With over 200,000 financial advisors across the country, how do you know which one will be the right fit for your situation and personality? (1) The financial advisor you choose to handle your family’s wealth will have a significant impact on your confidence, investment strategy, the fees you pay, and your confidence in your financial future. This is not a decision to take lightly, especially since each advisor has a different level of service, expertise, and ability.
Often, when you find a good advisor, you can develop a strong relationship that can last a lifetime and even through multiple generations. As such, you should take your time to find an advisor that meets your family’s needs. When you start your advisor search, ask potential candidates these 10 questions:
1. How Much Experience Do You Have?
Experience is essential when you’re working with a professional of any kind, especially someone handling your finances. Don’t be shy about asking an advisor about their industry experience. It will give you peace of mind to know what market conditions they’ve experienced and how many years they’ve been working in the industry. At Mason & Associates, our team offers over 30 years of professional experience in the financial industry.
2. Do You Hold Any Credentials?
At Mason & Associates, we take credentials seriously, and we think you should too. Credentials and education play a critical role in your advisor’s competence. There are hundreds of designations in the financial services field and some are more applicable to your needs than others. (2) Our advisory team has achieved designations including Accredited Estate Planner (AEP), Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA), Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), Certified Financial Planner (CFP), and more. Use DesignationCheck.com to learn more about the credentials financial advisors can earn.
3. What Financial Planning Services Do You Offer?
Not all financial advisors can provide comprehensive financial planning. Some cannot sell insurance or securities, such as mutual funds or stocks, if they don’t have the appropriate licenses. Ask a financial advisor what services they provide and whether or not they have a specialty. At Mason & Associates, our comprehensive planning process includes wealth and risk management, life planning, retirement, estate, and succession planning. Going further, we also work with other professionals, including your CPA, so that we ensure that every area of your financial life is taken care of.
4. What is Your Planning Philosophy?
It’s important to work with an advisor who shares a similar planning and investing philosophy as you. If you’re nearing retirement, you may not want to work with an aggressive stockbroker, whereas if you’re new to investing, you may not want to be too conservative. Talk with an advisor about how he or she guides clients’ investing and financial decisions. At Mason & Associates, our goal is to design an investment portfolio that has the flexibility to meet your needs. We advise you based on your personal risk tolerance and investment objectives.
5. Who Do You Serve?
Some financial advisors specialize in serving a specific demographic or level of investable assets, so you’ll want to find this out before choosing an advisor. For example, if you’re a business owner, you may be better suited to work with an advisor specializing in helping business owners. Mason & Associates is a referral-only firm, which means we don’t work with just everyone. The reason we take this approach is because we get to know our clients on a personal level. We want to make sure we are a good fit.
6. Who Else On Your Team Will Be Working With Me?
At some firms, you may work with multiple financial advisors depending on your appointment time or needs, while other firms may pair you up with one financial advisor with whom you’ll work one-on-one. This is important to know so you can meet the other team members with whom you might be collaborating. Everyone at Mason & Associates works as a team to offer you the highest level of service. We spend a lot of time getting to know our clients and their goals and strive to put your dreams at the heart of your financial plan.
7. How Much Do You Charge?
Financial planning and investment costs can be confusing. And too often, financial advisors don’t readily disclose their fees. As fee-based advisors, our clients always know what they’re paying and what they’re receiving. We want our clients to feel comfortable with their strategies and confident that they are no hidden fees eating away at their hard-earned savings.
8. Do You Receive a Commission?
Some financial advisors working with big banks earn their income on commissions. The problem with this is that advisors working on commission may be inclined to sell products that aren’t best suited for a client’s needs. As fee-based independent financial advisors, we charge a percentage of your assets under our management. The better your investments perform, the more we earn. Avoiding conflicts of interest, we instead focus on what we believe will best meet your goals and needs.
9. Are You a Fiduciary?
An advisor who serves as a fiduciary accepts a responsibility to put her client’s interests first and foremost in all decisions. A fiduciary is supposed to avoid conflicts of interest and remain unbiased in her recommendations and advice. We agree to abide by a strict code of professional conduct, and as fiduciaries, we believe in transparency and putting every client first.
10. Have You Ever Violated Any Standards or Laws?
It’s a good idea to research an advisor’s credentials and run a background check with regulatory agencies. Some advisors may have been subjected to disciplinary action if they violated any laws or if a client took action against them. You can look up an advisor’s professional history by visiting FINRA’s BrokerCheck. This database will also show you the years of experience an advisor has and the licenses and credentials he or she has.
Take your time and trust your intuition when selecting your advisor. The relationship should feel right and you should never feel pressured to make a decision quickly. An advisor should be happy to answer these questions and any others you may have about how they operate.
At Mason & Associates, we believe in complete transparency and want our clients to feel comfortable working with us and asking any questions they may have. If you’d like to learn more about our answers to these questions or any others you may have, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. You can start now by calling our office at (323) 254-3072 with any of your questions and we’ll be happy to answer them.
About Mason & Associates, Inc.
Mason & Associates, Inc. was founded in 1989, specializing in Life Planning for individuals, families and small businesses. Life Planning places a person’s core life values at the heart of the advice process and focuses on the human aspects of financial planning.
As a client, your personal story is key to our planning process. That is why we strive to build a close relationship that will encompass every aspect of your life. Together with our team of professionals, we guide you through the process of identifying what is important to you, your goals, your dreams. We then put into place a financial road map to set you on your way towards achieving your objectives.
Our responsibility does not end there. As you encounter bumps in the road, changes in goals or any other roadblocks, we are there to offer advice and guidance. We are there to celebrate your successes and cope with your challenges. We work alongside your other professionals such as your attorney and your CPA to be sure all of your legal and financial needs are aligned.