Nine Rights You Have When Seeking Financial Advice

Pitkin County Library hosted a Financial Advisor Panel to start off April’s Financial Literacy Month.  It was a chance for people to come ask questions about how the wealth management and financial advice industry works.

You will have different needs for advice at different junctures of your life.  As you transition towards and into your retirement years, it becomes imperative that you look at income planning as the foundation in building the life you want.

You have “rights” as you work with financial professionals.

Your “accumulation” phase has shifted into the “distribution” season.  You want to have a different conversation with an advisor.    An advisor’s job, especially at this stage of life, should be to help you banish fear, savor hope and avoid regret in life. It is more than just rebalancing your portfolio and mitigating risk  Creating a vision of what is important to you and peace of mind that you have the financial means to sustain you moving forward would be your objective.  When engaging a financial life planner or advisor, you have the right to:

  1. Feel at ease, accepted and heard. You want to communicate freely and honestly, to be understood and to understand.  You should ask for clarification where needed and not feel “talked over”.
  2. Have your life, objectives and concerns treated with respect. Everyone is unique and there should be no judgments made by the advisor.
  3. Have the right to confidentiality with regards to all information you provide. This is intimate territory and your personal life needs to be protected.
  4. Full disclosure by the advisor as to their licensing and how they are compensated. If you are paying for any sort of investment advice, the advisor needs to be licensed with the state and/or the SEC even if they are not managing money or selling products. When working with a Registered Investment Advisor, you should receive a copy of the advisor’s ADV Part II – which is a document required by the SEC that outlines how their business is run. It will include a code of ethics and privacy statement.  Ask questions such as “Do you work as a fiduciary, and in what capacity?  What services are included?  What is included in creating a financial plan, and what is the cost?  How comprehensive is the planning process?  What is the time frame for completion of the plan as well as follow up implementation?
  5. A written contract which spells out the terms of your working relationship. You or the planner should be able to discontinue the relationship if found to be inappropriate or unsatisfactory.
  6. Written recommendations that are based on your individualized priorities and perspective. A customized strategy will look at many aspects of your unique life situation. From legacy planning and tax efficient income streams, to understanding cognitive aging elements, the better your advisor knows you and every facet of your circumstances, the better they will serve you.
  7. Clear explanations as to recommendations. You should expect thorough answers as to why those recommendations are being made based on your values. You should feel educated, empowered and confident that recommendations are in your best interest before you take action.
  8. Assistance in the implementation of your plan, or strategic changes that need to be undertaken. Your advisor should work closely with everyone on your team (CPA, attorney, retirement coach, family).  A plan is just the beginning, and needs to be recalibrated moving forward.
  9. You have the right to an advisor that is available. You should have access to your advisor or their team to answer questions or get reassurance and support throughout your engagement.

In exchange for having your rights honored, you have the responsibility to work diligently and conscientiously with your advisor.  You must be prepared to discuss your financial life and the feelings that go with it openly and honestly.  You should feel empowered and educated to make decisions moving forward in a timely manner.

With a competent, compassionate advisor in place and other professionals working alongside you, you will be able to wisely navigate the growing complexities of this new season of life and the financial implications that arise.  April – a month to bloom in the command of your financial life.  How do you want to take charge?

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