Your financial ally: Working with a financial professional

A financial professional reviewing a financial plan with her client.

Putting together a financial strategy can be complicated, and the sheer volume of information out there makes it easy to get overwhelmed. 

A financial professional or advisor can help you cut through the confusion, zero in on your goals, and create a personalized strategy to help you achieve your dreams.

Start your financial planning with a sigh of relief.

A financial professional can help take the pressure off and help you:

  • Assess your current financial situation
  • Set realistic goals for the short and long term
  • Create a financial strategy to help plan for the future you want
  • Take clear, specific steps to put your plan into action
  • Avoid emotional decision-making when life throws curve balls

It’s all about finding the right fit.

For something as personal as your finances, it’s crucial to choose a financial professional whose experience and approach you trust.

Start by asking for recommendations from people you know and trust, and then select a few candidates to interview for the job. Asking some specific questions can help you assess whether they’re the right choice for you.

  1. How long have you been working as a financial professional?
    The longer someone has been in the business, the more insights they may have. On the other hand, someone with less experience but more recent education and training may be more open to new products and strategies.
     
  2. What are your credentials?
    A financial professional should have the appropriate insurance licenses and securities registrations. Beyond that, there are several professional designations they may have, including Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU®), Certified Financial PlannerTM (CFP®) or Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC®).
     
  3. What kinds of financial solutions do you have access to?
    It's important to have access to a broad range of solutions, because you'll likely have different financial needs during your life—saving for retirement, saving for college, life and disability insurance, and so on.
     
  4. What's your process?
    Financial professionals who have a very brief, narrow process for creating a financial strategy may just be trying to sell you a product. You need someone who will take the time to look at your whole financial picture and create a comprehensive strategy for the future.
     
  5. What are your fees?
    As your financial professional works with you to help meet your financial goals, be sure to understand how he or she is compensated for the value brought to the process.

Maximize your time by being prepared.

Once you’ve chosen your financial professional or advisor, you’ll likely set up an introductory meeting.

A few easy steps can help ensure you have all the right information on hand and your questions and concerns organized ahead of time:

  1. Ask what to bring.
    Your financial professional or advisor may give you a specific checklist. If not, ask him or her what you should bring. Examples may include:
  • Recent financial statements (checking and savings accounts, stocks, mutual funds, 529 plans and so on)
  • A list of assets and debts
  • Your most recent Social Security statement
  • Insurance policies (such as life and disability insurance)
  • Your most recent tax return
  • A list of employee benefits (retirement plans, insurance, etc.)
     
  1. Jot down some notes about your goals.
    Your financial professional or advisor needs to understand you and your goals for the future. He or she can help define specific financial benchmarks to get there, but it helps to have an idea of what you’d like to discuss or consider.
     
  2. Write down any questions or concerns.
    Whether you have a lot of specific questions or just a few things you want more information about, it's a good idea to write them down beforehand. Any financial issues—from minor questions to keeping-you-up-at-night dilemmas—are up for discussion.
     
  3. Ask about next steps
    Before you leave the meeting, make sure you understand what you need to do next. Your financial professional or advisor may need you to collect more information on your finances, for example, or review some initial recommendations. Your plan will come together faster if you're both on the same page.

And of course, if you’re ready to search for a financial professional or advisor in your area, Principal can help.

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