Different Voices Matter When Starting Your Financial Journey
People are the sum of their parts. This means you, all your experiences, the people you’re surrounded by and what you eat, read, watch and listen to. Everything. Each of these parts has tremendous influence on us.
If you’re new to investing, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed because there are financial influences everywhere. It appears like there are many educational opportunities out there willing teach you all you need to know. There are blogs, books, podcasts, TikToks and FinTech gurus telling us what they think is sound investment advice. However, despite many of these wonderful advances (yes, even TikTok) one of the best ways new investors can position themselves for success is by talking to people. Talk to as many people as it takes for you to become educated and feel confident about what you want out of an Advisor and investment experience.
Talk to Many Advisors
Deciding to start a financial planning journey is a big decision that will surely impact your future. As you begin going down this path, it’s important to understand that financial planning is as much about the relationship between you and your advisor as it is about portfolio guidance. Talk to many Advisors with many different backgrounds to help you determine what investment approach will help accomplish your goals. Get recommendations from peers and colleagues, but also talk to Advisors outside of your network. Typically, you won’t have to go too far to find someone who’s had either an exceptional or negative experience with an Advisor.
During this discovery phase, you ideally want to learn about the prospective Advisor’s approach to managing assets, understand their fee structure and establish a connection with them on a somewhat personal level. After a major life event your Advisor should be one of the first phone calls you make. Try to understand their values and the people with whom they typically work. The Advisor you choose to guide your financial interests should be someone you trust, have a good relationship with and be objective.
Understanding Your Needs and the Differences Between Advisors
Each person’s financial journey is different, and it is important to understand what makes your journey unique. Are you a new physician balancing student debt and a burgeoning career? Do you need help after selling a business? As you talk to different people, you should begin to understand what your investment journey will look like, at least initially. Once you’re able to identify this, it will likely inform the Advisors with whom you may be a good match.
It’s important to remember that there’s a fair bit of education required on your part to have a successful investment experience, too. Unfortunately, not all Advisors adhere to being a fiduciary. So, do your homework. Here are a few things that every new investor should be familiar with as they research different Advisors.
1. Form CRS and Form ADV
Annually, all registered investment advisors are required by the SEC to make Form ADV Part 2A and Form CRS publicly available. While these are somewhat technical documents, they provide tremendous insight into your potential investment journey. Form ADV Part 2A offers transparency around a firm’s assets and key personnel; Form CRS provides a summary of your potential relationship with an Advisor or firm.
2. Understanding Advisor Credentials
There are MANY different certifications Advisors can attain to put letters after their name. I implore everyone to ask your prospective Advisor how they got the credentials and what they need to do to maintain them.
This website is a tool provided by the SEC’s Office of Education and Advocacy. Their goal is to protect investors from fraud and educate people on how to make practical investment decisions. This is a fantastic place to start your financial planning journey and it’s a great resource for researching prospective Advisors.
Choosing an Advisor
One of the biggest challenges to overcome when choosing an Advisor or firm is determining who to trust with your assets. You’ve worked hard to accumulate these and it can be emotional having someone else oversee them. However, there is a common misconception that investing is gambling. Of course, there is risk involved with any investment, but an Advisor will review your risk tolerance with you and build a plan around your level of comfort.
Of course, these fears are justifiable. The drawback is that these fears often lead to people not making a decision and potentially losing out on time. As we’ve stressed repeatedly on this blog, time is one of the best assets for any investor. So, when choosing an Advisor be sure to consider the following:
Does this advisor have the necessary financial acumen for my situation?
Be sure to look and listen for language that aligns with your personal needs.
How is this advisor viewed by his/her peers? His/her clients?
Ask your community and listen to what others have to say about the prospective Advisor and the journeys of their clients.
Is the Advisor understanding or familiar with life events that could impact your financial plan? Will they advocate for you? Will they be objective? Do they give you a nostalgic feeling based on your past experiences?
Listen to that gut feeling. If you’re comfortable with the answers you hear to these questions (and more!), and you’ve done your homework, you may have found a good Advisor for you. Furthermore, consider whether you like this person’s demeanor. Do they speak respectfully? Is this someone you will want to see multiple times a year and will you enjoy these meetings?
Everyone has different needs when it comes to money management and everyone deserves an Advisor who understands you, your goals and your struggles. The only way to come to this understanding is by talking with people, connecting with them, learning and establishing a respectful relationship. If these are in place some of the big obstacles to a successful financial journey will be out of the way.