What to Look for in a Financial Advisor

Written By: Zac Beckerley, Wealth Manager | Partner

You are probably thinking, how is Merit Financial Advisors, a firm with wealth advisors going to tell me what to look for in a wealth advisor? Wouldn’t they just point me in the direction of their firm? Well, of course, but first we want to tell you, the answer is simple – not all advisors are created equally.

Finding a wealth advisor to work with could be one of the most important financial decisions you will make. Partnering with the right one can reduce stress and help you build a more secure future.

Many people think all financial advisors are “certified” but this is not entirely true. Just about anyone can use the title “Financial Advisor” or “Financial Planner”. Only those who have fulfilled the CFP Board’s stringent requirements can call themselves a CFP® professional or Certified Financial Planner.

The truth is, finding an advisor is a lot like dating. You have to find someone with traits you want in your life for a long time. Don’t settle on just anyone. You have worked hard for your money and your advisor should understand that. Here are 7 key traits we think are important when looking for an advisor.

  1. Competence: Look for an advisor who is well-educated, current in his or her qualifications, and able to demonstrate a significant amount of experience.
  2. Objectivity: Your financial advisor should consider your situation carefully, then give you advice that best pursues your goals. This approach may require your advisor to explain that your goals are unrealistic, given current resources and financial commitments. Open and honest communication, whether the message is positive or negative is key!
  3. Integrity: Trust is central to any successful relationship. You rely on your advisor’s honesty, professionalism, and abilities to pursue your goals. When you know your advisor takes his or her duties and responsibilities seriously and places principles over personal gain, you can form a good working partnership.
  4. Clarity: Fair treatment means your advisor will clearly state what services will be provided and cost. Your advisor should explain the risks associated with their financial recommendations, along with any potential conflicts of interest. Fees, liquidity, market risks, etc. should always be addressed!
  5. Diligence: A diligent financial advisor should reasonably investigate the products or services they recommend and closely supervise any staff working with you.
  6. Compliance: You will want to make sure your advisor is not providing financial planning services and investment advice unless they are properly qualified and licensed to do so, as required by state or federal law. You might want to do a bit of a background check on your prospective advisor. The Financial Industry Regulation Authority, or FINRA, provides an online tool at finra.org/ which can help with this. Several other resources, such as state insurance agencies, the CFP® board, etc., also provide useful tools.
  7. Privacy: Your advisor is required to keep this information in confidence, only sharing it to conduct business on your behalf, at your consent or when ordered to do so by the courts.

At the end of the day, we hope everyone finds an advisor who they can trust to assist them. If we are not already working with you, Merit Financial Advisors would love to serve you!

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