A Good start is everything
Whether you’ve worked with a financial professional before or it's your first time, being prepared for your initial meeting can be helpful in getting the financial planning process — and your professional relationship — off to a good start.
1. Prepare a list of questions you may have for the financial professional.
If you are unsure about fees, what services you’ll receive, how the relationship will work or anything else, write them down. Your initial meeting is the ideal time to get your questions answered.
2. Think about your priorities for your financial future and your life in general.
What are your financial goals? What are your values? What matters most to you in life? Where do you see yourself in a year? Five years? Twenty years? What are your hopes and concerns regarding your finances now and in the future? Be prepared to discuss the answers to these and similar questions with the financial professional.
3. A financial professional will have specific questions for you in order to learn where you are in terms of your financial journey. Be honest. Holding back or providing partial information will prevent him or her from fully understanding your financial situation and goals. The following are examples of some of the kinds of questions to expect:
- Have you ever worked with a financial professional before? If yes, how did you feel about the experience?
- Why do you think you need the help of a financial professional?
- Was there a recent event or change in your life that caused you to seek out a financial professional — or do you anticipate one in the near future?
- What have you been doing to secure your financial future?
- Do you feel like you’re making progress towards your goals or is something holding you back?
- Do you have concerns about family members or significant others that may affect your financial future?
- Have you thought about when you’d like to retire and what you like to do next? If you’re already retired, do you have any concerns about your money lasting or what happens to it once you’re gone? Have you thought about your “legacy”?
4. Gather any documentation that will help summarize your financial situation. That includes bank statements, insurance policies, pay stubs, statements for 401(K) plans and retirement plans, legal documents such as wills and prenuptial agreements, and tax returns. Be sure to include documents that show your liabilities as well, including mortgages, credit card accounts and lines of credit. If you can provide these materials to the financial professional at your meeting in both hard copy and digital format, all the better. Don’t hesitate to ask in advance for a specific list.
What to expect at the meeting
Every financial professional does things his or her own way, so there’s no standard “first meeting” format. However, there are certain things that may be covered. A financial professional will briefly summarize what he or she plans to do for you. Be prepared to discuss how often you’d like to meet, how you’d like to communicate with each other, and how you’d like to work together. You’ll also review and sign any relevant paperwork. If you don’t understand anything, ask.
Expect the financial professional to ask questions to get a clearer understanding of your financial situation and goals. You may be asked to complete a survey or questionnaire that will provide more insights. Always be honest and thorough. The financial professional may also want to take some time to get to know you personally. You should do the same. Feeling comfortable with him or her will be important in maintaining a beneficial relationship.
You and the financial professional may review any documentation you brought. If there are items you didn’t bring, jot down notes so you can follow up. If you have questions, ask them. You need to feel that you fully understand what a financial professional can and will do for you, how the relationship will work, and whatever else is necessary to have a high level of comfort with and confidence in the financial professional.
A financial professional may wrap up the initial meeting with some initial thoughts on strategy or discuss next steps.
After the meeting
Follow up on any outstanding tasks the financial professional gave you. If this is your first time delving into financial planning and investing — and you have the time and interest — you may want to start increasing your financial literacy. Doing so can help increase your understanding of your investment and financial planning options, as well as your comfort level in discussing them. You’ll find a variety of useful resources online. A good place to start is the website for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). You can also take advantage of the tools and resources we have created for you.