By Vincent Barbera, CFP®, MSFS
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 of 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. How Much Experience Do You Have?
Experience is essential when you’re working with a professional of any kind, especially someone handling your finances. Don’t be shy about asking an advisor about their industry experience. It will give you peace of mind to know what market conditions they’ve experienced and how many years they’ve been working in the industry. At Newbridge Wealth Management, our team has almost two decades of professional experience in the financial industry.
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) Our advisory team has achieved multiple designations, including Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). Use DesignationCheck.com 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 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. At Newbridge Wealth Management, our comprehensive planning process includes wealth and risk management, financial coaching, retirement and legacy planning, as well as services tailored to small businesses and executives.
4. What Is Your Planning Philosophy?
It’s important to work with an advisor who shares a planning and investing philosophy similar to your own. If you’re nearing retirement, you may not want to work with an aggressive stockbroker, whereas if you’re new to investing, you may not want to be too conservative. Talk with an advisor about how he or she guides clients’ investing and financial decisions. At Newbridge, we believe in a patient, disciplined approach to investment management that delivers value and peace of mind.
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. For example, if you’re a business owner, you may be better suited to work with an advisor focusing on helping business owners. At Newbridge Wealth Management, we work with a diverse array of clients but specialize in working with mid-level executives who seek more from life, be it a new career, time to travel, or more time with their family. As busy professionals, they lack the time or desire to manage and plan their finances on their own, so we partner with them to share the burden and take some weight off their shoulders.
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. Everyone at Newbridge Wealth Management 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 strive to put your dreams at the heart of your financial plan.
7. How Much Do You Charge?
Financial planning and investment costs can be confusing. And too often financial advisors don’t readily disclose their fees. As fee-only advisors, our clients always know what they’re paying and what they’re receiving. 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.
8. Do You Receive A Commission?
Some financial advisors working with big banks earn their income on commission. The problem with this is that advisors working on commission may be inclined to sell products that aren’t best suited for a client’s needs. As a fee-only independent financial firm, we charge a percentage of your assets under our management. The better your investments perform, the more we earn. Avoiding conflicts of interest, we instead focus on what we believe will best meet your goals and needs.
9. Are You A Fiduciary?
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 supposed to avoid conflicts of interest and remain unbiased in his or her recommendations and advice. We agree to abide by a strict code of professional conduct, and as fiduciaries, we believe in transparency and putting every client first.
10. Have You Ever Violated Any Standards Or Laws?
It’s a good idea to research an advisor’s credentials and run a background check with regulatory agencies. Some advisors may have been subjected to disciplinary action if they violated any laws or if a client took action against them. You can look up an advisor’s professional history by visiting FINRA’s BrokerCheck or the SEC Advisor Disclosure website. These databases will also show you the years of experience an advisor has and the licenses and credentials he or she has.
Don’t Rush Into Anything
When selecting your advisor, the relationship should feel right and you should never feel pressured to make a decision quickly. 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 Newbridge 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 a free 15-minute introductory phone call or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 610.727.3960.
Vincent R. Barbera, CFP®, MSFS is a managing partner and co-founder of Newbridge Wealth Management, a private financial counseling firm located in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. Believing in a patient, disciplined approach to investment management that delivers value and peace of mind, he utilizes a process-driven approach to financial planning that provides comfort and clarity to his clients’ long-term goals. Along with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and business, he has a master’s degree in business and financial planning and Certified Financial Planner™ designation. Learn more by connecting with Vincent on LinkedIn, or send him questions at email@example.com.