Selecting Your Financial Advisor & Important Questions To Ask
When it comes to selecting your financial advisor that will directly impact your retirement years, there are many factors to consider. There are also key questions you will need to ask to ensure that your advisor is actually working for you, not their own pocketbook or for shareholders at large brokerage investment corporations.
Types of financial professionals.
When considering what type of financial advisor to select, it will be important to first understand the different types of financial professionals that exist. Understanding the differences will be a key first step to ensuring you are getting the services you really need when working with your financial advisor or professional. A financial professional can be licensed as one, two, or all of the below classifications, so it’s important to always ask exactly what a financial professional “is,” when you consider working with them.
An analogy to clarify the types of financial advisors that exist is in relation to the medical field. When you first start saving for retirement during your early working years is known as your accumulation years, and you will likely hire a financial advisor that is similar to a general practitioner in the medical field. This is a professional that typically works with all ages, all situations and can create a general strategy for retirement savings. Then as you get older and closer to retirement, you will want to seek a specialist for your specific needs that come up. Just like seeking a medical specialist for your skin, heart, or kidneys later in life – you should also be selecting an advisor that specializes in areas of your retirement needs as they get much more specific down the road.
Brokers are financial professionals who execute transactions on behalf of clients. Typically, brokers make money by receiving commissions when they execute orders for their clients. Fidelity, Charles Schwab, and TD Ameritrade are some examples. A broker might provide recommendations or information about what securities a client might want to buy or sell, and if the client agrees with the recommendation, the broker can make a commission when he or she executes the transaction. In other words, they get paid to sell investments. Brokers are not legally held to the fiduciary standard of care. The fiduciary standard is the legal requirement to put one’s clients’ best interests first. That doesn’t mean that professional brokers don’t care about their clients. The problem is that its easy for brokers to be incentivized to put something other than their client’s best interest – like a corporate sales target – first.
Investment advisors are financial professionals who provide advice about investments to their clients. Rather than getting paid a commission for transactions, advisors get paid a fee for the advice they provide. Different advisors provide different levels of advice. Some advisors are like that general practitioner – offering broad advice about investments like stocks and bonds. Others specialize in more specific areas, or focus on services like developing a holistic financial plan. All individuals licensed as investment advisor representatives are held to the fiduciary standard. An advisor is legally bound to place his or her clients best interest first. No advisor could ever recommend a product that was simply “suitable” for the client, if a better option exists.
Insurance agents are licensed to sell life insurance, annuities and even long-term care plans. Insurance agents are held to the suitability standard of care, rather than the fiduciary standard of care. There are a lot of insurance agents out there, and we believe it’s best to be careful in choosing an agent to work with. It might be prudent to discuss insurance products with an insurance agent who is also a fiduciary investment advisor, since those advisors will be required to put your best interests first in ALL of their recommendations, including insurance products.
Retirement planners are financial professionals who are usually either brokers or investment advisors, and who specialize in retirement. An individual or firm that focuses on retirement instead of more general advice may be more knowledgeable and thorough in developing a retirement strategy unique to each person’s retirement needs. Since retirement planners can be either brokers or investment advisors, it’s important to check whether they are held to the fiduciary standard. We believe that its important to work with someone who has your best interests in mind when it comes to retirement.
Choosing the right type of financial professional is key. Different people need different services at different times in their lives. In our view, working with a retirement planner who puts your interests first makes a lot of sense.
The value of a financial advisor
So let’s dig in to also understand the value your financial advisor could provide. Based on a study by Vanguard, a very large financial services firm that manages over $7 trillion in global assets, an advisor could potentially add about 3% in net returns over time if they utilize Vanguard’s Advisor’s Alpha Framework. That Framework includes the elements asset allocation, cost-effective implementation, rebalancing, behavioral coaching, asset location, withdrawal orders for client spending, and total-return vs. income investing.
Additionally, we believe it is important that your financial advisor is able to craft strategies in key areas of your financial planning.
- Retirement Planning – this is a written plan that outlines when to take money out, how much to take and when, as you approach retirement. A carefully designed retirement plan based on your unique situation can be an important element for retirement success.
- Tax Planning – this is a written strategy that will plan for reducing taxes over time in your retirement years. There is no reason to give Uncle Sam more than he already takes! Knowing the best approach towards tax planning during your retirement years may allow you to keep more of your hard earned money.
- Medical & Long Term Care Planning – did you know that on average, individuals in retirement spend $315,000 in medical and long term care expenses? That is a lot of money and an advisor may be able to help you plan for these increased medical and long term care expenses during retirement.
- Legacy & Estate Planning – most individuals have a living will, power of attorney and basic trusts, but legacy planning is much more than that. It is a strategic plan to maximize retirement savings while also prioritizing the transfer of assets to the next generation in the most cost-effective way. An advisor can help you create a specific legacy and estate plan that benefits future generations.
The value of your advisor goes far beyond one type of investment or one type of plan. They need to see the bigger picture of all aspects of your portfolio advising you of the next steps to take at each stage of your retirement planning.
Three key questions to ask your financial advisor.
There are some key questions that you can ask your financial advisor or when selecting a financial advisor. Their answers will give you insight if they are the right fit for you.
Are you a fiduciary?
A fiduciary is an individual who has a legal responsibility to put your interests first. A fiduciary is required to put your interests ahead of their own no matter what type of advice they provide, so determining if your financial professional is a fiduciary can be a critical step.
Do you receive compensation from mutual funds?
Believe it or not, many brokers charge fees up front, during and at the end of mutual fund purchases or sales. Fees add up quickly so its important to understand all of the fees you will be paying. We think transparency in fees is very important and encourage you to ask about the fees you are, or will, pay with any financial professional.
Do you provide income tax planning for IRA withdrawals and Roth IRA conversions?
Although this seems like a very specific question to ask, it will reveal quite a bit about the advisor. Income tax planning can be very important for many families and individuals, especially those in or close to retirement. If an advisor doesn’t provide consultation on IRA withdrawals or Roth IRA conversions, that might indicate they offer a narrower range of services than you need in retirement. An advisor who can look down the road to ensure income tax planning is managed well to maximize your retirement savings can be an asset in retirement.
Find an advisor to meet your needs.
Selecting your financial advisor is an important step. And just because you have been with a financial advisor for years, does not mean you cannot change. The process is not as painful as most make it out to be – especially when you have a dedicated team to help you make the transition as smooth as possible.
Here at Oak Harvest, our Financial Advisors and Retirement Planners do more than just manage your investments. We build holistic retirement plans that aim to reduce risk, increase income and help you pay less tax – and we believe that’s what advisors should do!
Oak Harvest’s advice combines our institutional investment management experience for clients with detailed financial, tax, and retirement planning. It’s Investments + Planning + Service that separate us from the rest.
If you are ready to take the next step, and talk to a team of retirement planners who put your interests first, Schedule a call today!
Let Us Help You Achieve the Retirement You Deserve!
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