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How to Find the Best Financial Advisor For Your Needs

Money matters can be complicated, but having your finances in order gives you confidence and happiness. At least, that is what 92% of adults in the U.S. feel, according to a recent study. However, like most Americans, you might require help with managing your money. According to the National Financial Education Council, a lack of personal financial knowledge on average can cost you $1,200 per year. If you seek guidance from a personal financial advisor, you can avoid this unnecessary cost by managing your money better and achieving your financial goals orderly. Financial advisors are not only for the wealthy. People of all financial statuses can benefit from expert financial guidance. Whether you are saving for your child’s higher education, managing debt, planning for retirement, creating an emergency corpus, aiming to minimize taxes, or want to diversify your portfolio, a personal financial advisor can help you with the same.

Hiring a financial advisor is like getting a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for your life. The advisor works as a steward of your money, enabling you to effectively manage your finances and achieve your goals. However, all financial advisors are not the same. Some advisors only offer specialized services, such as tax management, retirement planning, estate planning, etc. In contrast, other advisors offer holistic financial guidance from budgeting to estate planning, as well as inheritance and lifetime care support. You can choose an expert as per your requirements. For instance, if you only require guidance to create a retirement nest egg, you can engage with a financial advisor with specialized expertise in retirement planning. This advisor can be an RICP (Retirement Income Certified Professional), CRC (Certified Retirement Counselor), or RMA (Retirement Management Advisor). Alternatively, if you require support with tax minimizing and preparation, you could consider a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who has proficiency in tax services. But a CPA may or may not offer holistic financial advisor services.

Further, some experts offer services all over the country, while others only focus on specific geographical areas, such as their local town. The certifications, license, fee models, etc., of a financial advisor vary per the type of services they offer. Hence, finding a financial advisor can be slightly challenging but picking the right person is the key to your financial success.

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If you are thinking about how to find a financial advisor, here are some steps that can help you find the right advisor who may suit your needs:

1. Determine your financial requirements:

Before you begin the journey of finding the advisor, decide which aspects of your financial life you need help with. Understand whether you require support in tax management, retirement planning, budgeting, estate planning, insurance planning, debt management, etc., comprehensive financial planning support. A competent financial advisor can provide more than investment advice. A suitable personal financial advisor can work with you and fulfill all your financial needs, covering retirement plans, debt repayment, tax planning, insurance management, estate planning, inheritance support, and more. However, you may or may not require such extensive support depending on your life stage. If you have a straightforward financial structure, minimum taxes, and zero debt, you could simply consider using the expert services of a retirement planner instead of a financial advisor. In contrast, you can benefit from holistic financial guidance rather than specialized financial support if you have complex financial requirements, such as disputable marital status, high-interest debt, large estate, tricky tax problems, etc.

2. Understand the different financial advisors available for you to choose from:

Once you know your financial advisory needs, the next step in finding the right personal financial advisor is learning about the various financial advisors in the market. There is no legal rule regarding who can call themselves a financial advisor. The term financial advisor can relate to different services, including retirement planning, tax management, etc., to all-inclusive financial guidance. Further, it can range from robo-advisors to local, in-person financial advisors. The term financial advisor also includes advisory services with different fee models, such as commission-based, hourly, retainer, asset under management (AUM), etc. This is why you have to carefully understand the different financial advisors in the market and identify which one matches your needs. For instance, if you require wide-ranging financial support, you could opt for an in-person financial advisor who offers complete financial guidance per a fee model. In this case, you could further choose whether you want an expert who charges you per hour of their service time, offers a retainer-based fee arrangement, or consider charging you according to the assets they manage on your behalf. Each fee model has further repercussions. For instance, if you engage with a person who follows the AUM fee model, you are working with a fiduciary financial advisor who has a legal duty to place your interest first. Alternatively, if you hire someone who charges you according to the commission-based methods, you risk the authenticity of their advice. Such people earn through the investment products you buy through them. Hence, they might suggest investments for their benefit rather than your financial growth. Regardless of the advisor you choose, it is advisable to know how they earn money. This helps you judge if their suggestions are good for your case or their wallets.

3. Consider how much you want to pay the financial advisor for their services:

Financial advisors have now become an option for every budget – high or low. It is critical to understand how much you are willing to pay for financial advisory services before you commit to services. Generally, financial advisors can be categorized into three levels – robo-advisors, online financial planning services, and in-person human advisors. Robo-advisors usually charge a specific percentage (between 0.25-0.50%) of your account balance they manage. Online financial planners typically charge a flat subscription fee, a percentage of your assets, or both. Traditional human advisors often levy a percentage (usually 1%) of the assets they manage, a flat fee, an hourly rate, or a retainer. Even though human advisors are generally the most expensive, their services are comparatively more reliable than their counterparts. Hence, choose a personal financial advisor that syncs with both - your financial needs and your budget.

4. Research financial advisors that are suited to your financial requirements:

Once you have complete clarity on what kind of services you want, what type of advisors are available in the market, and how much you are ready to pay, you can then move on to the most critical step of the process – how to choose a financial advisor. You can ask your peers, friends, or family members to suggest a few financial advisors. However, it is not advisable to select a professional only because your friend or family member is seeking services from them. Use the suggestions to create a prospective list and then undertake in-depth research to find the person who aligns well with your requirements. You could also use online searches and platforms, such as WiserAdvisor’s advisor match tool, to find a suitable financial advisor. The platform uses advanced algorithms to match you with pre-screened financial advisors in your area. So, if you are searching for the ‘best financial advisors near me’, you can easily use WiserAdvisor’s advisor match tool. The suggestions from the tool are generated after a careful evaluation of the professional, including factors like experience, certifications, fee-model, licensing, disclosures, etc. For instance, if your search is to find a “financial advisor in ”, the tool will give you a list of advisors located in your area or offer services in the place.

5. Evaluate the professional’s certifications wisely:

When you create a prospective list of financial advisors, the next step is to research their background and credentials and be sure of their licenses, fee structures, and more. Some of the reputable financial advisor credentials are CFP (Certified Financial Planners), CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst), PFS (Personal Financial Specialist), Chartered Financial Consultants (ChFCs), or Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF). Usually, professionals with these designations are governed by a fiduciary duty and follow ethical standards in financial planning. These advisors also have to meet evolving education and qualification standards to maintain their certifications over time. Other professionals like stockbrokers, insurance agents, dealers, etc., offer limited advice that may not necessarily be ideal advice per your requirement. Assessing the credentials is important because it demonstrates the proficiency of the concerned financial advisor. Also, evaluate the licenses of the financial advisor, such as the General Securities Representative license, also called the Series 7. This license confirms that the person has a basic knowledge of investments and markets and is qualified to provide an opinion. Check the Series 65 (Uniform Investment Advisor Law exam) license, which implies that the professional can charge a fee for the services rendered. In some cases, financial advisors require a specific license to provide professional services outside their state. Financial experts should have the Series 63 license (Uniform Securities Agent State license) to conduct business across different states. Engage with a personal financial advisor with the necessary certification and license to offer professional financial planning services.

6. Verify credentials and other parameters:

Apart from checking the certifications and licenses, you can verify credentials and other parameters like discipline records, complaints, etc. This can help you determine if the person you are hiring has a good service record. To verify the credentials and disciplinary record of a professional financial advisor, you can use the FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) Disciplinary Actions Online database. If you are focused on finding the best financial advisor, you can use the state regulators discipline database to check the disciplinary records of the person. If you want to enquire about an insurance agent specifically, use the database of The National Association of Insurance Commissioners. If the professional is regulated by SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), use the SEC Investment Advisor feature on the SEC official website to study the advisor and the firm they work for. Conduct an in-depth assessment of the background of the professional, including any criminal convictions, ongoing disciplinary investigations, etc. Moreover, find if there are any inquiries set up by an investment-industry group against the professional. That said, just because a financial advisor has a disciplinary complaint, do not rule them out completely. Sometimes even the most experienced and competent financial advisors can have at least one complaint on their record. Hence, before automatically rejecting the person based on a disciplinary issue, dig deeper into the subject. But if the person has multiple discipline complaints, it could be a direct red flag.

7. Set up the introductory call or meeting:

The final step in finding the right personal financial advisor is setting up the introductory call or meeting. It is beneficial to have your first meeting in person after doing your homework and being well-equipped to ask direct questions and assess the overall personality of the financial advisor. This individual will be responsible for managing your money and may probably be working with you for a long time, so it is important to understand how they conduct their business, treat clients, hold a conversation, answer queries, communicate with clients, and more. Be wary of someone who overstates and offers guaranteed returns. A person who makes flamboyant promises about improving your portfolio returns, beating the market movement, etc., can be a risky choice. Choose to entrust your hard-earned money with someone who understands your finances, aligns with your goals, acknowledges your risk appetite, etc., and accordingly offers sound advice, keeping your best interest in mind. Also, avoid hiring an advisor who has direct custody of your assets. It is advisable to engage with someone who uses a third-party custodian to hold your assets. This implies that your assets are secure with a large, well-established firm, and the advisor can only place a trade or offer services through the account. The custodian reports and verifies all transactions with you, reducing the risk of fraud.

To summarize

Finding the right financial advisor for your case might not be an easy task. It can take time and require some effort from your end. However, if you find someone who will work in your interest, you can benefit significantly in monetary and non-monetary terms. Hiring a competent personal financial advisor can support you in improving your wealth over time and achieving your goals while also making you mentally strong by reducing your money-related anxiety and stress. Engaging with a professional financial advisor at the right time is a sound investment for your future. So, make a decision as early in life as possible.

If you’re looking for a financial advisor who can manage your money and help you attain your financial goals, use the free advisor match service to search for fiduciary advisors near you. Based on your requirements, the platform scans through registered and qualified advisors to match you with an advisor suited to your needs and goals.

The blog articles on this website are provided for general educational and informational purposes only, and no content included is intended to be used as financial or legal advice. A professional financial advisor should be consulted prior to making any investment decisions. Each person's financial situation is unique, and your advisor would be able to provide you with the financial information and advice related to your financial situation.

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