A financial planner shares 3 ways to get the most from your adviser

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  • No matter how your financial planner bills you, every client deserves outstanding service. However, there are a few things a client can do to get the most from their financial professional.
  • Asking questions and remaining engaged in the financial planning process are two important ways to get the most from your planner and grow your money.
  • Being transparent and open about your relationship with money and your financial reality also helps your planner offer the best advice.
  • SmartAsset’s free tool can find a financial planner to help you take control of your money »

Depending on compensation structure, there are several ways a client can make payments to a financial planner. No matter what the service model is, though, clients deserve and should expect to get outstanding value.

It is definitely a planner’s responsibility to serve his or her clients, but the client can also take certain steps, which can help ensure success.

Here are three ways clients can get the most from their financial planner.

Ask questions

One goal at my firm is for every client to become more knowledgeable about money and truly have an understanding of how the decisions they make impact their financial lives going forward. I encourage clients to continuously ask questions throughout a financial planning relationship. 

Yes, the planner is being paid for their expertise and ability to handle concerns, but it is just as important for a client to understand why specific recommendations are being made. Also, the types of questions asked can reveal to your planner what is truly valuable or most concerning, which should always be the primary focus. 

These opportunities to provide answers benefit both parties in the relationship. Clients become more informed and feel valued because their voice was heard. Planners continue to earn trust and sharpen their own financial planning skills. As a result, everyone has been empowered.

Stay engaged in the process

Many times, clients get involved with the financial planning process and are very responsive at the start of a relationship, providing them much benefit. The key is to continue this strong commitment throughout the time working together, which could potentially be many years. 

Generally, planners maintain some type of service/communication calendar for their clients, but ultimately, it is the client’s individual decision on how much contact provides value to them and what they want to do. 

Be transparent

For various reasons, it can be very difficult for a client to share all aspects of their financial life. Some clients might feel embarrassed, whereas others could have issues with trusting someone else. Due to these potential barriers, planners should take the responsibility to create an environment of effective communication. Once a client feels comfortable sharing, they should be open about what is really going on in their money situation and changes in life. 

At times, clients might just answer their planner’s questions, but not disclose exactly why they are doing certain things or have specific goals. Knowing the stories and reasons behind a client’s answers equips planners to serve them better.

Take this example. John received a legal settlement of $500,000 and wants to use it to help fund his retirement, which is at least 20 years from now. He hires Larry to specifically help him create an investment portfolio and manage these assets going forward. 

Given the time horizon until retirement, Larry’s recommendation consists of an aggressive asset allocation. John openly shares a story about his childhood with Larry. He explains that his father did not have favorable experiences with planners, which has created a level of fear in John. Taking this into account, Larry changes his investment recommendation to one with less risk. He and John agree that a moderately aggressive allocation would be a much better option.

Martin A. Scott, CFP, is the founder and financial planner of Lasting Wealth Principles, a fee-only comprehensive financial planning firm.

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