8 Tips for Meeting with a Financial Adviser

How to prepare for a conversation with a financial planner.

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Finding a financial adviser you can trust is one of the most important financial decisions you need to make. Before meeting with a new adviser you should make a list of the questions you have, come prepared with details about your personal finances, and be ready to talk about your life goals as well. Here are some tips for preparing for a first meeting with a new financial adviser.

[See 10 Costs That Could Increase in Retirement.]

Brush up on the basics. You should enter the conversation with a basic understanding of personal finance and investing. You don't need to be an expert or create an entire retirement plan by yourself. But if you don't even know the difference between stocks and bonds, it would be easy for someone to push financial products that are not in your best interest.

Prepare to share your numbers. You should figure out how much money you have and estimate how much you are spending. The more details you have on your numbers, the better someone else can help. It's nearly impossible for an adviser to give appropriate and specific advice if he or she doesn't know the total assets you have.

Find an adviser who works with people like you. Try to seek an adviser who primarily works with individuals who are in the same financial situation as you. There's no point working with an expert who is used to working with young families with few assets when you are about to retire and already have a decent chunk of retirement funds and vice versa.

[See Retirement Ages to Plan For.]

Keep an open mind. You should have an open mind when you take advice from someone. Having at least a vague idea of whether you would rather invest in funds or individual stocks or bonds, for example, can help you choose an adviser more quickly.

Be prepared to talk about your goals. Sit down and have a heart to heart talk with your family about your career, life, and retirement goals. In the investing world, higher potential returns require taking on additional risks. But you don’t always need to shoot for the maximum return on your investments. You need to accumulate enough to meet your goals. If your life goals are rather modest compared to the amount you regularly save every month, then you really don’t need to be too aggressive with your investments.

Find out how the adviser is paid. Figure out whether you are more comfortable with an adviser who charges you an hourly fee or a percentage of your overall assets.

[Bookmark the U.S. News Retirement site for more planning ideas and advice.]

Take notes. Bring a notebook and a pen so you can write down everything your adviser is suggesting. Then you can go home and think about his or her suggestions before you decide what to do. The financial industry is filled with conflicts of interests and you need to do your due diligence. You have to make sure that you understand how these investment choices affect you.

Prepare a list of questions. Unless you can remember everything you will ever want to ask your adviser, I suggest taking the time to write it down. You are paying a financial adviser to answer your questions in the detail that you think is appropriate. When it comes to your own money, it's generally better to know more than to know less.

David Ning runs MoneyNing, a personal finance site aimed at helping others change their habits for a better financial future. He suggests that everyone to sign up for an online savings account to get more out of our hard earned money.