When you’re looking for the right financial planner, you are essentially interviewing someone to work for you. Any hiring manager will tell you that a prospective hire who has no questions about the job during the interview is not well prepared to become an employee. The same is true for your prospective financial adviser. If the entire meeting is only about them answering your questions, you don’t have the full story on whether or not this will be a good fit.
That’s why you should expect to hear the following questions from an adviser before you decide to entrust your financial future with them.
1. What are your financial goals and objectives?
If you don’t know where you’re going, it will be tough to know how to get there. A financial adviser who asks you this question will not only help you better understand and articulate your goals, but they’ll also be in a much better position to help you achieve them.
This is also a good way to help you and your adviser understand your values, needs, and reasonable expectations. If you simply say you want to prepare for retirement and save a little for your kids’ college funds, your adviser should dig a little deeper to help you put specifics and numbers to your goals, so that you don’t find yourself saving for a goal you don’t really want. (See also: 5 Details Your Financial Adviser May Be Ignoring)
2. What are your biggest financial concerns right now?
We all carry some sort of financial stress, and an important part of your adviser’s job is to help you arrange your finances to minimize that stress. Letting your adviser know that you are regularly losing sleep over your debt will help them recognize that getting that debt paid off is an important goal. Even if it might make better sense on paper to focus on investing while paying off debt slowly, tackling the debt more aggressively will be more beneficial to your mental wellbeing.
While many advisers will ask you to fill out some sort of risk assessment questionnaire to help determine what kind of investor you are, it’s important for them to also understand the more day-to-day type of financial thinker you are. The goal of financial planning is helping you live well on the money you have, both today and in the future, and the best financial planners recognize that they can help you by addressing your most pressing concerns.
3. What are your biggest nonfinancial concerns right now?
It’s important to remember that money does not exist in a vacuum. The nonfinancial issues that are causing you stress will also affect your financial life, so it’s important to talk through those issues, as well. That could include your concerns about your child’s education or your parents’ declining health, or your concerns that you don’t spend enough time with your family. Your financial adviser can help you figure out what aspects of your life could improve and how financial planning can help. (See also: 11 Secrets You Need to Tell Your Financial Adviser)
4. Where do you expect to be in five years?
This is a common job interview question, and it’s also a good question to hear from your financial adviser. So often, we think of financial planning as being solely about retirement and estate planning, but there are any number of important life milestones long before you reach the end of your career. Knowing where you’d like to be in the near future — and what upcoming potential issues you may be facing — can help you to determine what goals to set for yourself and with your financial adviser.
5. What do you expect to get out of this relationship?
Unmet expectations are the root of bad feelings and resentment. If you expect your financial adviser to be there for your debt payoff journey, tax questions, retirement planning, estate planning, and college savings, you’ll be sorely disappointed if your adviser is only planning on chatting with you once a year about how your retirement investments are doing. Similarly, if your adviser is usually very hands-on while you are happy to DIY anything that you can do on your own, you might find them too invasive when they make recommendations you don’t feel you need.
Laying out the expectations on both sides for how the relationship will work can help you determine if the adviser you’re meeting with will take care of your needs. (See also: 3 Reasons to Be Picky When Hiring a Financial Planner)
What to do if you don’t hear these questions
While many good financial advisers will ask you these sorts of questions during your initial interview, it’s not necessarily a given that every good financial adviser will think to ask them. That means you risk turning away a financial adviser who would be a good fit just because they didn’t ask these questions.
It can often be up to the client to take the bull by the horns. If your prospective adviser hasn’t asked deep getting-to-know-you questions, let them know that you would like to discuss these issues. Come right out and explain your financial goals and objectives, your concerns, and your expectations. This will prompt a productive discussion with a good planner who just hasn’t thought to ask these questions, and will be dismissed or minimized by a planner who isn’t actually interested in helping you.