More and more people are seeking guidance from financial advisors these days. In fact, recent data suggests that the number of Americans who retain financial advisors has increased from 28% in 2010 to 40% in 2015. With the 2008 financial crisis still weighing on our minds, a large number of Americans have decided that seeking professional help with managing their money is the smart way to go.
Of course, expert financial advice costs money, be it an hourly consulting fee or a percentage of the assets you give your advisor to manage. To get the best value out of your relationship with your advisor, you'll need to cover all the key factors that impact your present and future finances. Here are some of the most critical things to discuss with a financial advisor.
1. Your spending and saving habits
Telling your financial advisor how much you earn isn't enough. It's essential that your advisor understand what you do with that money and how much of it you're able to save on your own.
2. Your emergency savings
Most advisors will tell you that having an emergency fund is the most important financial move you can make -- more important, even, than saving money for retirement. Be prepared to review your monthly expenses so your advisor can determine how much of a cushion you should save up.
Have kids? Want to send them off to college one day? You'll need a nice chunk of money to do that. Don't be shocked if your advisor suggests starting a college fund while your oldest child is still in diapers. You'll thank them later.
Most financial professionals agree that retirement savings take precedence over college. The logic is that while you can take out loans to finance a college education, you can't do the same to fund your retirement. Talk to your advisor about your retirement goals and review your savings to see if you're on track.
5. Life insurance
Most financial advisors ask about life insurance. If you don't have any, prepare for a lecture, which is not necessarily a bad thing. If you do have a policy, your advisor can help you determine whether you have adequate coverage in place.
6. Short-term and long-term goals
Are you looking to buy a house? Start your own business? Take time out of the workforce to raise your children? Get ready to discuss your immediate and long-term goals with your advisor, as these will help determine how to invest your money.
7. Your tolerance for risk
Some people embrace the volatility of the stock market, banking on its strong historical performance, while others lie awake at night worrying about losing money on stocks. Be open with your financial advisor about your appetite for risk. Your advisor's job is to recommend investments that align with your agreed-upon strategy and goals -- not to sell you on something that makes you uncomfortable. Be honest, and your advisor will be in the best position to guide you accordingly.
8. Your advisor's fees
Yes, it may get awkward, but don't neglect to find out exactly what your financial advisor will charge you for his services. Take the time to understand how your advisor makes money and what sort of fees to expect. Some advisors, though not all, operate under a fee structure where their earnings are performance-based, which means they earn money by making you money. It never hurts to ask your advisor to consider this type of arrangement.
Remember: Your financial advisor's job is not to push a particular agenda or judge your financial circumstances; it's to help you make smart decisions that will increase your odds of achieving your financial goals. Be up front with your advisor and don't forget that ultimately, what you do with your money is up to you. Incidentally, that's something a good advisor will tell you right from the start.