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Checklist: 9 Questions Every Advisor Should Be Able to Answer

Whatever your priorities, this can help you find someone who understands you and has the resources to help you manage your financial life

AT ONE TIME OR ANOTHER, WE ALL face major turning points in our lives—getting married, becoming a parent, receiving a life-changing promotion, getting ready to retire. At times like these, many people feel a need for financial help, and start to wonder whether working with a financial advisor might make sense. That's when the search begins.

The challenge is finding someone you'll feel comfortable talking to about the most personal things—your family, your money, your hopes for your future. Someone who'll be there for you for years to come, and who can provide more than just stock recommendations.

To find an advisor who can help you with those decisions, don't be afraid to ask the following tough questions—they'll help you get a clear idea of what you can expect from the relationship and whether it makes sense for you.

1. What types of clients do you work with?
Some advisors have special experience working with business owners or members of a specific profession. Others might have particular knowledge in a specialty, such as sustainable investing or retirement planning. Ask what team members or resources from around their company they can call upon to help you meet your specific needs.

The challenge is finding someone you'll feel comfortable talking to about the most personal things—your family, your money, your hopes for your future.

2. What is your track record?
No advisor can or should promise financial results based on past performance. And beware those who do. But an advisor with a record of long relationships with clients likely provides the kind of service that earns their loyalty.

3. How often will we talk?
An advisor should be committed to conversations in person, by phone, or online—whatever your preference is—as often as you require. Every client has different needs and expectations. Be upfront with the advisor about how frequently and by what means you would like to get together to discuss your finances.

4. How realistic are my goals?
Even if you have a strong idea of what you want to accomplish with your money, the right advisor can help you better understand and prioritize your goals, including making any necessary tradeoffs based on your finances, timelines and investing preferences.

5. How will we keep my strategy on course?
Even the best strategy will need adjusting as financial markets and your goals change. An advisor should have a plan for regular reviews and the ability to correct as market conditions and your priorities shift.

6. What happens if the markets are volatile? Will you call me?
When markets get scary, there's nothing worse than feeling isolated and alone. One of an advisor's most vital functions is to reach out at such times, hear your concerns, offer perspective, and talk about any needed adjustments to your strategy.

7. What if I'm upset about a service issue or an investment?
As life becomes increasingly automated, there's nothing like a human voice and quick response when you're concerned about a financial matter. Advisors who define their success by your success will be eager to quickly resolve any such issues.

8. Who will I actually be working with?
Many advisors have teams of professionals to enhance the services they provide. Ask who you'd be working with on a regular basis and their level of experience. Beyond the immediate team, does the company supporting them have access to a broad array of financial insights and resources?

9. How do I pay you for your work?
It's never easy to ask, but the right advisors will welcome this question. Clarity about fees is vital to a successful relationship. Payment—whether a percentage of assets or per transaction—should be structured around your needs and preferences.

What Can an Advisor Do for You?
Watch "Making the Leap" to see how one couple – with the help of their advisor – built a business while keeping their retirement goals in sight. For more first-hand stories, visit "Working with Us."

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