In Financial Advisor, Individuals, Small Business, Wealth Management

If you have financial goals and are considering working with a financial advisor to reach them, then finding the right advisor is hugely important.

At Sapling Wealth Management, I’ve served as a financial advisor in Seattle for a decade. I know that not every advisor is right for every client. Different engagements work for different people – and you’ve got to find someone who works for you.

Here are three steps I recommend taking to find the right fit.

1. Ask yourself questions to determine what you want.

I believe it is critically important for clients to be reflective of why they want to work with a financial advisor. Determining your purpose in working with a Seattle financial advisor will shape the type of advisor you pursue.

Things you need to consider:

Why do you need this service?

Some of my happiest clients are financially savvy. They just don’t have time to do the work themselves. Other clients don’t know the difference between a stock and a bond and have no interest in learning. However, most of my clients are informed financially, but want to learn more.

Therefore, it is valuable to understand why you are seeking this service and what you want to get out of it. If you have a specific financial need – such as investment management, tax planning, estate planning etc. – then you’ll want to choose an advisor with relevant experience and credentials in that area.

Is my personality compatible with an advisor?

This is a question that’s especially relevant if you’ll be working with an investment advisor. Occasionally, I have people come to me that do not want to lose control over the investment implementation and monitoring process. Therefore, I believe they shouldn’t. In these cases, a financial plan may be all that is necessary.

Alternatively, you may value having a trusted advisor to call and use as a sounding board on key financial decisions. Think about the level of service that is right for you.

What would a successful engagement look like for me?

Before you meet with an advisor and hear their proposition of what success might look like, you should consider your own definition of success. Would success mean portfolio growth or stability? Is it devising and managing an estate plan considering loved ones and favorite charities? Is it risk mitigation, which may actually cost additional money to transfer risk to a third party?  Accountability toward wise financial behaviors? Peace of mind?

Clarify what you’d like to get out the engagement to consider it a success.

2. Make a shortlist.

Once you’ve asked and answered the above questions for yourself, it’s time to make a shortlist of advisors for consideration.

Often, you’ll be able to solicit recommendations from your social circle; this is a good place to start. You may know someone in a similar financial situation, and, if you ask, they may be able to recommend an advisor they’re familiar with.

Today, of course, the internet is a wonderful resource for connection, too. A quick google search for “Seattle financial advisors” will turn up plenty of results. If you’re looking for a specific service – say, wealth management – go ahead and refine your search further. Based on the questions you’ve already answered, you should be able to filter through to firms and individuals who will be suited to your context.

I recommend compiling a shortlist of two or three advisors to consult with so that you can get a feel for a person who will be a good fit.

3. Schedule consultations and select the right fit.

Once you have a few options, schedule initial consultations. Most advisors offer a complimentary initial consultation, so you should be able to get an idea of what they’ll offer and what it might be like to work with them.

During your consultation, you should ask financial advisors questions like:

Are you a fiduciary?

A fiduciary is legally bound to put your interests first. Advisors who are non-fiduciaries can recommend investments that are “suitable,” but may not be the lowest cost option available.  I believe that fiduciaries have the most aligned economic interests with their clients.

How do you structure your costs?

Obviously, it’s important to know how your advisor will structure their pricing. You should look for advisors that are “fee-only,” meaning that they don’t receive commissions from selling products. Fee-only advisors may charge percentages, flat, or hourly rates.

How will you measure success?

Your advisor should define success according to your goals. In fact, they should be able to help you more clearly understand what meeting your goals might look like. They should be able to maintain a big picture view, factoring in things like diversification and overall portfolio performance over rates of returns on specific investments. Ask what benchmarks they use (i.e. the S&P 500, blended 60/40 allocations) to measure their results against.

(See more questions to ask a financial advisor during your initial consultation here.)

After the consultation, you should ask yourself two questions:

Is the prospective investment advisor someone you can trust?

There will be a point in your relationship where an investment advisor will look you in the eye during a period of financial volatility and recommend either buy a “down-and-out” security or sell a stock that seems to be on a roll.  It will likely take a lot of courage to stick with an investment philosophy to get through those difficult periods.

Is the investment advisor likable?

You will likely be spending a considerable amount of time with the advisor discussing your personal thoughts and objectives. I believe you will get more out of the service if you think you would enjoy spending time with this person and sharing your hopes, dreams and aspirations.

Want to get started?

I hope this process is helpful as you look for a Seattle financial advisor. When you find the right fit, I believe that an advisor can play a quantifiably helpful role in your pursuit of financial goals. If you’re ready to take the first step and schedule a consultation, 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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