What to look for and what’s not important

If you are shopping for a financial planner, you need a good checklist of questions to ask. You want someone who works for clients like you – and who is financially wise.  If you are looking for an individual or firm to manage your assets, don’t rely on investment records alone. Clients have differing needs, and investments are usually part of a larger, comprehensive financial plan.

I believe it’s much more important to make sure your financial planner is skillful at preserving your assets. That may range beyond market forecasts into such realms as insurance, estate planning, tax planning and more. This list of questions for a prospective financial planner will help you decide whether the person is the right fit for you:

What Don’t You Do?
Some advisors are strictly asset managers. They run your portfolio only. Others are wealth managers and their mandate is broader: They plan the risk in your life. Within these categories are specialists. Your planner may have good referrals for other financial professionals such as attorneys and accountants.

Who Is Your Typical Client?
Let’s say you are starting out and have a net worth of $50,000. It may not make sense for you to hire a planner who typically handles multi-millionaires.

You may want to find a person who has expertise regarding your occupation.  Say you are a doctor.  Maybe you’ll need a partner who knows about malpractice insurance.  Those of you who have variable compensation and practice partnerships needs may be better suited to a planner who mainly deals with corporate executives and attorneys.

Or you may want a firm that specializes in your life stage. Perhaps you are widowed. Or a new parent. Or divorced.

What Clients Don’t You Want?
Some financial planners may not want anyone with under $100,000 to invest. Another wants only those people. Beyond asset size, goals and styles also are important.

What Is a Recent Client Success Story?
Showing clients how to unknot a problem, protect against calamity or enhance their holdings are key ways that planners help out. If a prospective planner can point to specific stories where he or she fostered a client’s success, it gives you comfort that he or she can aid you too.

What Is the Worst Thing You Have Seen Someone Do Financially?
To err is human. Sometimes, a planner is called in to repair problems people have created for themselves. Sometimes, clients go against counsel and drive into a ditch. Clients, after all, are not required to follow professional financial advice. This question helps you gauge a planner’s nose for trouble.

Bottom Line

Asking a prospective financial planner the questions above will help shape your decision as to whether you can work together. And remember, it is a partnership.

For more information, visit our website at or contact Matt Starkey –, (913) 345-1881.