I have thought long and hard about what it would be like sitting across the table from me in an appointment. I do this because I want to deliver to my clients what I want for myself, simply the following:
- I would want to know that the advisor I am dealing with is experienced and knowledgeable. I have seen a lot in 15 years. There have been several “bubbles” that have burst, wreaking havoc on the financial markets. The declines were 46% and 48% in the technology and real estate bubbles. The market has bounced back both times, but damage was done. Tax rates have changed, products have come and gone, and interest rates have hit historic lows. Through it all, I have learned and I apply that knowledge and experience today.
- I would want to know that my advisor was giving me unbiased advice and informing me of any conflicts of interest he might have. I am proud to say that I work for a broker/dealer that is neither owned by an insurance company or investment bank. Cetera Advisors is a broker/dealer that is truly independent. That does not mean that there is never a conflict, but you will know what they are when you deal with me. I certainly will not be pushing a certain stock or insurance product because of who owns the broker/dealer I work for.
- I would want to know the products that are offered are competitive. I know that this goes along with what I said above about being independent, but there is more to it than that. We will shop around to find the best investment options for your situation. We want the investments you ultimately end up buying to be worth what you pay. I will look at all investments with a healthy dose of skepticism. That is in my nature.
- I would want my advisor to be able to explain strategies and products in a way that I can understand. I guess another way to put it would be to say that I would want an advisor that is a teacher at heart. We spend a lot of time with our clients on the front end trying to get to know them. I believe that is what it takes to get it right. It is not uncommon to meet people who do not know what is going on with their money. We do not want that to happen with our clients. After the case is closed, we will get together for semiannual reviews to reinforce everything you have learned, monitor the investments or plan, and make adjustments.
- I would like to work with an advisor that has the capability to do comprehensive financial planning. You may only need advice on your portfolio, but if your advisor can handle comprehensive planning which includes tax planning, employee benefits and retirement planning, estate planning, investment management, and insurance, then you know he understands the big picture. It would be important to me to know that the advisor can think beyond the transaction to see how it fits in the big picture.
- I would like to know that the advisor charges a reasonable price for his services. I know that fees and commissions can get out of control. That can be tough to overcome when the markets are not doing that well. I want you to be successful, and that means treating you fairly.
- I would like to know that the advisor holds himself to high standards of professional conduct. As a CFP® practitioner and a member of the Financial Planning Association, I am held to a higher standard. This standard requires me to deliver financial planning services with integrity, objectivity, competence, fairness, confidentiality, professionalism, and diligence. Please take a look at the CFP Board and the Financial Planning Association’s link in the resources section of the website for more information.
- Lastly, I would want service. It is important to be service-oriented in this business. An advisor with that mindset will be able to catch problems before they happen, and be more proactive in tweaking the plan or portfolio as circumstances change.