The hardest part of planning your financial future is knowing where to start.
You’ve already taken the first step by doing your due diligence and choosing a financial planner. Now is the time to meet with them to discuss your current situation and create a plan to help you achieve your goals. It’s natural to feel a little off guard because there are a lot of moving parts, and discussing your finances with someone new can be daunting, especially if you don’t know what questions to ask.
To get the most out of working with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, it helps to be prepared to discuss your financial situation. During your first meeting, it is common to discuss the financial planning process, the goals you would like to achieve and how your CFP® professional can help you achieve them. You should have some key information on hand and be ready with a few questions to ask your new advisor.
The steps below will help you build a successful relationship with your planner. They help your financial planner do their job by bringing a holistic, personalized approach to assessing and building your financial future in a way that brings together all the elements of your financial life.
Know what to expect from your advisor
Your CFP® professional will usually start by guiding you through the financial planning process. Then they will do a thorough review to assess your current financial situation and work with you to develop or refine your goals.
In subsequent meetings, your financial planner will use this context to create and discuss a personalized plan to help you achieve your goals. They will also guide you through the steps and help you track your progress over time.
Know what you don’t know
Often clients spend their first meeting with their planner over-explaining or justifying past financial decisions. Know that your CFP® professional is not there to judge you, only to help you.
To speed up your first conversation and put your mind at ease, you might want to learn about some of these issues beforehand:
- Understanding insurance and what your policies protect (and don’t)
- Creation and financing of an emergency account
- Know the difference between good and bad debt
- Consider your estate planning needs
Collect key information
To plan your financial future, you need to share an accurate picture of your current financial situation.
You can help your CFP® professional understand your current situation by bringing the following documents and information to your meeting, in addition to any documents or questionnaires they may have sent to you in advance:
- Savings and investment statements.
- Revenues and expenditures.
- Statements of mortgages and other debts.
- Insurance and estate planning documents.
- Benefits information.
- Social Security benefits and retirement (if near or retired).
It is not necessary to provide all these details immediately, but a rough estimate of your income, your investments and your debts will help you to assess the extent of the work required.
Identify your goals
Start thinking about your short and long term goals and have a clear expectation of their attendance at the meeting. Be prepared to answer the following questions:
- Do you hope to retire soon?
- Are you saving for a major milestone in your life, like buying a house or financing a wedding?
- Will you participate in the financing of your child’s studies?
- Do you have an emergency fund or savings goal?
Knowing what you want from your finances now and what you hope for in the future will help you assess the changes you will need to make to achieve those goals.
Prepare a list of questions before the meeting
To make the most of your meeting time, request an agenda or provide your own 24 hours before the meeting. You can ask these questions during your first appointment or send them ahead of time, so the counselor is ready to answer them when you meet.
Also, be sure to check the advisor’s website for any information that might be helpful before attending the meeting. They may even have an FAQ prepared, saving you time on your first meeting.
Know what your CFP® professional will discuss
During your first meeting, you should expect your CFP® professional to explain several things to you, including:
- The importance of understanding not only your assets, income and liabilities, but also your goals and objectives for your plan.
- How you will work together to create a personalized planning experience for you and your family.
- An example of how progress towards your goals will be measured.
- Their risk management and investment philosophy.
At the end of the meeting, your financial planner should provide you with an outline of next steps. A formal proposal should follow.
Talking to a CFP® professional can help you find the path to reaching your financial goal, no matter where you are at in life. Therefore, you should leave your first meeting feeling a connection with your CFP® professional. You also need to trust that they understand and are aligned with your values and goals.
The result should be a long-term relationship with your planner based on trust, honesty and understanding. This way, your CFP® professional can help build your confidence today and lay the foundation for a more financially secure future.
President and CEO, Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board)
Kevin R. Keller, CAE, is CEO of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. The CFP Board sets standards for financial planning and administers the prestigious CFP® certification, one of the most respected certifications in financial services. and one of the few accredited financial certifications. service designations. He leads the CFP Board of Directors for the benefit of the public by granting CFP® certification and maintaining it as the gold standard for competent and ethical personal financial planning.