10 Questions to Ask Your Financial Advisor
By Joe Gross, CDFA®
We have no lack of options these days. Whether it’s choosing a restaurant or finding a doctor, there are so many choices that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and doubt your decision. When it comes to choosing a financial advisor, the stakes are even higher. How do you know which one will be the right fit for your situation or personality? How do you know if you’ll like them or work well with them?
The financial professional you choose to handle your family’s wealth will have a significant impact on your investment strategy, the fees you pay, and your confidence in your financial future. This is not a decision to take lightly, especially since each advisor has a different level of service, experience, and ability. Taking all that into consideration, it is vital that you take your time to find an advisor that meets your needs and makes you feel at ease. So, when you start your advisor search, ask potential candidates the following 10 questions.
1. Are You a Fiduciary?
There’s a reason this is the first question—its importance cannot be overstated! An advisor who serves as a fiduciary accepts a responsibility to put his or her clients’ interests first and foremost in all decisions. A fiduciary is legally required to avoid conflicts of interest and remain unbiased in their recommendations and advice.
How can you know for certain that an advisor you’re interviewing is a fiduciary? The firm will either be listed as a Registered Investment Advisor or the advisors on the team will hold certifications that hold them to the fiduciary standard, such as the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Chartered Financial Analyst®, or Certified Public Accountant professional designations. Keep in mind, if the advisor doesn’t fit those descriptions, they may still act as a fiduciary in certain situations, like sharing a recommendation, but not necessarily when selling products.
JGP Wealth Management is a Registered Investment Advisory firm and abides by the fiduciary standard of professional conduct. We believe in transparency and honesty, doing what we say and finishing what we start—all for your benefit.
2. Do You Hold Any Credentials?
We take credentials seriously, and we think you should too. Credentials and education play a critical role in your advisor’s competence. There are hundreds of designations in the financial services field, and some are more applicable to your needs than others. (1)
Personally, I am a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® professional, a designation which recognizes the knowledge and experience I have to help people navigate the financial intricacies of divorce, including settlements, taxes, asset distribution, and the financial planning necessary to walk forward into a different future. The rest of the JGP team holds a variety of credentials, including the CFP® certification which requires comprehensive education and experience. As a firm, we pursue education and credentials because of how dedicated we are to providing unparalleled client service.
Use a designation-check database to learn more about the credentials financial advisors can earn, and ask the advisors you are researching what they do to continually hone their skills and stay up to date in the industry.
3. What Is Your Planning and Investment Philosophy?
It’s important to work with an advisor who shares a planning and investing philosophy similar to your own. Does your advisor stick to a scientific, evidence-based approach? Do they believe in buy-and-hold or do they move to cash when the market looks shaky? Talk with an advisor about how they guide clients’ investing and financial decisions.
At JGP Wealth, we know that a sound asset allocation strategy is a key way to turn your wealth into new ways to live your best life. Our investment strategies are customized to your unique goals and needs so you can maximize your growth while protecting your wealth.
4. How Much Do You Charge?
Financial planning and investment costs can be confusing. And too often financial advisors don’t readily disclose their fees. We prioritize transparency and our clients always know what they’re paying and what they’re receiving for their money. We want our clients to feel comfortable with their strategies and confident that there are no hidden fees eating away at their hard-earned savings.
The most common way we are compensated is by an assets under management (AUM) fee, which is paid quarterly, based on the value of your assets. There are no other hidden costs from us and we do not earn money through commissions.
5. Who Do You Serve?
Some financial advisors focus on serving a specific demographic or level of investable assets, so you’ll want to find this out before choosing an advisor. Why is this important? Because you deserve advice and services tailored to your unique needs.
All of our clients are high-net-worth individuals, which means they don’t have the same financial concerns as many other people. They don’t panic when the market shifts and they don’t worry about tracking expenses. They need an advisor who will speak to where they are at, not dole out basic financial principles. Each of our advisors at JGP Wealth has a unique specialization, such as serving those going through divorce, Nike executives, and entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry. Our experience in these areas allows us to give you the advice that will make the most difference in your life.
6. Who Else on Your Team Will Be Working With Me?
At some firms, you may work with multiple financial advisors depending on your appointment time or needs, while other firms may pair you up with one financial advisor with whom you’ll work one-on-one. This is important to know so you can meet the other team members with whom you might be collaborating. While you will have a strong relationship with your primary advisor, everyone at JGP Wealth works as a team to offer you the highest level of service. We spend a lot of time getting to know our clients and their goals, and we strive to put your dreams at the heart of your financial plan.
7. What Financial Planning Services Do You Offer?
Not all financial advisors can provide comprehensive financial planning. Some cannot sell insurance or securities, such as mutual funds or stocks, if they don’t have the appropriate licenses. Ask a financial advisor what services they provide, whether or not they have a focus, and if they offer a broad spectrum of solutions to meet your needs. When creating a plan together, be sure to ask your advisor why they are recommending particular services and solutions over others. JGP Wealth Management’s comprehensive services include retirement planning, asset management, cash flow analysis, estate planning, tax strategies, lending coordination, philanthropic strategies, divorce planning, executive benefits optimizations, and more.
8. What Sets You Apart From Other Financial Advisors?
We know that you have plenty of options to choose from, but there are a few things we do differently:
- Our firm has been around for over 25 years. Over the years, we have created proven and reliable systems and processes that we use to help our clients work toward their goals.
- Our advice is tailored to you. We don’t give pat answers but do the legwork to get to know you, your situation, your dreams, and your challenges. For a wealthy individual with a unique career, our specialized touch can make all the difference.
- We build our client relationships on integrity, dependability, and accountability. We are passionate about what we do, and confident in how we do it.
9. Do You Offer a Client Portal?
We believe it’s important to see the big picture and all the moving parts of your financial life. When you decide to work with us, you will have access to Fidelity, our qualified custodian, where we hold all our clients’ assets. You’ll also receive a login to eMoney and eVault, where you can see all your accounts in one place, view performance reports, and check your financial plan documents. You can access these platforms through our website or by downloading the apps.
10. How Can I Know if Your Firm Is Right for Me?
When selecting your advisor, the relationship should feel right and you should never feel pressured to make a decision quickly. We offer a complimentary consultation, where you can ask questions, evaluate our processes and services, determine if our personality is a good fit, and give you the information you need to make an informed decision.
Don’t Rush Into Anything
An advisor should be happy to answer these questions and any others you may have about how they operate. If you don’t know where to start, ask friends and family for referrals to set you down the right path.
At JGP Wealth Management, we believe in complete transparency and want our clients to feel comfortable working with us and asking us questions. If you’d like to learn more about our answers to these questions or any others you may have, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for an introductory meeting by contacting Joe today at 503-446-6450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joe Gross is first vice president and senior financial advisor at JGP Wealth Management, an independent, fee-based financial advisory firm in Portland, Oregon. With over 25 years of experience under his belt, Joe is passionate about putting his clients first and helping them stay focused on their financial goals, inspiring confidence in their future. As a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® professional, he specializes in addressing the unique financial issues of divorce. Joe is known for his tenacity to keep clients on track toward their dreams and for his attention to detail, which is second to none! His clients know that nothing will slip through the cracks when working with Joe!
Joe graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in finance. Outside of work, he enjoys being involved in the community and is actively involved with organizations close to his heart. Joe is a former president and current board member of the ALS Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington and a long-time member of The Multnomah Athletic Club. In his free time, he enjoys fly fishing, spending time with his family, and cheering on his alma mater, the University of Arizona. To learn more about Joe, connect with him on LinkedIn. You can also watch his latest webinar on How To Pick Up The Financial Pieces After Divorce.