Your Financial Advisor Meeting Checklist
So, you’re finally taking that next step in your financial stability. You're meeting with a financial advisor to figure out how you can make the most of the assets you’ve got. Maybe you don’t have much money and you’re looking for a place to start. Or maybe you’ve got plenty to invest but you’re moving to a new advisor. Either way, it’s a good idea to go to the meeting prepared so that you can come away with your questions answered and your feet firmly headed down the road toward financial security.
Sure, you can show up with your iPhone or a blank sheet of paper to take notes, but you’ll get more out of your visit if you go in with a solid idea of what you want to get out of the meeting and with the documents your advisor will need to help you achieve your goals. The following list will help you prepare for your visit and make the most of your time.
GET YOUR DOCUMENTS IN ORDER
Before your advisor can offer advice, they will need some basic information, beginning with your name, address, Social Security number, and contact information. Though you can still have a productive conversation without the following documents, bringing them to the meeting will ensure that your advisor has all the information they need to serve you best:
- A list of income (including all types of income, including side jobs, Social Security, pensions, inherited funds, etc.)
- A list of expenses (monthly and annual)
- Amounts and timelines for any loans, credit cards, or other debt you’re paying off
- Statements of any existing retirement or investment accounts
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DETERMINE YOUR RISK PROFILE
Everyone deals with risk differently. For example, some people love roller coasters. Some won’t go near them. And some will get on them but white knuckle the entire ride. Investing can feel very much like a roller coaster ride because the markets move up and down. In fact, they move up and down in much less predictable ways than any roller coaster does. Fortunately, the overall trend has historically shown to move upward, but there’s still no promise that your investments will be successful. There is always an element of chance.
So how do you feel about this element of chance? Are you okay with the ups and downs because you trust the upward trend? Would you rather take the safest route possible because any risk ruins your sleep cycle? Or are you okay with some risk but don’t want to go all out? If you’re not sure, take this risk tolerance assessment.
STATE PERSONAL PREFERENCES
Whether you have experience as an investor or not, you may have preferences for the types of investments you’d like to make. Your financial advisor will help you home in on the perfect choices for you, but if you have certain requirements, let them know at the outset.
For example, if you feel strongly about investing only in sustainably-run companies, you may be more interested in an ESG portfolio, which includes only the securities of companies that are committed to the environment, a healthy society, and an equitable governance structure.
Alternatively, you may be interested in investing in a specific sector of the economy, like technology, medicine, solar, or something else. For you, an exchange traded fund that follows a specific industry index may be right for you.
If you’re not sure how your interests or passions could be supported by your investments, don’t worry about it. After talking to your financial advisor, you may find ways that you can use your money to support the things that mean the most to you.
CONSIDER YOUR GOALS
Setting a goal will help you, over time, determine whether you’re moving in the right direction. If you want to have a certain amount of money by a pre-determined age, your advisor can help you calculate how much you need to invest or save each paycheck/month/year. The same is true if you want to save for a house or for college. Your advisor can also help you determine what types of investments to make to reach your specific goals, be they short- or long-term.
CREATE A LIST OF QUESTIONS
There’s a rumor going around that people feel more stress in their financial advisor’s office than they do in the doctor’s office. Being a financial advisor, I’d like to believe that isn’t true, but I suspect that it is. When you work with a financial advisor, you share personal information about your salary and your savings. And you have to trust that the advisor has your best interest in mind and won’t let you lose your hard-earned cash.
This can cause stress during the meeting, making it difficult to remember why you wanted to meet in the first place and what you hoped to take away from the conversation. For this reason, it’s wise to create a list of questions before you walk through the door. Start the list a day or more before you go and keep adding to it as you think of things. I can’t tell you what to put on that list because everyone has different goals, but you can start your list based on any thoughts the previous paragraphs brought up for you and with some of the following questions:
- When can I retire?
- How much will I need to retire?
- I want to retire at age XX. How much do I need to save every year in order to retire then?
- I want to save for a new house. Should I continue to add to my retirement savings as well?
- When should I start taking Social Security?
More important than all that I’ve written above is that you don’t worry too much about your meeting. Your financial advisor is trained to ask the questions that will draw out the information they need to help you achieve your final goals. Anything you can do to prepare is great and will likely make the process a little smoother, but if you’re not able to pull it all together, you will still have a productive meeting and if you forget to ask any questions, most advisors will support you by email.
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The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of VSECU.
Representatives are registered, securities sold, advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, which is not an affiliate of the credit union. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution to make securities available to members. Not NCUA/NCUSIF/FDIC insured, May Lose Value, No Financial Institution Guarantee. Not a deposit of any financial institution. FR-3389332.1-0121-0223