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How to Prepare for Your First Meeting with a Financial Adviser

My new book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Financial Well-Being, just launched on Amazon.com and reached "best seller" status on its first day! (Mind blown!) The following article is adapted from the book. Over the coming weeks, I'll share some some additional articles from the book here on the blog, and you can read even more at my personal website, www.waynebtitus3.com.

A discovery meeting with your adviser is an opportunity to share information about your financial situation, communication preferences, and interests, as well as discuss your life and financial goals. Consider it a deep “getting to know you” session.

Your adviser may ask you to bring certain documents to your first meeting. The purpose of this request is to help the adviser better understand your starting point.

Allowing your adviser to review these documents may help him or her identify gaps in your financial picture, to discover opportunities to lower fees, or to pick up information you may forget to bring up during the meeting. Advisers typically ask for:

  • Tax returns from the past two years
  • Recent financial statements, such as those from refinancing or other situations
  • Bank statements from the past year
  • Brokerage statements from the past year (If the cost basis is not included on these statements, we ask clients to request an unrealized gains and losses statement from their brokers.)
  • Life insurance and annuity policies
  • Employee benefit statements, including those for 401(k), 403(b), 457, pension, or other IRA or retirement plans
  • Will or trust documents
  • Any other documents the client believes would be useful to provide a deeper understanding of their financial situation

If you need help with a certain document, don’t be afraid to ask your adviser for help. During the meeting, in addition to reviewing the documents, don’t be surprised if you are asked personal questions that may seem like they have nothing to do with money.

The Entrepreneur's Guide to Financial Well-Being

The better your adviser knows you, your lifestyle, and your interests, the better they can understand how you might react in situations such as a down market, an emergency with a loved one, or an opportunity in your particular area(s) of interest arising.

Broadly, here are the types of questions you might be asked in a discovery meeting:

Goals

  • Tell me about some of your top accomplishments.
  • What are your professional goals?
  • What goals or successes do you have for your children, parents, spouse/significant other, or other loved ones?
  • Describe how you see yourself participating financially in the world. (This could involve a favorite cause or charity.)

Relationships

  • What family relationships are most important to you?
  • Do you support any religious causes or schools? In what way?
  • How important are your relationships in your community to you?
  • How important are your relationships with coworkers?

Assets

  • Do you save or set aside money to invest? If so, what is your process for earmarking those funds, and how much do you set aside?
  • Do you anticipate changing the way you save or invest in the future? If so, how?
  • Describe your strategy for handling investments.
  • What is your anticipated pension, retirement, or Social Security income?
  • Describe some of your best and worst financial moves.

Other Advisers

  • Do you work with an attorney, accountant, investment adviser, or financial planner now? How proactive are these advisers? Do they come to you with information and ideas, or do you need to request their assistance?
  • Have you switched from any of these advisers recently, and if so, why?

Process

  • How involved do you like to be in managing your finances?
  • Would you use secure, twenty-four-hour access to online statements, performance reports, tax returns, and other documents?
  • How much contact do you expect with your financial adviser?

Interests

  • What types of sports/TV/movies/books do you prefer?
  • What is your health and fitness regime?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What charitable causes do you support?

You can help your adviser be more effective if you take the time to seriously consider your answers to these questions. If you haven’t thought about them before, answering questions like these may seem taxing—both from a time and emotional perspective.

However, achieving clarity about what is important to you is critical to your long-term financial well-being. Keep in mind, there are no right or wrong answers to these questions. An excellent adviser will not judge you for your philosophy on life, your approach to managing money, your personal interests, or your relationships.

The goal is to help you be successful on your terms.

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