5 tips for finding a financial advisor

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Whether you have a lot of financial assets or not, it’s important to plan ahead for your retirement and to make sure what assets you do have are protected for your heirs. Regardless of your age, it’s not too late to set your finances up for long-term success. Working with a financial advisor could provide some guidance. Here are some tips on finding the right financial advisor for your needs.

Wealth isn’t a requirement

Remember you don’t need a lot of investments or wealth to benefit from the advice of a financial advisor. It’s important to find someone who can help you take steps to plan for your current financial situation going into the future.

“The main purpose of using a financial advisor is when you’re trying to see if you’re doing things right to meet your long-term financial goals,” consumer advocate and money expert Clark Howard of Atlanta said. “They’re talking to you about your future. Is your will up to date? Is your planning done well from a tax standpoint? What are you doing in case you are in the 70% that ends up needing assisted living? With real financial planning, it’s not really about what investment you’re in. Where the real importance comes with a financial planner is the estate and tax planning and goal-setting.”

Determine your goals

Know what type of financial advisor you want to work with to achieve your financial goals.

“The field is vast, but I think you can break it down into two main categories: those who work on commission, and those who don’t,” said Atlanta-based Wes Moss, a certified financial planner, managing partner, and chief investment strategist at Capital Investment Advisors.

“You can find great advisors in both categories, but I think finding a fee-only financial advisor (typically at a Registered Investment Advisory Firm, or RIA) is a great first step. At an RIA, you can find someone who can objectively discuss what path could make the most sense to meet your specific needs, wants and goals.”

Get referrals

Seek referrals for a financial advisor from those you trust.

“You might start by asking a trusted advisor, such as an attorney or tax advisor, for names of potential wealth management firms to interview,” said Adrian Cronje, CEO of Balentine, a wealth management firm in Atlanta. “Word of mouth through friends and acquaintances and a review of listings in credible publications like Barron’s can also help you create a pool of advisors to look at, and from there you can do some homework.”

Another good starting point is searching the Certified Financial Planner Board or the Garrett Planning Network.

Learn the costs

Know how much financial advisors charge. Many financial advisors base their rates on commissions or fees, but Howard recommends choosing a fee-only fiduciary advisor.

“The typical fee-only financial advisor costs about 1% of your assets under management,” he said. “You can also hire hybrid financial advisors from companies like Vanguard, Fidelity and Schwab. These costs can range from 0.30% to 0.90%.”

Pick someone who will make you a priority

Choose a financial advisor that makes you feel comfortable and puts your interests first.

“Find someone that can make the process simple,” Moss said. “You and your advisor should have a very clear plan that you can both stick to. You and your advisor should have an agreed-upon investment philosophy that guides you based on your goals and how you handle investment risk. Advisors are at their best when you work together as a team with them, focused on a clear and common goal that fulfills your financial and life goals.”