Before you even arrive at the topic of your finances, there are some important questions to ask a financial consultant or planner. They pertain to his or her credentials and how this person will meet your expectations and needs. Use an initial meeting to learn more about anyone with whom you might be entrusting your hard earned money. Treat this meeting as you would an interview where you get to do the hiring. You aren’t committing to anything and the person opposite you should know it.
Question One: Why Should I Hire You?
This is a general question which is going to lead to some general answers: let those answers flow and get a sense of this individual’s ethics and personality. If he or she is a word spinner, you know there will be precious little straight-talking to come. Alternatively, this person could be nervous. Why would someone with so much to offer be nervous? Look for honesty, even if the facts don’t please you.
Question Two: What Credentials Can You Offer?
Maybe the candidate mentioned this in answer to question one, but make a note of the institution where this person went to school. Ensure it’s an accredited institution and the candidate finished with a diploma, certificate, or degree. What did he or she specialize in? You want a financial planner, not an expert on tourism or retail sales.
Question Three: Do You Have Experience as a Financial Planner?
Even if a person’s education is pertinent to your needs, you still want someone with recent experience handling your funds. Any candidate will have at least worked with another planner, investment counselor or consultant before seeking clients independently. Everyone needs to find experience somehow, but you do not have to be that guinea pig. If the specialist you’re sitting with is seasoned, find out if he or she is up-to-date.
Question Four: Who Profits from Your Suggestions?
Every financial consultant will suggest clients invest in certain products. The lady your bank recommended will want you to put large sums in programs they have lined up for long-term or short-term savings: that’s her job. The guy from an independent investment outfit might get commission from certain firms whose products he recommends. Ask bluntly and allow yourself time to digest the answer.
Question Five: Will You Make this Official?
Are fees, promises, and suggestions going into a written document? As with any service, a professional should be willing to back what is said with a contract and signature. Contracts protect both parties anyway. Get firm figures regarding the fee schedule so you know whether you’ll be billed for every phone call or email or just hour-long meetings. After all, no one likes surprises – at least not when it comes to seeing one’s money on the line. Also in this contract read any small print which says you won’t necessarily be working with the person you just vetted: what’s the point of interviewing someone when trainees will actually handle your financial portfolio?