Finance

How to find the best financial advisor to plan your retirement

By mlamoureux - December 20, 2017

Eventually, we all want to retire, but retirement is more often than not a thing that has to be planned out decades in advance. Sadly, the days when one could expect their pension and endowment programs to care for them after their working days were over are mostly done.

A successful retirement, these days, is the result of a plan coming together. This plan has many moving parts, and arguably, the most important part is finding the right financial advisor to help you manage your money and build your wealth.

Choosing the right advisor, however, isn’t easy, and depends on a variety of factors. This step-by-step guide will break down some of those factors, and provide you with a “cheat sheet” of sorts that will help you in your quest to locate the right financial advisor to help you plan the perfect retirement.

WHAT KINDS OF ADVISORS ARE THERE?

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Generally speaking, there are a few different kinds of advisors:

Financial advisors advise you on all aspects of your financial health. This means more than telling you how to save and how to plan. It can include advice and knowledge about investment, insurance, day-to-day financial health, and more.

Investment advisors, unsurprisingly, are concerned with how you can invest your money to reach your long-term financial goals.

Retirement income planners focus their attention on getting you to your retirement goals in an efficient, smart way.  

While all kinds of advisors have the ability to discuss your finances with you in a general way, an advisor with a specialty in that specific field of services will likely be your best bet in regards to planning your retirement. Additionally, specific field expertise may require a certain kind of professional certification. Seeing a list of credentials that apply to specific fields and land within specific parameters can go a long way to seeing your prospective advisor as a leader in their field. The key is finding someone who is professional, experienced, but also up to date on every aspect of financial planning

UNDERSTANDING HOW COMPENSATION WORKS AND ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

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In a perfect world, a financial advisor would only get paid if they made you money. Unfortunately, we don’t live there, but understanding how your financial advisor gets paid should be of interest to you. If your advisor makes a tidy income no matter what happens to your money, it goes without saying that you might not want to go with them, as they are not personally invested in creating wealth for you.

Fee-only advisors are usually the best bet for people looking to plan their retirements. A “fee-only” advisor can only be paid by you. Someone who is not can theoretically take commissions from selling you financial products, regardless of whether or not they are good investments.

If you were hiring someone to cook a steak, you’d likely want to know if they’d done so before. If you’re asking someone to be in charge of your wealth management over a long period of time, you might want to know the same thing.

Retirement planning and financial advising are specialized skills. Just as you wouldn’t make a shortstop play catcher, you should have 100% confidence that the person you’re trusting with your savings knows what they’re doing and has a plan that works for you.

Sample questions you may want to ask when meeting with a prospective advisor:

Explain [financial concept] to me? What does it mean and why is it good?

How long have you been doing this and what are your qualifications?

Why do you do what you do? Why is this your chosen profession?

What is your opinion of passive investing vs. active investing?

A reputable financial advisor, and, more importantly, the person you hire to create your retirement fund, should answer these questions confidently and leave you feeling easy.

PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST THE BAD GUYS

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The financial services industry is unfortunately home to a lot of unscrupulous individuals looking to cash in on your hard-earned money. Going the extra mile to figure out who you can trust and what protections exist to keep you safe is just good sense.

Some advisors may have complaints on their record. Finding out who does and who doesn’t is a matter of digging. As for prospective fraudsters, try to only do business with firms who have what’s called a “third-party custodian” on your account. A fraudulent financial advisor can do tremendous damage to your long-term financial health if they’re not watched. A third-party custodian is, essentially, a second set of eyes on your account. They would be the ones keeping you in the loop, delivering reports and reporting all transactions. A fraudulent advisor cannot really function if overseen by a third-party custodian, which is a big reason many people take their wealth management concerns to large firms, where such professionals almost exclusively work.