When you have questions about investment planning or wealth management, it makes sense to visit your trusted wealth advisor. After all, they have specialized education, experience and knowledge about financial matters — that's what makes them experts.
That said, there are a few things every savvy investor should understand about financial management, even before visiting an investment professional.
Here are four facts your wealth management advisor wants you to know.
All Investment Professionals are Not Created Equal
Did you know that anyone can call themselves a financial advisor, hang a sign over a storefront and start dispensing financial advice? It's pretty scary to consider taking advice about your financial future from someone with an unknown, unregulated background — but there isn't a regulatory body that oversees people who call themselves "financial advisors."
That's why it's so important to vet your wealth advisor's education and certifications. In most cases, we recommend working with a fee only financial advisor. Professional certifications that denote certain levels of education, expertise and oversight include:
- Certified Financial Planner or CFP™
- Certified Financial Analyst®
- Accredited Investment Fiduciary™
- Accredited Fiduciary Investment Manager™
Financial Planning Tools Include Understanding Fees
Understanding exactly how much your investments cost in terms of fees and expenses is also a basic financial planning tool that every investor should possess. For instance, that annual fee may seem low, but in reality, may reduce your returns significantly over time. Similarly, the costs associated with selling and buying stocks may eat away at your returns.
If you're not working with a fee only advisor, you're likely paying commissions. Not only could this reduce your returns, but it may also bias the investment guidance you receive, depending on how much commission an investment professional receives for certain products. That's why we recommend fee only advisors who have the fiduciary duty to place their clients' best
interests above their own.
Insist on receiving clear, complete information about how an investment professional is compensated, as well as what your annual fees will be. If you don't get a straight answer, that's a big warning sign.
Don't Base Wealth Strategies on the Financial Media
While the latest big stock recommended by talking heads in the financial media may be more exciting than, say, investing in an index fund, profits aren't the only key to financial success. Rather, successful wealth strategies tend to concentrate on:
- determining your own personal financial goals;
- setting up strategies that align with your time horizon and risk tolerance level;
- mitigating risk where possible through diversification; and
- focusing on the financial decisions you can control, such as spending less and saving more.
Lifestyle Choices and Your Comprehensive Financial Plan
Speaking of saving and spending, the choices you make every day impact your financial health and future more than you may realize. While it's nice to have a new car each year, perhaps last year's model can last a bit longer. Maybe that big house is too big, and the generic brand tastes just as good as the name brand. Perhaps going to visit the grandkids in the next state would be just as great a vacation as that luxury cruise.
Tracking spending decisions, creating and sticking to a realistic budget, and really taking a hard look at spending and saving habits can go a long way toward helping you meet your financial goals. Remember, your wealth advisor is here to help, but in the end, it's your money. Knowing these four essential basics can help you truly take charge of your financial future.