The DreamWorks animation movie Shark Tale starts with a young fish, Oscar, showing the viewer around his penthouse apartment, which when the camera pans out, we quickly realize he’s simply pretending in front of a large billboard advertisement. Unaware of the illusion, Crazy Joe the hermit crab, calls out to Oscar – “now that you live in a penthouse, can I be your financial advisor?”
The scene depicts what many people believe – you only need a financial advisor when you have money.
There is no question that having a financial advisor if you’ve come into a large inheritance or if you’ve had a sudden increase in income would be a good choice. But what about if you are having a baby, recently divorced, or simply feel uneasy about your current financial situation?
Whatever your money questions are, a financial advisor can help you get organized.
Just like every other choice that life presents to us - choosing a partner or spouse, a job, or a place to live - selecting your financial advisor needs be carefully considered. You need to be totally comfortable disclosing financial information and future goals and aspirations to your advisor, and trust the recommendations your advisor makes.
So how do you find the right match with a financial advisor?
1) Investigate your options. Get recommendations from family members, friends, co-workers or other professional networks. Be specific about what you are looking for.
2) Consider credentials. You don’t necessarily need the alphabet soup after the advisor’s name but search for financial planners who have designations and credentials that require extensive education in financial planning. Look for advisors with a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation or who have completed the Life License Qualification Program (LLQP).
3) Conduct interviews of two or three financial advisors before making a selection. While credentials and experience are very important, you also want to work with someone you like, trust, and can understand.
4) Check references. Ask for names of clients who have worked with the planner for long periods. Don’t ask them only the expected questions about the planner’s positive attributes, but also about his or her greatest weaknesses.
5) Consider how the advisor is paid. Most financial planners are paid either through commission from the companies whose products they sell, or as a percentage of market value of the money that they are managing for you.
In the end, choosing a financial advisor comes down to trust. You will be providing your financial advisor with a lot of details regarding your financial life and you need to feel like they have listened to you and that there are no unanswered questions when it comes to your money.
Make the right match and avoid the brutal honesty experienced in Shark Tale -
Oscar: I’m not really a shark slayer... I lied.
Crazy Joe: [remorseful] And, I’m not a financial advisor!
Talking to an advisor?
Here are some questions to ask:
- How long has the advisor been in business?
- What company or companies does he/she represent?
- Does the advisor belong to a professional association?
- Has the advisor qualified for professional accreditations?
- Is the advisor licensed in your province?
- Will the advisor provide references from other clients?