In Wealth Management

Finding the right wealth management advisor can be an important step in reaching your financial goals.

At Sapling Wealth Management, I’ve served as a wealth management advisor in Seattle for a decade. The reality is that not every client is right for every advisor – and vice-versa. There are a variety of approaches and engagement types that work in different contexts. The key is to find the best fit for you.

With that in mind, here are three steps I recommend taking to make that happen.

1. Determine what you want.

I’ve found that the first step toward finding a wealth management advisor is identifying what you want. If you know what your objectives are, you’ll be better equipped to identify the adviser that has the best fit for your needs.

Ask yourself questions like:

Why do I need this service?

Are you looking for somebody to take on all of your financial considerations? Or are you simply looking for someone to offer insight or confirmation? The majority of my clients are financially informed and want to learn more, but some don’t know the difference between a stock and a bond and aren’t interested in learning. That’s okay, too.

The bottom line is that it’s important to understand why you are seeking wealth management and what you’re looking to get out of it. While wealth managers typically offer a comprehensive range of services, if you have a specific financial need – such as investment management, tax planning, estate planning etc. – you may want to seek out a wealth manager who considers that a niche aspect of their services.

How much control do I want to give up?

This is a question that’s especially relevant when you work with any wealth management firm. Sometimes, individuals will come to me who don’t want to lose any control over the investment implementation and monitoring process. In these cases, I believe they shouldn’t. For these people, a financial plan may be a better idea than ongoing wealth management services.

On the other hand, some people value having a trusted advisor to call and use as a sounding board on key financial decisions. Think about the level of service and insight that’s right for you.

How will I define the success of this engagement?

Eventually you’ll want to hear how a potential advisor defines success – but before you meet with them, you should evaluate your own definition of success. Are you looking for portfolio growth, or for ongoing financial stability? Would you sleep better at night knowing that you are properly insured and prepared for unforeseen circumstances? Are you seeking to create and manage an estate plan to benefit your loved ones or favorite charities?

You should define what success looks like to you and work towards that goal.

2. Identify potential wealth management advisors.

Once you’ve considered your own goals in working with a wealth manager, the next step is to identify potential candidates.

It’s time to make a shortlist.

A good place to start your list is through recommendations; you may find people in your social circles can provide recommendations to you. These referrals are especially valuable if the people they’re from are in a similar financial situation to your own. Some people also find other trusted vendors, like their accountants or lawyers, can provide recommendations.

In addition to referrals, it’s certainly worth doing a bit of research online to find wealth management advisors in your area. A quick google search for “Seattle wealth management advisors” will turn up plenty of results. You might even narrow your search if you’re looking for wealth management in a specific niche. On the basis of your goals and desires (which were hopefully outlined via the questions above), you should be able to filter through search results to find the wealth management firms and individuals who might be good for your needs.

When you have a shortlist of two or three advisors that you think might work well with you, it’s time to move to the final step.

3. Select the right wealth manager.

Now, it’s time to start taking action.

Once you have a shortlist, go ahead and schedule initial consultations with the wealth management advisors you’ve identified. Many firms and individuals will provide a complimentary consultation; take them up on this. These initial consultations are helpful as you evaluate what an engagement with them would be like.

As you meet with each wealth management advisor, you should ask them a few important questions.

Are you a fiduciary?

Most wealth managers are – and yours likely should be, too. A fiduciary is legally bound to put your interests first. You can work with a financial advisor who is a non-fiduciary, but that person is held to a standard of recommending “suitable” investments, which are not always the lowest cost or best performing options.  A fiduciary must recommend the investment that is in the client’s best interest. Based on my financial services experience, I believe that fiduciaries have the most aligned economic interests with their clients.

What is your fee structure?

Price is another big consideration. Many wealth managers will charge a percentage of assets under management; identify if this is the case and, if so, what that percentage is.

How will you measure success?

While you’ve already defined success in your terms, a wealth manager should be able to help you define success even more clearly. They’ll be able to help you understand what meeting your goals could look like and how it might happen. Ideally, they’ll bring the big picture view to bear on your finances, considering things like diversification, risk mitigation strategies, tax optimization, and overall portfolio performance as opposed to rates of return on specific investments.

When you’ve finished meeting with a wealth manager, you should ask yourself two questions:

Is the prospective wealth management advisor someone you can trust?

They should be. A time may come in your relationship with a wealth manager where they’ll look you in the eye during a period of financial volatility and recommend that you do something that seems strange – like buy a down-and-out security or sell a stock that’s doing well. If you can’t trust them now, you won’t be able to trust them when it matters.

Do you like them?

This isn’t shallow – it matters. If you work with a wealth management advisor, you’ll probably spend a lot of time with them talking through your thoughts and goals. This will be far easier if the person you’re working with is enjoyable to be around.

Ready to Choose a Wealth Manager in Seattle?

When you find the right fit, I believe that a trusted wealth manager can craft customized financial strategies to help you achieve your personal objectives.

If you’re looking for wealth management in Seattle and are ready to review your options, I’d love to hear from you.

A career spanning 30 years of financial service experience has given me a deeper understanding of the risks and rewards of investing and familiarity within a broad range of individual financial contexts.

Schedule a review of your portfolio today, and let’s take the first step toward figuring out what’s best for you. If you’re ready to grow your assets with thoughtful investment advice, we may be a good fit.

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