Congratulations! You’ve made the call, you’ve set up your first appointment. It’s a big step, and it’s often shrouded in mystery. But meeting with a financial planner doesn’t need to be scary. Here’s what to expect from your first appointment so that you can go in with confidence and make the most of your time!
Painting a Picture
First thing’s first. In order to know where you are going and how to get there, your financial planner needs to know where you are! They will help you map out your current financial situation to create a complete snapshot that includes your income, your expenses, any debts or mortgages, savings, assets, investments, and most importantly, your concerns and your goals. Some advisors will request that you bring in paperwork to help with this step, but it’ll likely be less of a chore than you think. Some advisors don’t even want to see paperwork in the first meeting.
A good financial planner will take the time to truly get to know you and become familiar with your particular situation. By the time you’re done, they should have a firm understanding of your financial position, as well as your concerns, your family, business, and personal goals. In short, your financial planner needs to get a good picture of what is important to you. The more you tell them, the more they’ll be able to help!
Many advisors offer a free first meeting, so take the time to find someone you are comfortable with and can trust. You aren’t just looking for a transactional one-time sale, after all. You’re looking for someone who can be a partner in achieving your goals and securing your future. This first meeting lays the foundation for a long-term professional relationship with someone you’ll be working with closely through all the changes and stages of life.
And remember, the first meeting is a chance for you both to see if it will be a good fit. That means you get to ask questions too! You can ask about your advisor’s background, qualifications, and the types of clients they typically work with, but you should also start to understand a little bit about their own life experiences and the frame-of-reference with which they are approaching your work together.
This is also a great time to tailor the meeting to address what concerns you most. Do you want to learn more about protecting yourself from market swings, or what changes in the economy mean for your security? Just ask!
Are you planning on getting married, having children, or buying or selling a house? Are you trying to pay off your debt? Are you hoping to save for a dream vacation every year? Are you unsure if you’ve saved enough to retire on? Are you looking to create a post-retirement income stream?
Your financial planner can help you isolate your concrete financial goals, both in the short and long term. Chances are there are many things you’d like to do with your money, so this will also be a process of prioritization — what can be realistically achieved, and when? There are many, many options available to you, and in order to take advantage of them you’ll need a clear picture of where you want to go.
Drawing a Map
This is the heart of financial planning, and you may not get here in just one meeting. That’s alright! Taking your time to get it right the first time will always pay off. Together you will work to craft a financial plan that is realistic and fits with your quality of life now and your goals for the future. Once you’ve developed a plan, your financial planner will also be there to help hold you accountable, no matter how big or small your goals.
Don’t walk in expecting a perfect pre-made answer. In fact, you don’t want one! A good planner will work with you to craft a personalized plan that will be a good fit for you and only you. Be wary of anyone who has a cookie-cutter answer ready for you in the desk drawer. Don’t worry — with a skilled advisor by your side, you’ll be on the path to achieving your goals, one step at a time.