We can’t all be stock market whiz kids.
In fact, I think it’s safe to say that most Canadians aren’t interested in being involved in the day-to-day management of investments. Sure, we want to know what’s going on and we want to know our money is in good hands, but we’d rather not be trading stocks on our coffee breaks.
So how do you find the right financial advisor to take care of your precious funds? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1) Figure out what you need
An important first step when you’re looking for a financial advisor is to sit down and decide what your financial goals are. Are you looking to fund your retirement? Pay for your children’s schooling? Support aging parents? As well, you need to decide how much you want to be involved in the investing process, and what your risk tolerance is. Are you ready to take some risks in order to try and get the best return, or do you want to keep things as conservative as possible? Or perhaps something in between?
2) Ask around
Talk to friends or family members whose opinions you respect and see who they use for financial planning. If they are happy with the service they’re getting, and their goals and risk tolerance line up with yours, you might want to check out their financial planner. Word-of-mouth references can be the best tool you can utilize.
3) Search online
You can easily Google “financial planner” and your city, and you’ll likely come up with a plethora of names. The problem is that you can’t be sure who it is you’re getting. However, there are some useful organizations to aid you in your search. Advocis, the Financial Advisors Association of Canada, has a “find a planner” search page, as does the Financial Planning Standards Council. The Institute of Advanced Financial Planners also offers a search function, and is particularly useful because you can narrow your choices down to planners who are “100 percent free.” This means that that get paid by you, and not by commission according to the products that they sell.
4) Meet up
Before you agree to work with anyone, set up a meeting with your prospective planner. Ask lots of questions to see if this is the right person for you. You want someone with knowledge, experience and someone who has a risk tolerance that is similar to your own. Be sure you understand how the fees work. Though there are many different types of planners with a host of acronyms – CFA, CIM, CHFC, CLU, TEP – many experts recommend going with a certified financial planner (CFP) or registered financial planner (RFP), particularly if you are looking for a broad financial plan, as opposed to specific services.
5) Go with your gut
Make sure you feel comfortable with your financial planner before entering into any agreement. And it’s a good idea to educate yourself about the various investment vehicles you are interested in. Even though you may have found someone to make the transactions, but you should still understand the products he or she is investing your hard-earned money in.
After all, it’s your cash, not your financial planner’s.
Shelley White is a Canadian freelance writer, editor and TV producer who contributes regularly to The Globe and Mail, The Huffington Post, The Grid and Spinner.com. Shelley is also a mother of two who aspires to never again carry a credit card balance.