How Do You Know Your Advisor Cares?
Finding the perfect wealth manager can feel a lot like dating.
With many fish in the sea, you may have to meet with several advisors before you find the right fit. There were 3,726 Registered Investment Advisor firms in 2017 with more than 630,000 registered representatives, according to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, better known as FINRA. And that’s just the professionals who hold to a higher fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. There are many more financial planners out there who don’t.
Remember, when you’re searching for an advisor to help manage your money, you’re really looking for somebody who will support your dreams and goals. True financial planning requires more than simply accumulating a hefty balance sheet. It requires a deep understanding of what’s important to you to guide you toward opportunities and solutions that will enhance your life. Ideally, you’ll form a long-lasting relationship with your wealth manager that will last decades, possibly generations.
As Nikki Michelini, a director in wealth management and principal at Aspiriant, has described it, “The best financial advisors work with you to understand your concerns, the things that keep you up at night, and the experiences you dream of having.”
Six signs you’ve found the right wealth manager
In other words, your wealth manager should care about you, not just your portfolio. So how do you know if your advisor cares? You’ll know when they:
- 1. Celebrate important life events with you
As in any relationship, it’s the thought that counts, from sending birthday cards to congratulating you on your retirement. In order to do the proper financial planning, they should be aware of these changes anyway. Taking it a step further really shows they are focused on you as a person.
“When one of the clients we serve announced that he and his fiancé were going to have a baby, we planned a shower for them and invited some close friends and family,” Lorraine Fox, director or wealth management and principal at Aspiriant, shares as one example.
- 2. Help you through difficult periods in life
Life isn’t always full of joy. You should feel comfortable sharing some of the personal struggles you and your family are going through, such as death, addiction, divorce or health-care issues. A caring advisor will go out of their way to help, both emotionally and professionally.
For example, Chris Kazmer, a wealth management associate, recalls a client couple who were struggling to find a full-time personal care attendant as the husband’s health declined. “We heard about their challenges and sent them an email with information on reputable senior care agencies.”
Lisa Colletti, director of planning and a principal, reached out regularly to another client who was dealing with a couple of tough issues involving her children. “She hadn’t been a client for very long. She appeared surprised but very appreciative of the fact that I was also concerned for her well-being beyond financial matters,” Lisa said.
- 3. Show interest in your hobbies
Your financial advisor may be reaching out to meet with you regularly to get caught up on financial details. But the conversation should be more than just numbers and charts. A caring advisor will support your personal interests in ways that go beyond money.
For example, they might encourage a client training for a marathon with a gift of workout clothing or water bottles.
“I start every client meeting by catching up on their personal activities or asking how their family is doing,” says Brad Weber, a director in investment advisory and principal.
- 4. Educate you and your family
Some people are fine with handing over control of their assets to a wealth manager and letting them do all the financial stuff. But a caring advisor will take the time to explain why certain steps are advised, and maybe even necessary. For example, given the recent market volatility, your financial advisor should be available to listen to your concerns and answer your questions about the investment strategy they’ve laid out for you. The point is to empower you to make financial decisions and help you feel more confident about the life path you’re on.
And as your wealth grows, you’ll likely want to pass it on to children or other heirs. An advisor should be willing to sit down with your family to go over all the ins-and-outs of your portfolio and teach them how to manage the wealth they will receive. They might provide financial education to young adults in group seminars, one-on-one meetings or informative articles.
- 5. Find creative ways to help you support what matters to you most
Many people desire supporting worthy causes that matter to them. When you have ample financial resources, the possibilities can feel endless, and a bit overwhelming. The right financial advisor will not just funnel money to your favorite charities in a tax-efficient manner. They’ll find out what makes your heart beat and identify creative ways that help you reach your charitable goals and leave a lasting legacy for years to come.
- 6. Encourage you to expand your horizons and make your dreams a reality
The highest level of financial advice goes beyond the basics of establishing budgets, saving goals and investment strategies. It requires a deep understanding of what is important to clients and encouraging them to simply “go for it” when the numbers support the spend.
“In many instances, the context created by our analysis and processes provides clients with the ‘permission’ they need to splurge on large charitable gifts, a second home, a dream vacation, gifts to children and so much more,” says Lisa.
A trusted partner
A great wealth manager is more than just a hired professional who performs services for a fee. This is somebody you need to trust, for you to get the most value out of them and for them to best serve you; a life partner who will help you through thick and thin; a friend you can count on anytime.
When you feel that way about your advisor, you know you’ve found your perfect match.