By Scott Hamilton
Looking for a financial advisor can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack: frustrating and seemingly impossible. There are so many options that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and avoid the endeavor altogether. How do you know which advisor will be the right fit for your situation or personality? How do you know if you’ll like them or work well with them?
The financial professional you choose to handle your family’s wealth will have a significant impact on your investment strategy, the fees you pay, and your confidence in your financial future. This is not a decision to take lightly. That’s why it’s crucial to take your time to find an advisor that meets your needs and makes you feel at ease. Use these 10 questions to find an advisor that works for you.
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.
Hamilton Financial Planning is a registered investment advisory firm and abides by the fiduciary standard of professional conduct. I believe in transparency and honesty, doing what I say and finishing what I start—all for your benefit.
2. Do You Hold Any Credentials?
I take credentials seriously, and I 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. (1)
Personally, I am a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, which recognizes the knowledge and experience I have to help people navigate the full scope of the financial planning process. The CFP® certification requires comprehensive education and experience. I pursue education and credentials because of how dedicated I am 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 investment 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 Hamilton Financial Planning, I know that a sound investment strategy is a key factor in creating a confident financial future. That’s why I use Dimensional Fund Advisors. Through their time-tested strategies and proven investment performance, I know my clients are receiving a systematic approach to investing they can count on. Not only that, but our investment strategies are customized to your unique goals and needs so you can maximize your growth while safeguarding 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 a fee-only advisor, my clients always know what they’re paying and what they’re receiving for their money. I want my clients to feel comfortable with their strategies and confident that there are no hidden fees eating away at their hard-earned savings.
My refreshingly affordable take on financial planning consists of two fee structures that provide the flexibility my clients need. I will either charge an hourly fee for creating and implementing a financial plan, or I will charge based on Assets Under Management (AUM) if you decide to invest with me and engage in full wealth management. There are no other hidden costs from my firm and I don’t earn money through commissions.
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.
Most of my clients are either getting ready to retire or just retired, which means they don’t have the same financial concerns as younger families just starting out. Many of them work in the oil and gas industries and need help navigating highly concentrated investment positions.
At Hamilton Financial Planning, my experience in these areas allows me to give you the advice that will make the most difference in your life.
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, while other firms may pair you up with one financial advisor with whom you’ll work one-on-one. This is important to know so you can meet the other team members with whom you might be collaborating.
At Hamilton Financial Planning, I will be your main point of contact to offer you the highest level of service. I spend a lot of time getting to know my clients and their goals, and I 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 which 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.
At Hamilton Financial Planning, my comprehensive services include hourly financial planning and full wealth management. I cover important areas of your financial life, including cash flow planning, education planning, estate planning, retirement planning, portfolio management, risk management, tax planning, and more.
8. What Sets You Apart From Other Financial Advisors?
I know you have plenty of options to choose from, but there are a few things Hamilton Financial Planning does differently:
- I have over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. Over the years, I have created proven and reliable systems and processes that I use to help my clients work toward their goals.
- I offer hourly financial planning services. This is a rarity in the financial services industry and I offer this service with pride. My goal is to help as many clients as I can, regardless of the assets they bring over for management.
- My advice is tailored to you. I don’t give pat answers but do the legwork to get to know you, your situation, your dreams, and your challenges. As someone in the oil and gas industry, my specialized touch can make all the difference to your long-term financial plan.
- I build my client relationships on integrity, dependability, and accountability. I am passionate about what I do, and confident in how I do it.
9. Do You Offer a Client Portal?
I believe it’s important to see the big picture and all the moving parts of your financial life. When you decide to work with me, you will have access to TD Ameritrade, my qualified custodian, where I hold all of my clients’ assets. You’ll also receive a login to eMoney and Advyzon 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. I offer a complimentary consultation, during which you can ask questions, evaluate my processes and services, determine if my 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.
At Hamilton Financial Planning, I believe in complete transparency and want my clients to feel comfortable working with me and asking questions. If you’d like to learn more about my answers to these questions (or any others), don’t hesitate to reach out to me at 512-261-0808 or click here to schedule a complimentary get-acquainted meeting online.
Scott Hamilton is founder and chief financial officer at Hamilton Financial Planning, a wealth management firm that specializes in providing comprehensive financial planning for retirees. With over 20 years of experience in the financial industry, and having completed over 250 financial plans for retirees across all industries, but mostly the oil and gas industry, Scott is passionate about providing his clients with the tools and insight they need to achieve their financial goals. He has a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance from Texas State University and an MBA in international finance from Pepperdine University. Scott has also been happily married to his wife, Gayle, for over 25 years. To learn more about Scott, connect with him on LinkedIn.