Five Questions to Ask a Financial Adviser. Today. I Mean Right Now.

“He was annoyed with me after awhile. He said I asked too many questions.”


It’s tough for me to imagine speaking these words to a client or anyone seeking guidance. I wouldn’t have the guts. Or the hubris.

Or the stupidity.

I wonder about (and I’m thankful) for complacency among some advisers. It allows me to continue to gain thoughtful, inquisitive clients who never feel that I’m annoyed by a passion to learn.

The noblest efforts we undertake as trusted financial partners are to listen, answer questions, validate good behaviors, empower improvement and communicate effectively to our audience.

How does a prospective client – One who has a genuine curiosity in her finances, a successful saver and investor, ask “too many questions?”

If you’ve been with an adviser long enough to feel comfortable together, or maybe you’re exploring a new financial relationship, asking questions should be encouraged.

There’s no such concept as “asking too many questions.” You query enough to satisfy your need for information requested. I’ve noticed how the more self-aware an individual is about their financial situation, the more questions that arise.

There’s no reason to feel intimated or stifled.

You’ve earned the right (and the money).

Be bold.

Frankly, investors are not inquisitive enough.

It’s time to ask the five questions: It would be a mistake not to.

1). What common mistakes should I avoid during my employer benefits enrollment period? Go ahead. Pick an adviser’s brain. Most important is to fully understand the importance of the disability and life insurance options available to you. Insurance is a topic employees tend to overlook. An adviser can help you narrow down how much coverage is required. According to the Social Security Administration, roughly 100 million workers are without disability insurance coverage. Astounding.

2). Should I opt for a high-deductible healthcare plan tied to a Health Savings Account? Depending on the health of your family, your history of seeking medical care, your tax bracket, it’s worth considering a healthcare plan with a higher deductible and to shelter pre-tax dollars into a Health Savings Account. The money set aside in a HSA can be used to pay the high deductible tax free and the remaining balance can accumulate tax-deferred every year (unlike a Flexible Savings Account which is more “use it or lose it.”) In addition, since an HSA is cost effective to administer, your employer most likely will contribute a specific dollar amount to bolster your HSA savings. For 2014, the HSA total contribution limit is $3,300 for individual, $6,550 for family. Tack on an additional $1,000 if you’re 55 or older.

3). Is it a good time to rebalance my portfolio? How? Seek to understand if and how an adviser actually follows a plan to sell high and buy low in a portfolio (which for most investors, is very difficult to do on their own). A strategy to rebalance on a regular basis is crucial to manage portfolio risk. Rebalancing will make you queasy: Selling what’s hot and purchasing what’s cold works against what your gut advises you to do. Begin with your 401(k) or retirement account first since there are no tax implications for trimming winners.

4). How do you incorporate my spouse, life partner and children in your planning for me? You don’t exist in a vacuum. An adviser should maintain a holistic approach to financial planning and that includes communicating with loved ones and teaching children how to be better stewards of money. The meetings, communication must be ongoing. At least annually.

5). What are your interests outside of investing? For me it’s writing, movies, short getaways. An adviser must seek balance to maintain perspective (and health). Additional questions – What kind of movies do you like? How about the books you read? Are you accessible on vacation? can arise. For me, clients are accessible to me when I’m on vacation. It’s a personal standard of service. If your adviser isn’t available, seek to understand who is during vacation time.

Questions are an integral part of any relationship. As a friend recently taught me – not asking them in a timely fashion can create resentment and anger.

nosy You’re not being nosy.

You’re no nag.

You’re seeking information to make an informed decision.

About a topic close to your heart.

Financial well being.

No questions asked.

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