Many young investors don't know what to expect when booking that first meeting with a new financial planner. The first thing you should know is that a good financial planner offers free introductory meetings and asks a lot of questions about your goals, experience and current financial situation. Take the opportunity to ask your own questions to find out how getting a financial planner can help you and your family meet your financial goals.
The most important question a financial planner asks new clients is "What are your financial goals?" Be prepared to answer questions about short-term goals such as paying off debt, medium-term goals such as purchasing a new car or home, and longer term goals such as retirement. Ask for financial planning worksheets or brochures on how to achieve some of these goals.
Income Sources and Expenses
The initial financial planning meeting is usually an information-gathering session where clients and planners get to know each other. Expect questions about your current career and income, future career goals, and current and expected future expenses. Your monthly budget shows a financial planner your priorities and spending patterns. Ask what changes should be made to pay down debt and increase savings faster. The answer should indicate the planner's investment and debt-repayment philosophies and strategies. A careful planner might say he needs more details about your assets and liabilities prior to giving you advice.
Assets and Liabilities
Collect information about all real estate, investments, insurance policies and other assets you and your spouse own prior to attending the financial planning meeting. Also include all loan and mortgage documents, particularly student loans, car loans, lines of credit and credit card statements. A good financial planner determines the best way to pay off debt quickly while reducing the total amount of interest paid. Test your financial planner's knowledge of current interest rates and products by asking for some quick and easy interest-reduction tips and accounts.
Question Your Financial Planner
You need to trust the person who handles your financial planning and have confidence in his ability to advise you. Ask about his qualifications and financial planning certifications. How many years experience does he have? What securities or mutual fund licenses does he hold? Also ask about his income. Will you be charged an annual fee? Is the planner compensated by investment companies for selling certain funds? Will you incur a penalty if transferring your investments elsewhere? Exactly what services does the financial planner provide, and how frequently? Ask these questions upfront at your first financial planning meeting to help avoid unpleasant surprises down the road.
A former financial adviser with more than a decade of experience in personal finance and small business banking, Sarita Harbour is a professional writer specializing in personal finance, small business, technology, and content marketing techniques. Her writing appears online at sites such as Yahoo! Homes and Bob Vila. Harbour holds a bachelor's degree in psychology and computer science from the University of Guelph and the Personal Financial Planning designation from the Institute of Canadian Bankers.