When you visit a dermatologist, what do you expect them to specialize in?
It’s not difficult to guess (it’s in their title, after all; “derm” means “skin”). They provide diagnosis and treatment for issues pertaining to your skin. And similar conclusions can be made from other medical titles—cardiologists are heart experts. Pediatric physicians provide care for children.
On the other hand, when you meet with a “financial planner” or “advisor” for the first time, what do you expect to gain from the experience? Investment management? Insurance solutions? Tax advice?
The expectations are far less clear. Someone with the title of “advisor” might focus on investments, insurance, loans, banking services, taxes, credit services, mortgages, real estate, or any number of financial services. And unfortunately, this is often to the client’s detriment. If you hire a financial advisor expecting a full analysis of your financial situation coupled with custom advice, but instead only receive a generic portfolio and annual phone call, you’re the one missing out.
It's like consulting a pharmacist when you need a physician. Physicians are trained to ask questions, run tests, and apply their experience to help them diagnose a patient’s specific condition; they prescribe treatment only after a thorough analysis and understanding of the big picture.
Pharmacists, on the other hand, are trained to understand and dispense a product. They can review the effects of specific drugs with a patient, but it’s not their duty or specialty to determine what medication a patient requires.
And so it is with financial professionals who provide comprehensive financial planning and those who offer only investment management or insurance solutions. One is trained to analyze, understand, test, and “treat;” the other is knowledgeable about products and solutions.
But here’s the problem—if so many financial professionals have similar titles, how do you know what kind of service you’ll receive from them? How do you know who to hire when it comes time to plan for retirement or prepare your taxes?
Here are three ways to ensure you receive the service you need and want when hiring a financial professional:
1. Establish Your Expectations
First, identify what you’re looking for. Do you need comprehensive financial planning (help with everything from your daily budget to your long-term retirement plan)? Or do you just need help with your annual tax return? Do you want hands-on guidance about savings and insurance strategies or just help implementing the solutions?
Knowing what you want, need, and value in a financial service will help you determine the kind of professional to hire.
2. Do Your Research
Once you know what you’re looking for, find a few prospective professionals and do your research. Visit their website and social media pages to see what kind of licenses, designations, and experience they have. This will help you determine not only if they offer a service you’re looking for, but if that service is something they’ve been specially trained to do. For example, our founder Dave is a Retirement Income Certified Professional®, meaning he offers specific knowledge and experience about managing financial needs and goals during retirement. He’s also a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, which means he’s held to additional standards by the CFP® board and has gone through additional training on how to provide guidance about a broad range of financial planning topics.
3. Ask Questions
Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Designations and licenses are important, but they don’t tell the whole story. Plus, if you’re not in the industry, you may not know exactly the kind of expertise you need. Many financial professionals will offer an introductory phone call or meeting where you can ask questions about their approach, process, and areas of expertise. This is also an opportune time to determine if your personalities are a good fit for one another. This “interview” process is one of the most important steps because it helps you and the financial professional establish clear expectations about your work together.
The next time you seek a financial professional’s help, ask yourself, “Do I need help diagnosing my situation?” As a comprehensive planning firm, this “diagnosis” process is one of our specialties. We ask intuitive questions that help us and our clients clarify their needs and goals and how they fit into the “bigger picture” of their financial world. From there, we provide services tailored to their unique needs. We don’t offer one-size-fits-all solutions; instead, we get to know you and provide guidance based on your individual situation.
If you’d like to learn more about our services and expertise, we’d love to talk to you! You can schedule a consultation with us here.
Dave works with hundreds of Bay Area dentists, physicians and their families. He has a deep understanding of the financial needs of the medical/dental practitioner. He makes planning simple and clear by coordinating both business and personal finances for his clients.
He also works with Silicon Valley executives, professionals, and their families.