Americans’ financial lives are increasingly complex. It’s not unusual to have checking and savings accounts, a 401(k), IRAs and other personal investments. Many people need guidance to keep track of savings and investments. If you are part of this growing majority, you may have already scheduled a meeting with a financial advisor. To make the most of your time together, keep this pre-meeting checklist in mind:
1. Do your research.
Bookstores dedicate entire sections to personal finance and investing topics. Read a book or magazine to get familiar with planning strategies and terms. Ask others who have used financial planning professionals to share their experiences.
2. Organize your thoughts.
Spend some time thinking about your financial needs, investment goals and timeframe. If you are uncertain about your own needs and goals, communicate that fact to the financial advisor. He or she should be able to ask the right questions to help you determine your goals, assess your needs and resources and match both to your tolerance for risk.
3. Gather the appropriate paperwork.
Collect documents – such as a Last Will and Testament, revocable trust, financial power of attorney, bank and investment account statements, insurance policies and tax returns – that will be helpful during your meeting. However, to be on the safe side, call in advance to ask which documents to bring.
4. Determine your top three areas of concern.
Does retirement planning top your list? What about minimizing your tax burden? Funding college tuition? To create a plan focused on your unique situation, your financial advisor will ask many questions. Be prepared to discuss what is most important to you, and have answers in mind (or written down) prior to your meeting.
5. Prepare questions for your advisor.
To succeed, the relationship between you and your financial advisor must be built on trust. It’s important that you feel comfortable with your advisor and the services he or she will provide. Ask about the type and level of advice you should expect. Will they be referring you to others specializing in certain areas? Talk about how often you should meet for a “check-in” or to rebalance your portfolio.