How to prepare for your first meeting with a financial professional
Ready to take your financial plan to the next level with some outside help? Whether you’re just starting out or deeply invested, working with a financial professional can help you make sense of your finances, focus on your goals, and create a personal strategy to help you realize your dreams.
First things first: How to decide whether you need a financial professional
Working with someone who’s a pro at personal finance might feel a little intimidating. Here’s what to expect—and how you can get ready—to make the most of your meeting.
1. Prepare for open, honest conversation.
Your first meeting may be fairly basic, depending on how much information you’ve shared up front. This meeting is more about getting to know each other.
“Be prepared for some potentially thought-provoking conversation,” says Heather Winston, assistant director of financial advice and planning at Principal®. “When we’re trying to understand how we can best support you and your goals, we may need to pry a little. This is just so we can provide guidance and a tailored course of action.”
Not ready to share your entire financial life with the pro? That’s fair, but the less information they have, the less complete their advice may be.
When we’re trying to understand how we can best support you and your goals, we may need to pry a little. This is just so we can provide guidance and a tailored course of action.”
Heather Winston, assistant director of financial advice and planning
2. Ask what to bring.
Your financial professional may give you a specific list of information to bring to your first meeting. If not, ask. Examples may include:
- recent financial statements (checking and savings accounts, stocks, mutual funds, 529 plans and so on),
- a list of your assets and debts,
- your most recent Social Security statement,
- insurance policies (such as life and disability insurance),
- your most recent tax return, and
- a list of employee benefits (retirement plans, insurance, etc.).
3. Think about your financial goals and priorities.
Your financial professional needs to understand you and your goals, so they can outline specific steps to meet them. Consider near-term goals (one to three years) as well as longer-term goals (four years or more).
“Don’t be concerned about whether you have the right goals written down,” Winston says. “What’s right for you is personal and unique.” Some thought starters:
- Saving more
- Getting spending under control
- Readying for big purchases
- Setting retirement timeframes
- Donating more to charity
- Taking care of loved ones
4. Write down your questions or concerns.
Any financial issues—from minor roadblocks to keeping-you-up-at-night dilemmas—are up for discussion. Maybe you want to reprioritize your budget, invest more, or review your retirement planning strategy. Jot down your thoughts beforehand to make sure you’re able to focus on what matters most to you.
5. Include key decision-makers in the conversation, if possible.
If you’re in a partnership, this can be an opportunity to review each other's spending and saving behaviors and make sure you’re on the same page. “I make the majority of the money decisions in my own home,” Winston says, “but when we’re talking about goals and priorities that impact us both, we both need to be there.”
6. Ask about next steps.
Before you leave the meeting, clarify next steps for each of you. Your financial professional may ask you to collect more information on your finances, for example, or review some initial recommendations. They may offer to send some notes from the dialogue to ensure they’ve captured the conversation correctly. Your plan will come together faster if you're both on the same page about who will do what and when.
- Ready to get started? Check with your HR contact to see if your company’s retirement savings plan offers financial professional services. Or, we can help you find one near you.
The subject matter in this communication is educational only and provided with the understanding that Principal® is not rendering legal, accounting, investment advice or tax advice. You should consult with appropriate counsel or other advisors on all matters pertaining to legal, tax, investment or accounting obligations and requirements.
Investment advisory products offered through Principal Advised Services, LLC. Principal Advised Services is a member of the Principal Financial Group®, Des Moines, IA 50392.