Money & Career

5 questions to ask a financial adviser

Author: Canadian Living

Money & Career

5 questions to ask a financial adviser

One of the key tools you can use to pay off your debt is expert advice -- because sometimes, you just can't do it by yourself. However, choosing a financial adviser to suit your needs can be a tricky task.

"It's not about what you ask, but how you ask," says Jeremy Kroll of A. Farber & Partners, a company that deals with debt solutions. "In a sense, you're interviewing a salesperson and you have to be sophisticated and probe to get deeper." Kroll has worked with people who want to find a suitable financial adviser but often don't know how. Here are five groups of questions he suggests asking before you commit.

1. Personal style
No, we don't mean advisers' outfits of choice, but their business approach. How do they start with a new client? Do they provide a comprehensive explanation about how they foresee your relationship, and are they willing to share information with you? "You're looking for a common sense approach that will work for you," says Kroll.

2. Qualifications
Don't be afraid to ask for financial advisers' qualifications. Do they have a relevant degree? Do they keep up to date on the latest laws and documentation? The industry is not regulated, so you want to be confident that your chosen adviser has the education to support her business.

Kroll also suggests asking for five references. "It's generally difficult for people to produce five references," he says. "Also, I would ask for the name of a former client. He might be more willing to speak about the adviser than those who are still involved."

3. Experience
After qualifications, the next set of questions should be about experience. Some of the questions to ask include:

• "How long have you been an adviser?" 

• "Where have you worked?" 

• "How often have you changed jobs?" 

• "What's your clients' demographic?"

"Ask him to rate himself, including his skills in tax planning, investment selection and retirement planning," Kroll says. He explains that by asking these questions you will get an idea of the adviser's strengths and weaknesses. For example, if he has a younger demographic but you're older, then his strength may not be in retirement planning.

4. Client count
Sometimes it's not good to just be part of the crowd. Ask advisers about their client and asset count. That means finding out how many clients they have and how much they have in assets.

Their answers may tell you where you will end up in their priorities. If they have a lot of clients, will you get the attention you want from them or will they push you off to a junior?

If the average amount of assets per client is higher than yours, will they take you seriously and devote the necessary time to your financial plans and goals?

5. The money, honey
Not yours, theirs. The final questions should be about their method of payment. Remember, nothing comes for free. By hiring an adviser, you will have to pay fees, even if they're hidden. Ask about their commission rate and about about what they're licensed to sell -- is it just mutual funds, or can they sell stocks, too?

Remember that it's your money, so you shouldn't feel weird about asking probing questions -- because an adviser will always get paid, even if you lose money. You've worked too hard to pull yourself out of debt and get on a successful financial path to lose it all because you were embarrassed about asking questions.

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