The topic of money and finances is still a big mystery for many people. And for good reason. It can be complicated stuff!
We’ve written previously about the fact that managing finances is particularly complicated because it often involves financial investment literacy. This type of literacy relies on complicated math that often requires specific training to develop an understanding of and expertise in.
Yet, we don’t see people getting the help they need. According to a CNBC survey, over 75% of Americans are managing their own money with no help. And the remaining 25% who are getting help are mostly relying on family members and friends.
The same survey found that only 1% of Americans have sought out an expert and are using a financial advisor.
According to a study by Northwestern Mutual, 6 out of 10 Americans say they need help with their finances, so it is surprising that so few people have successfully sought it out from the experts in the industry.
Helping people get access to financial expertise
We think that one of the problems may be that while there are many efforts to help increase people’s financial literacy, there isn’t as much focus on helping people more easily get access to those who already have very high levels of financial literacy – financial advisors.
At GBI, we want to make it easier for people to access financial expertise instead of needing to become financial experts themselves.
We think finding a financial advisor should be a process that the individual has control over and doesn’t require hours of research or mountains of personal information.
That’s why we’ve built the first social platform that helps people more easily connect with financial advisors.
But, we know that money is a highly personal thing. Therefore, everyone should make sure they are diligent and thoughtful about who they select as an advisor.
5 important questions to ask when searching for an advisor
Here are 5 important things we think anyone should be able to consider when searching for a financial advisor.
1. Does the advisor have the right qualifications?
First and foremost, it is important to make sure that anyone you’re considering working with is a registered financial advisor.
All advisors must register with one of the two U.S. regulatory bodies. Therefore, you can find detailed information about any advisor using the free tools from these regulators – either FINRA’s BrokerCheck system or the SEC’s Investment Advisor Public Disclosure.
Once you’ve verified someone is a financial advisor, you can take a look at any certifications they have. These may indicate who has taken steps to increase their knowledge of personal finance or where an advisor may have a particular area of expertise.
In fact, to maintain many certifications, advisors often have to do ongoing course work to ensure they are staying up to date on the latest in the finance world. A few of the common certifications you may see are:
- Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is a designation indicating that an advisor has taken extensive coursework specific to financial planning, passed a rigorous exam and accrued three years of relevant experience.
- Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a designation for financial planners who specialize in accounting and taxes.
- Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is a designation earned after passing three levels of rigorous examination focused on financial analysis concepts. This may indicate an advisor has particular expertise in portfolio management and investing.
2. Can you try before you buy?
With most major purchases you get the opportunity to try out the product before you commit. You test drive different cars or you go to the furniture store and sit on a number of couches before selecting one.
We believe that finding an advisor should be similar. You should have a sense for what an advisor may offer before you commit.
Ask prospective advisors to demonstrate how they could help you achieve your goals before you sign on the dotted line.
And, it’s always a good idea to know what other options are out there. If you were buying a car and only tested one option, you wouldn’t have a way to gauge whether the speed or the way it drove was good or bad.
You might have a vague idea that you did or didn’t like the experience but it would be hard to say definitively whether it was better or worse than other options out there.
In the same way, think about testing out a couple different advisors before making your selection. That way, you’ll have something to compare to and more confidence you are making the right decision
3. What value is the advisor adding?
When you are trying out a few different advisors, make sure you understand what each might actually be able to do for you. In other words, ask what the advisor is adding above and beyond what you might be able to do on your own.
An advisor should be bringing investment expertise to the table, meaning that they will likely help you develop and implement a strategy for investing your money.
It’s important to understand how those investments could improve on whatever you are doing today.
But, it’s not only the investments that advisors can help with. A financial advisor may also provide advice around how much you should be saving, how you should be planning for your financial goals, where you might find extra savings or better tax strategies.
All of these things could be an improvement on what you could have done on your own. In other words, an advisor may help you reach your goals more easily or with less money or faster.
We think it’s important to ask about and understand what value each advisor might bring to the table.
4. Does their expertise match with your needs?
There are many different aspects to anyone’s financial life. And your needs and priorities change over time as you reach different life stages.
While advisors generally know how to address a broad range of financial needs, they also often have specialties.
Some may be particularly knowledgeable about retirement strategies, others may specialize in tax strategies, and yet others may have the most experience working with young professionals or small business owners.
When you’re looking for an advisor, ask about what they specialize in or the types of clients they have the most experience working with.
That way, you can determine whether any advisor you’re considering has expertise in the areas that you need help in.
Having alignment between your needs and the advisor’s specialty creates more opportunity for developing effective solutions to meet your goals.
5. Are you on the same page around your goals and priorities?
You probably have many different financial goals. And you probably have a sense of priority around those goals.
You want your financial advisor to be on the same page, especially when it comes to building financial plans to meet them.
For example, if your number one priority is to make sure you’ve saved enough money for your child’s education, you don’t want your financial advisor telling you to put extra money toward the account you have earmarked for a future house.
You want them to make sure you are on track to meet your number one goal of education before focusing on other goals.
Make sure that you start out any relationship with a shared understanding of your goals and priorities.
If your advisor isn’t able to help you meet those things that are most important to you, then you’re not going to be satisfied with them.
At GBI, we believe that getting access to financial expertise shouldn’t be a mysterious or complicated process. We think that everyone should have access to a marketplace of financial advisors and be able to answer these 5 questions as they are looking for their perfect match.
That’s why we are building a platform to facilitate more efficient and effective interactions between individuals and advisors. Sound interesting? Click here to sign up for early access to the GBI platform.