What to think about as you prepare to meet with an advisor for the first time.
“Every journey begins with a single step” is a popular phrase because it relates to so many milestones that people encounter in life. Pursuing higher education, starting a new job or career, getting married or striving to buy your first home are just some of the journeys that you may have already taken or plan to undertake. And before any journey, you’ll probably want to prepare for it by seeking the advice of people who have already made a similar journey. Investing in your financial future is no different.
If you’ve taken the important first step towards seeking professional advice on how to achieve your financial goals, then your journey is underway. Now that you’ve arranged to meet with an advisor for the first time, doing some groundwork can help prepare you to talk about creating the best plan for you and your family.
Even the most knowledgeable investors work with advisors. Facing the fact that you can’t possibly know everything is just one of many reasons that underline the value of advice. But at the same time, it pays to educate yourself about the concepts, products and terminology that are at the root of the decisions and strategies that your advisor will ultimately recommend. A simple online search can point to resources that can improve your understanding of financial matters. For instance, this article explains financial jargon in simple terms.
As you are doing your research, take the opportunity to jot down any questions or comments you want to raise. Your advisor will happily offer their insights and can provide you with other helpful resources on specific topics that interest you.
Know the basics
Your advisor will need to understand your financial status, which is a lot like answering questions about your personal health when you visit a doctor. You can expect an advisor to ask about some basics, such as your total household pre-tax income. You should have a good sense of the amount of money you already have in various savings and investment accounts, including any Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) and, perhaps, Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) for your children.
There’s also the matter of debt: mortgage, loans, and credit card payments, as well as any other outstanding balances connected to unpaid taxes or goods purchased on a layaway plan. The difference between your household debt and the combined value of your savings and investments is where your advisor will want to begin. Record the figures beforehand, in a format that you can easily refer to when asked. Consider using this household budget worksheet to get started.
Consider your goals
The business relationship between advisors and clients is all about achieving your goals, together. Therefore, be prepared to participate in an open, honest and detailed discussion about what your goals are. They don’t have to be limited to financial targets but can be expanded to include how your finances can be fine-tuned to help you achieve other goals in your life. Perhaps you’re thinking about going back to school, starting a family, buying a property, planning your retirement or starting a business.
Advisors understand how life goals relate to managing your money over the long term and can suggest different strategies that can help you achieve what’s important to you. You can also expect your advisor to explain to your satisfaction all the fees associated with specific products and services.
This short video can help explain the link between your goals and your finances.
Understand your risk tolerance
Although there are a few investment products available on the market that come with a guaranteed return, nearly everything else involves a certain amount of risk. A big part of finding comfort with your investment decisions will depend on understanding your risk tolerance level, whether it’s high, low or moderate. The question is, how do you feel about the prospect of losing any amount of money?
The key is to know how much of a loss is too much and how much risk you’re willing to take in exchange for the possibility of receiving larger returns on your investments. An advisor will use this information to build a profile that will guide decisions on which type of investments and strategies are compatible with the level of risk you’re willing to bear.
Don’t overlook the opportunity to have your advisor explain the potential risks of different strategies. Generally, the more risk you’re willing to take, the more potential value there may be in return. But it’s important to remember that each investment will not react the same way under the same circumstances, which is why diversifying investments that take advantage of short-, medium- and long-term growth may be the most sensible approach to begin with.
Explore your insurance needs
Choosing a life insurance policy is a wise decision meant to provide some financial security for loved ones in the event of a serious illness, disability or death. But all insurance policies are not the same. In fact, they differ significantly in terms of the length and extent of coverage, the breadth of benefits and costs. Preparing to speak with an advisor about the best insurance options before purchasing any coverage can ensure that your needs, and those of people who depend on you, will be taken care of properly.
For more information on different types of insurance, check out this article.
Build a lasting legacy
By the time you reach the end of your lifetime, it’s highly likely that you will have accumulated a broad mix of assets. Your bank accounts and investments, property and possessions can all become part of your estate to be shared among the beneficiaries you identify, such as family members and organizations. While death is never an easy subject, it makes perfect sense to think about the legacy you want to leave behind in the ways in which you intend.
When it comes to discussing estate planning with your advisor, come prepared with your thoughts on some critical questions:
- Who do you want to receive your assets (your beneficiaries) after you die?
- Who might be responsible for paying your debts, taxes and expenses?
- Who will care for your children or aging parents?
- How will your estate be protected in the event of a divorce?
- Who do you wish to make decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to?
More information on estate planning is available here.
The benefit of advice
There’s a lot to consider when you begin to formulate multiple aspects of a financial plan that could include wealth accumulation, insurance, retirement, children’s education, estate planning, taxation, charitable giving and other mechanisms that can build a brighter future for you and your family. Advisors provide value by bringing facts to the table, supported by their educated insights and advice, which can help you through any economic scenario, both in good times and bad. Advisors may also be of assistance by connecting you with a network of other professionals, such as lawyers and accountants, for matters that extend beyond their expertise.
After you’ve established a working relationship with your advisor, keep the conversation going during regularly scheduled touchpoints throughout the year to review and, if necessary, alter your portfolio and address any issues of interest or concern. Advisors have your best interests in mind – and the knowledge to guide you through the challenges that will inevitably arise as you pursue your goals.
Of course, perhaps you have yet to take the first step toward contacting and meeting with an advisor. You can start by putting the word out among friends and colleagues for recommendations or get in touch with your preferred financial institution to help get the ball rolling. Until then, your journey awaits.