By Michael Donahoe, CFP®
These days we have more options than ever available to us. Whether it’s choosing a movie to watch on Netflix or finding a dentist, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and have doubts about your decision. When it comes to choosing a financial advisor, the stakes couldn’t be higher. How do you know they have your best interest in mind? How do you know if they’re a good fit for your personality and background?
The financial advisor you choose will make a drastic difference in your investment strategy, the fees you pay, and your overall confidence in your financial future. To make sure your financial needs are met and you feel at ease, it’s imperative to take your time to find the right advisor for you. So, when you start your advisor search, ask potential candidates the following 10 questions.
1. Are You a Fiduciary?
There’s a reason this is the first question—its importance cannot be overstated! An advisor who serves as a fiduciary accepts a responsibility to put his or her clients’ interests first and foremost in all decisions. A fiduciary is legally required to avoid conflicts of interest and remain unbiased in their recommendations and advice.
How can you know for certain that an advisor you’re interviewing is a fiduciary? The firm will either be listed as a Registered Investment Advisor or the advisors on the team will hold certifications that hold them to the fiduciary standard, such as the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Chartered Financial Analyst®, or Certified Public Accountant professional designations. Keep in mind, if the advisor doesn’t fit those descriptions, they may still act as a fiduciary in certain situations, like sharing a recommendation, but not necessarily when selling products.
Harvest Asset Group is a Registered Investment Advisory firm and abides by the fiduciary standard of professional conduct. We believe in transparency and honesty, doing what we say and finishing what we start—all for your benefit.
2. Do You Hold Any Credentials?
We take credentials seriously, and we think you should too. Credentials and education play a critical role in your advisor’s competence. There are hundreds of designations in the financial services field, and some are more applicable to your needs than others.
Personally, I have the CFP® certification, which stands for CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. This designation requires comprehensive education and experience. As a firm, we pursue education and credentials because of how dedicated we are to providing unparalleled client service.
Use a designation-check database to learn more about the credentials financial advisors can earn, and ask the advisors you are researching what they do to continually hone their skills and stay up to date in the industry.
3. What Is Your Planning and Investment Philosophy?
It’s important to work with an advisor who shares a planning and investing philosophy similar to your own. Does your advisor stick to a scientific, evidence-based approach? Do they believe in buy-and-hold or do they move to cash when the market looks shaky? Talk with an advisor about how they guide clients’ investing and financial decisions.
At Harvest Asset Group, we know that a sound asset allocation strategy is a key way you can turn your wealth into new ways to live your best life. Our investment strategies are customized to your unique goals and needs so you can maximize your growth while protecting your wealth.
4. How Much Do You Charge?
Financial planning and investment costs can be confusing. And too often financial advisors don’t readily disclose their fees. As fee-only advisors, our clients always know what they’re paying and what they’re receiving for their money. We want our clients to feel comfortable with their strategies and confident there are no hidden fees eating away at their hard-earned savings.
5. Who Do You Serve?
Some financial advisors focus on serving a specific demographic or level of investable assets, so you’ll want to find this out before choosing an advisor. Why is this important? Because you deserve advice and services tailored to your unique needs. Harvest Asset Group focuses on meeting the wealth management needs of physicians and pre-retirees. We know the unique challenges of both demographics and have fine-tuned our services to better meet the needs of those two groups.
6. Who Else On Your Team Will Be Working With Me?
At some firms, you may work with multiple financial advisors depending on your appointment time or needs, which doesn’t give you the time to really build a strong client-advisor relationship. How can you trust that a financial advisor you have barely ever met has your best interest in mind? At Harvest, we don’t have a massive team of advisors, which means we can spend a lot of time getting to know our clients and their goals, and we strive to put your dreams at the heart of your financial plan.
7. What Financial Planning Services Do You Offer?
Not all financial advisors can provide comprehensive financial planning. Some cannot sell insurance or securities, such as mutual funds or stocks, if they don’t have the appropriate licenses. Ask a financial advisor what services they provide, whether or not they have a focus, and if they offer a broad spectrum of solutions to meet your needs. When creating a plan together, be sure to ask your advisor why they are recommending particular services and solutions over others. Our comprehensive services include retirement planning, asset management, cash flow analysis, estate planning, tax strategies, lending coordination, philanthropic strategies, divorce planning, executive benefits optimizations, and more.
8. What Sets You Apart From Other Financial Advisors?
We know you have plenty of options to choose from, but there are a few things we do differently:
- Our firm has been around for over 17 years. Over the years, we have created proven and reliable systems and processes that we use to help our clients work toward their goals.
- Our advice is tailored to you. We don’t give pat answers but do the legwork to get to know you, your situation, your dreams, and your challenges. As a wealthy individual with a unique career, our specialized touch can make all the difference.
- We build our client relationships on integrity, dependability, and accountability. We are passionate about what we do, and confident in how we do it.
9. Do You Offer a Client Portal?
We believe it’s important to see the big picture and all the moving parts of your financial life. When you decide to work with us, you will have access to SEI, our qualified custodian, where we hold all our clients’ assets. You’ll receive a login where you can see all your accounts in one place, view performance reports, and check your financial plan documents. You can access these platforms through our website or by downloading the apps.
10. How Can I Know if Your Firm Is Right for Me?
When selecting your advisor, the relationship should feel right and you should never feel pressured to make a decision quickly. We offer a complimentary consultation, where you can ask questions, evaluate our processes and services, determine if our personality is a good fit, and give you the information you need to make an informed decision.
Don’t Rush Into Anything
An advisor should be happy to answer these questions and any others you may have about how they operate. If you don’t know where to start, ask friends and family for referrals to set you down the right path.
We at Harvest Asset Group believe in complete transparency and want our clients to feel comfortable working with us and asking questions. If you’d like to learn more about our answers to these questions or any others you may have, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at (207) 775-1151 or email us at email@example.com. And get access to our best financial insights and tips by signing up for our valued-packed newsletter.
Michael Donahoe is the founder and principal of Harvest Asset Group, LLC, an independent, fee-only financial planning and investment management advisory firm in Portland, Maine. Michael enjoyed a successful corporate career in marketing and sales before transitioning to the financial planning profession, founding his firm in 2012, where he now leads the client services team and serves as the firm’s chief compliance officer. Michael earned his MBA degree from George Washington University and completed his educational requirements to earn the CFP® mark of distinction at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a Fee-Only and NAPFA registered financial advisor, a designation which followed the completion of rigorous continuing education requirements. Michael has lived in the Portland area since relocating from San Francisco in 1995 to be closer to family. He is active in community affairs and spends his non-working time enjoying the natural beauty of Maine.