1. Do you like them?
No matter who you do business with, it is critical that you enjoy working with them! Experience and knowledge are key but if the relationship is not there…IT JUST WON’T WORK!
2. How much experience does he/she have?
You want to work with someone who has solid experience and has been in practice for several years. Unfortunately, there is a high turnover rate in the financial services industry and you don’t want to be left without representation.
3. Is he/she a solo practitioner or do they work as part of a firm or group?
It’s usually better to work with someone who is a part of a team because they tend to provide a better service experience and have a more diverse knowledge base and expertise.
4. Have you done a search on brokercheck.org and reviewed the advisors’ records to make sure they have no financial disclosures (bad credit, bankruptcies, etc.) or a pattern of customer complaints?
Obviously, you don’t want to work with a financial professional that is not good at managing their own finances or has a series of complaints from people they have worked with previously.
5. What is their belief system with respect to providing product solutions?
You want to be with a person that has a broad perspective and is not beholden to one set of product solutions. At the IFW we are passionate that when it comes to financial decisions you should never say “never” never say “always” it depends!
6. What licenses and credentials does he/she possess?
Ideally, the person or team you are working with should be able to offer products and solutions from both the insurance and securities industry so they are not biassed towards one or the other.
7. Are you comfortable with how they are compensated?
There are trains of thought that advocate fee-only advisors, however, options are important. For some people, a fee structure may make more sense, but for others, a commission structure could actually be more cost-effective. The bottom line is an ethical financial professional can be either or both and an unethical advisor can be fee-only (Bernie Madoff was fee only). Why not work with someone who can offer both options.
8. Is the financial professional independent or beholden to one company that may have restrictions and/or philosophies that limit the financial professionals’ offerings?
It is very important to be with a full-service and independent advisor that has access to multiple companies’ products. You want the financial professional to represent YOU not a specific asset manager, bank, or insurance company.
9. Where will your actual assets be held and who will be responsible for being the custodian of your assets?
It is recommended that you only have a major financial institution as the custodian of your accounts. Be very mindful of who you make checks payable to or who you wire funds to.
10. Is the financial professional willing to provide you with references?
This is important! Ask them if you can speak to a few of their existing clients to make sure they are satisfied and the type of person you can relate to. If the references they provide are not cooperative and don’t take the time to speak with you that is a red flag.