When you’re trying to plan for the future and make sure you’re choosing the right financial path for yourself and/or your family, you may want some expert help. And while there are a number of financial services available to you, a financial advisor may be the best bet for you.

Why call a financial advisor?

A financial advisor is someone who can help you create an entire financial plan — from a budget to retirement accounts, investments and estate planning. There is a lot that goes into a financial plan, and there are a lot of “financial planners” out there. So which one should you choose? My recommendation is always to work with a Certified Financial Planner™, as this is the best way to ensure that you’re working with someone who has your best interests at heart.

A CFP® designation means a financial advisor has a certification that guarantees fiduciary responsibility. They are legally bound to work in your best interests, making them a great option to work with. This designation also ensures they have a baseline knowledge of financial planning because, without this designation, the standards are quite low.

If you do decide to work with a Certified Financial Planner™ — or any financial professional, really — here’s what you need to know before that first meeting. 

Ready to work with a Certified Financial Planner™?

If you’re on the hunt to find a financial advisor (and preferably a certified one), you’ll want to know what to expect. It’s totally normal to be nervous or concerned that you won’t have everything together. A financial advisor worth his or her salt is going to guide you through the process, though! And just a reminder: you should NEVER feel dumb or intimidated. If a financial advisor does make you feel that way, it’s totally fine to end the meeting and find someone else.

Of course, you’ll have to actually meet with a potential advisor (whether online or in person) to decide if you’re a good fit. This first meeting with a financial advisor is much like getting ready for a meeting with a new doctor. You should understand the current state of your (financial) health, be ready to talk about your history, bring any records or documents to the meeting, and have questions of your own to ask. 

To make the most out of your first meeting together, follow these tips below.

Think about your financial situation beforehand

Spend some time thinking about your finances before the meeting. If you’re not up to date on your financial situation, you may not feel confident discussing your money with the advisor, and you may not get everything you were hoping out of it. Here are a few things to consider before your meeting:

Income and Expenses

Brush up on how much income you bring in each year and how often you get paid. On the same note, know your average monthly expenses. You don’t need to create a full budget for your meeting, but having a general idea of what you’re spending and where will be helpful. 

Bring a recent statement from your accounts, print out a spreadsheet of your budget, and/or bring some of your recent pay stubs with you to have that information handy.

Habits and Goals

You have an idea of how much money is coming in and leaving. Now, what do you want to do with your money? Do you want to make changes now to beef up your emergency fund? Start investing? Open a retirement account? Begin saving for a new house or car? 

Think of big picture goals, like if you want to retire, as well as small ones, like saving up enough to buy a new phone. Write down specific goals so your advisor has all the information they need to start devising a plan for you.

Lifestyle and Life Events

Maybe you’re meeting a financial advisor because you’ve experienced a major life event recently: marriage, divorce, changing careers or being laid off, moving to a new state, having kids, or losing a loved one. 

Even if your life hasn’t changed recently, know that your family and career affect your finances. If you have a spouse or dependents you financially support, or medical expenses you cover for aging parents, be prepared to discuss them.

Also, think about personal details related to money. Are you happy with your lifestyle, spending habits, or income right now? What are your money strengths and weaknesses? How does money make you feel?

Ask all the questions

Your relationship with a financial planner goes far beyond the numbers. When you work with an advisor, you’ll have to be honest and vulnerable about your dreams for the future, your fears, and more. That transparency can be scary at first, but it’s necessary for a solid relationship with your advisor.

Don’t feel shy or embarrassed about the questions you have for your advisor. Now is your chance to become informed about finances from a professional! Take advantage of it.

Stumped on what to discuss? Check out these suggestions.

The Services they Offer

If you’re looking for a specific service, like business succession planning, make sure that your advisor offers it. Most firms with comprehensive services cover all the key areas: taxes, retirement, estate planning, investing, and personal planning. If the advisor doesn’t provide a service you need, ask if they refer other professionals at a discount.

Their Client Philosophy

How often does your advisor meet with their clients? Do they specialize in a certain type of client? Some financial planners focus on couples, women, millennials, retirees, or small business owners. You may feel more comfortable if you fit their ideal client profile.

How They Can Help You

During the meeting, pay attention to how your advisor discusses your money goals and how money makes you feel. How can they help you meet your goals? What advice do they have for improving your financial weaknesses? An advisor can share some initial, customized suggestions for your situation.

Work with someone you trust

When you have your initial meeting with the advisor, trust your instincts. Do you like them? Can you see yourself confiding in them? Money is an emotional, stressful topic of conversation. Above all, you need someone you can trust to talk to about it. 

Looking for a financial advisor who understands that you need help navigating big life decisions and all the changes that come with that? Have more questions about what it’s like to work with a financial planner? Let’s chat!