understanding of the financial advice process.  We, however, know that there are plenty of trustworthy financial advisers out there, it is just a matter of finding them.  To help you simplify your search, we have devised the following list of traits you should be aware of when looking for a suitable financial adviser.

Comfort:

You need to be confident in your ability to communicate openly with your financial adviser.  Your gut instinct will give you the best indication of whether you relate, and ultimately trust them. Beyond the first impression, your adviser needs to be readily available, as they will often act as an important sounding board during important moments in your life, some of which may not even be finance related.  You cannot underestimate the value of having an adviser you know will return your calls, and promptly.  This will give you peace of mind your relationship is valued and the adviser has your interests at heart.

Additionally, we understand that most people do not wake up one morning and decide that today is the day they need to see a financial adviser.  The decision to see an adviser is typically triggered by an emotional event, such as the sale of a home, a retirement, or even the death of a loved one.  Financial advisers are people as well, individually they have experienced similar personal events to all of us. Your financial adviser should be there for you in your times of need and be willing to hold your hand through the tough times. If the adviser you are speaking with is unable to provide you with the level of empathy and comfort you need, then odds are they won’t be able to give you the support and advice that is right for you.

Control:

You should never feel pushed to undertake a plan or invest in something you don’t understand.  A good adviser will guide you in decision making and ensure that you are ultimately in control of the outcome.  An adviser should act as a coach, encouraging you with a game plan to achieve your goals.  You should feel understood, appreciated, educated and in control.

It is also important to understand who owns controls the advice you receive.  Every financial adviser needs to be licensed to provide advice. Often the company that manages adviser licenses builds its own products and encourages its advisers to recommend those products.  In Australia, 44% of advisers operate under a license controlled by the largest 10 institutions, including the big 4 banks.  Find an advisory firm that manages its own license to ensure your interests are put before the big institutions.

Longevity:

A visit to a financial planner should not be seen as a quick fix. A financial planner can be a great resource to have over the long term to help you prepare and prosper through different life stages.

For example, if you’re 55 and considering your retirement options, it doesn’t make sense to choose an adviser that’s 65 and on the cusp of their own retirement.  While it may be daunting to trust a younger adviser, there is a good chance they’ll be by your side for every step of the journey.

As well, look at how long the advisers in the firm you are considering have been there.  You can either find this information out from discussions with your potential adviser or by looking at the advice firm’s website.  It is fairly common practice for firms to have adviser biographies on their websites.  If you discover that most of the advisers have not been at their firm very long, this may suggest that the firm is not stable and they have a high rate of adviser turnover.  This might mean, for you, that the adviser you partner with today will not be around next year.  Conversely, if you find that the majority of advisers in a firm have been around a for some time, you are much more likely to have found a group that works well together.  Therefore, it is much more likely that your adviser will be around for the long haul (and that you’ll have someone to talk to if you need help while your adviser is on holiday).

Knowledge:

The obvious one. Your financial adviser needs to know what they’re talking about. They should also be a specialist in the areas you believe are most important for your needs.  If you need retirement advice, you’d be doing yourself a disservice to visit an adviser that specialises in Life Insurance for 30-year-olds.  It pays to check the adviser’s biography or website to understand their areas of expertise.

You should also be aware of an adviser’s qualifications.  There are several tiers of qualifications for financial advisers.  You want to make sure you work with someone who has significant knowledge, rather than someone with base level understanding. Your financial adviser could only have a diploma for example, or maybe they have a masters or university degree, the Certified Financial Planner® accreditation (CFP®), or a combination of these.

You should be aware that the CFP® certification is the only globally recognised mark of professionalism for financial planners.  A certified adviser must meet and maintain rigorous competency, ethical and professional practice standards. When seeking objective and trusted advice, you should always look for the CFP® mark.

 

We firmly believe financial advice is for all, but that you need to find the right adviser for you. Your friends, family, and colleagues will also be a good resource of information and referrals. Most advice businesses offer a free first appointment so if you are not happy after meeting with a prospective financial adviser you are under no obligation to work with them.  We hope the above-mentioned traits will help you find your person and put you on your best possible path for financial success.

 

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