How to Choose a Financial Advisor

You may have an investment advisor, a CPA, an attorney, an insurance agent and an estate planner. But at some point, you may recognize the value of selecting a financial advisor to bring all of those components—and more—together under a fully integrated strategic plan.

When that time comes, where do you look? Who has the right skill set…and how can you know they are acting in your best interest?

The selection you are making is an important one. You may want to talk with several candidates before making your decision. Ask about professional designations such as CFP (Certified Financial Planner) or Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC). You may also want to research the financial institution or firm each candidate represents; websites are a good place to start. Look for indications that the financial institution has a reputation for client service and integrity, and that it has experience and expertise in working with affluent and high-net-worth clients.

An integrated financial plan helps provide the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your financial life is on track.

Ask the planner to describe the process he or she will use to create a plan customized to your needs, and if other professionals will be involved. Creating and implementing a comprehensive financial plan generally involves working with a team of financial professionals to:

  • Develop a clear picture of your current financial situation by reviewing your income, assets and liabilities, and evaluating your current investment portfolio, insurance coverage, tax exposure and estate plan
  • Establish and prioritize financial goals and time frames for achieving these
  • Implement strategies that address your current financial weaknesses and build on your financial strengths
  • Choose specific products and services that are tailored to meet your financial objectives
  • Monitor your plan, making adjustments as your goals, time frames or circumstances change

Be sure the process encompasses the full range of your financial goals (saving for retirement and education, optimizing and protecting your assets, family and charitable giving, providing for your family in the event of your death, minimizing income or estate taxes). If you want to involve your estate planner, CPA or other professionals you currently work with, be sure the planner knows this at the beginning.

Ask what the end result will look like. One of the primary benefits of having an integrated financial plan is that it will show you how your financial goals are related—for example, how saving for your children’s college education might impact your strategy for retirement savings—and can help you balance competing financial priorities and choose suitable products and services. Best of all, it helps provide the peace of mind that comes from knowing—and seeing on paper—that your financial life is on track.

Ask about costs and how the planner will be paid. Some planners are paid a salary by their company; others charge fees based on an hourly rate, a flat rate or a percentage of your assets. Still others are paid commissions by a third party for selling their products. Ask if the planner receives compensation for the sale of any financial product he or she will be recommending for you. It’s critical for the planner to be unquestionably objective and serve as an advocate for you.

Ask how the planner will make sure you are staying on track. The financial planning process doesn’t end once your initial plan has been created. Generally, your plan should be reviewed at least once a year to determine if any modifications are needed due to changes in your personal circumstances or the economy. Events that might trigger a revision in your financial strategy include changes in the economy or tax laws; a change in your goals or time horizons; a change in your marital status; birth of a child or grandchild; a substantial change in income or expenses.

Communicating with Your Family
Creation of a comprehensive personal financial plan can provide an excellent opportunity to talk with your family about the goals you have set how this plan integrates many components of your financial strategy. Continue to communicate as you move through the process with your financial planner may encourage your parents or adult children to create a coordinated financial plan as well.

Ready to Take Action?
BB&T Wealth provides strategic planning for affluent and high-net-worth individuals and families, with a commitment to client advocacy—ensuring that the clients’ needs come first. In addition to advisors who serve as the coordinator and primary point of contact, our team encompasses Certified Financial Planners, attorneys, Certified Public Accountants, professionals with advanced degrees in tax and many additional relevant credentials and years of expertise. This depth and breadth of skills enable us to help our clients articulate goals and find the best path to those goals, now and for years to come.

Email an advisor or call us at 800-228-9798.

Some material provided by Forefield, a division of Broadridge Financial Solutions, Inc.

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