Meeting with a financial planner for the first time can be intimidating. People often worry they will be asked about details of their finances and will look ignorant, or fear will be made aware of embarrassing financial mistakes. It is no wonder people put off setting a meeting with a financial planner, even in the face of complicated financial issues they know they can’t resolve themselves.
The truth is, everyone who walks into a financial planner’s office is the same. They are seeking expert help to manage an overwhelming and complicated financial situation, and don’t know if they are on track to achieve what they want in life. Financial planners want to hear it all, and offer solutions without judgment.
If you are intimidated about setting your first meeting with a financial planner, you shouldn’t be, we’re just normal people who want to help! But just in case you are, here are some things you can expect from your first meeting with a financial planner, and a few things you can do to get the most out of the time you spend together.
Prepare to Talk about Your Personal Life
A good financial planner will get you to know you as a person before diving into any financial info.
They will likely ask you about your upbringing, educational and professional background. They will also ask about your family info, if you have children and if they are financially independent. They will also likely ask about any personal or family health issues and life expectancy.
The financial planner will also want to hear your concerns – what keeps you up at night? What do you fear could go wrong and prevent you from achieving your financial goals?
He or she will also get a read on your attitudes about money and temperament as an investor, as those will play an important role in your financial plan as well.
Be Prepared to Discuss Your Goals
You should be prepared to talk about your financial goals, which can be surprisingly difficult if you have never sat down and thought about exactly what those goals are.
Although general goals are great, for example someone setting a goal of traveling more during retirement, it is better to have at least a general idea of the spending required to achieve that goal. Using our travel example, it would be helpful to have some sort of estimate of how much you would like to spend on trips, and how often you will take them, in order to have some sort of idea of the size of that goal and what it will take to achieve it.
We specialize in retirement planning for example, so we hear goals like “I want to retire at age ______ and spend ______ each year.”
Your goals are going to be unique to you as an individual. Think about what they are in advance of your first meeting so you provide a financial planner with a clear picture of your unique purpose for your money.
Be Prepared to Discuss Your Finances
This is something people need to prepare themselves for emotionally more than anything, as people are often shy about their finances and discussing them with someone else. They fear they will be told they have been making mistakes and will be judged for them.
But it is important to be completely transparent about your financial situation with a financial planner and provide them with all the details, even potential red flags or mistakes you have made in the past. The job of a financial planner is to help people sort out people’s finances, so there is no need to feel shy or embarrassed about your financial situation – they’ve likely seen it all before.
If you don’t plan to bring actual documents, you will want a general idea of your income, savings rate, investment account balances (and type of accounts - Roth vs. Traditional), any retirement income streams (Social Security benefits or Pension/Defined benefit plan benefits), and any unique financial challenges you face.
What to Bring
People are overwhelmed with the amount of financial info a financial planner could potentially ask them about to get an idea of their entire financial situation. It is a good idea to reach out to the financial planner in advance to see what documents you can bring to make the initial meeting more productive.
For example, we ask people meeting with us for the first time to bring:
- The first 3 pages of your most recent tax return,
- Your current Social Security Statement, and
- Your spouse’s current Social Security Estimate
- Account statements for all your investment accounts
The info you will need to bring will depend on your particular financial situation and reason for engaging a financial planner. If you are consulting a financial planner to sort out a specific financial issue, make sure to bring all the documents you have related to that particular issue.
What to Ask
I’ll admit, I stole the 6 questions for this section from my brother David’s most recent Investopedia article “6 Questions to Ask a Financial Advisor.” If you would like more detail on any of these questions, I encourage you to read the article.
- Are you a fiduciary?
- What is your investment philosophy?
- How will I know I am on track to achieve my goals?
- How are you compensated?
- Do you hold any designations?
- What does a client engagement look like?
Be Prepared, Not Afraid!
Your first meeting with a financial planner may require a step or two out of your comfort zone, but don’t be afraid, as advisors have seen it all before and truly just want to help. By preparing in advance to have a productive conversation that makes the financial planner aware of your entire financial situation and goals for the future, you can ensure a positive first experience that can be the foundation for a fantastic, long-term relationship!
Read more: What Does a Financial Planner Do?
Paul R. Ruedi, CFP® is a financial advisor at Ruedi Wealth Management in Plano, Texas.
Paul has been cited in news publications including The New York Times, Dallas Morning News, Forbes, Inc.com, Business Insider, US News and World Report, GoBankingRates, The Street, and NerdWallet. He also writes articles that have been featured in CNBC, Investopedia, Yahoo Finance, Nasdaq, and MSN Money. He was named one of Investopedia's Top 100 Most Influential Financial Advisors in 2018.