How To Decide What Questions to Ask A Financial Advisor on Your First Visit

by Samantha Stutsman

By Samantha Stutsman

Once you’ve decided to get professional help with your finances, choosing the right financial advisor can feel like an overwhelming task. After all, this is a potentially long-term relationship that could influence some of your biggest life decisions.

You’ll want to interview at least three financial advisors before signing on with one for the long-term. Advisors are used to introductory meetings with potential clients, and a good advisor will be happy to answer your questions before even asking to see your financials first hand.

Once you’ve scheduled a consultation, make sure your interview covers the following topics:

Experience/Certifications

You want an advisor who not only has several years of experience with clients, but has specifically worked with clients in a financial position similar to your own. If you’re a small business owner, for example, or a single parent, you want someone who understands the financial issues specific to your situation.

Key questions:

  • Do you work with clients with a similar profile and goals to mine? Can you share references?
  • What type of certifications do you have?
  • Are you properly registered and licensed as a financial advisor?

Style

One goal of the interview will simply be to make sure that this advisor is someone with whom you feel comfortable having honest, often personal conversations. Look for someone who’s a good listener and whose financial philosophy aligns with your own. You also want an advisor who can communicate with you going forward in a way that works for  your schedule, whether that’s in-person, or via email or video calls.

Key questions:

  • How often do you sit down with clients?
  • I prefer to ask questions via email [or phone, text, etc], does that work for you?

Fiduciary matters

One of the most important things to learn in your interview is whether the advisor is a fiduciary. A fiduciary is legally obligated to recommend investment moves that are in your best interest. Certified financial planners, registered investment advisors, and most fee-only advisors  are held to a fiduciary standard and offer independent advice, but it’s important to ask. You don’t want to work with an advisor who can’t or won’t provide transparency about how they get paid.

Key questions:

Services

The type of planner you work with (and the price you pay) will depend on the type of help you need. If you’re simply looking for a checkup or advice on a specific topic, you may only need a few consultations paid for by the hour. On the other hand, if you’re looking for ongoing, comprehensive financial planning or long-term asset management, you’ll pay higher rates but get much more in-depth high-touch service.

Key questions:

  • Based on what I need how do you suggest we work together?
  • What types of services are included in my fees?
  • Can I ask questions outside of our scheduled meetings?
  • How do you manage client assets? Do you use a third-party custodian?

Choosing the right financial advisor is an important decision that’s key to achieving your financial goals. Asking the right questions—and carefully considering the answers you receive—can give you the confidence that you’ve chosen the right advisor for you.

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