January 14, 2019 • Retirement 101 / Articles and Insights

Six Questions to Ask a Financial Professional in Your First Meeting

So, you’ve decided to meet with a financial professional. Good for you! Getting guidance from a professional is a key step in helping you achieve your financial goals. 

But before you commit to working with a financial professional long-term, it’s a good idea to have an introductory meeting. You want your relationship with your financial professional to be ongoing, and asking the right questions when you first meet is important. Here’s a few you might want to consider.

1. What are your qualifications?

Just like any job interview, you should begin by asking why this person is qualified to help you. He or she should discuss years of experience, as well as any licenses he or she holds. Since financial professionals operate in a highly regulated environment, they are usually licensed through the state in which they practice. Different insurance products require different licenses. You can verify licensure by visiting your state’s insurance commission website.

2. Do you specialize?

Some financial professionals focus on helping people with a specific need. They may have earned industry designations and certifications and chosen to focus in a specific area. For example, if you’re nearing retirement, you’ll want to find someone that specializes in retirement services, so they’re fully qualified to offer retirement guidance and help you develop a strategy.

3. Can you give me references?

References are key to establishing credibility with your financial professional. He or she should be able to give you the names of clients who are happy to discuss their experience. One thing to remember: the references provided should reflect you and your situation. For example, if you’re a 55-year-old man with kids in college, you shouldn’t be given an 80-year-old widow as a reference (unless she and her husband began with that financial professional when they, too, were in their 50s with college kids). Note that the ability to provide references may be limited by the financial professionals' licenses and registrations due to client privacy restrictions. 

4. How will I know how I’m doing financially?

Ultimately, each of us is responsible for our own finances. However, you should receive financial statements from the companies holding your money. Your financial professional can use those statements during your financial reviews to discuss your financial progress and answer questions you may have

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5. How do you get paid?

Some financial products involve a fee to purchase or sell, called commissions. Others don’t charge commissions, but apply an annual fee to the assets held in the account. Feel free to ask questions like: what are the costs involved with the products I am purchasing? Is all my money put to work? Is there a penalty if I want to remove money? While financial professionals can be paid in a number of ways, the bottom line is this: you should feel comfortable that he or she is explaining fees in language you fully understand.

6. What happens next?

If you like what you hear from your financial professional, how do you proceed? Your financial professional will start by asking their own questions to learn more about your background, needs, and objectives. This helps to determine what you want to achieve and is the first step in creating a strategy that’s right for you. Next, he or she should offer to present a proposal that takes into consideration your specific needs. Once they have the proposal, you should discuss how the various parts of the strategy will work together to help you achieve your goals. With your approval, the different parts will then be funded, and the proposal is put into action.

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Finding the right financial professional is like getting custom-made clothing; you want the best fit possible. Tailors take measurements. Prospective clients ask questions. Be sure to ask as many questions as you need to help you develop a comfortable, long-lasting relationship with your financial professional.

This information is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as the basis for any financial decisions.

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