Areas a Financial Adviser Can Add Value

Originally published 10/13/09 at

Robert Schmansky, CFP(r)

You've tossed around the thought of meeting with a financial adviser, but so far have not committed. You may be unsure of the way you have invested your 401k, have questions about your insurance coverage, or know there's some other area of your life that requires action.

But since it's only important, and not urgent, you have decided to look into it at some point in the not too distant future rather than today.

These may be items you want to research and believe you can best answer on your own. In our technology driven world there are a number of places that can provide answers to financial questions. Some have even suggested that with all of the information online, the internet will eventually replace financial advisers altogether!

While I disagree with the above statement, I do agree technology is changing the areas where financial advisers add value. Client–adviser relationships that work now, and in the future, will involve changing our value from the paradigm of a product provider or financial plan salesperson, to one that provides value in the services they offer.

For those who may be on the fence about working with an adviser, let me suggest a few traits* that the right adviser may possess, which can add value to any financial life.

Educator. An experienced teacher who can not only tell you the 'what to do' or 'how to do it', but 'why' you should do it. Understanding this part of your plan will make you less likely to act on emotion and give you greater piece of mind. Filter. The web is full of useful information, but it does require sifting to find information that is both accurate and complete. It may be that a tax exemption doesn't apply to your situation, or the retirement projection tool makes incorrect assumptions for your plan. The idea is to not only make decisions on information that is right, but that is right for you.

Holistic. An adviser can craft a plan that encompasses your entire financial picture, as opposed to just one part, such as your investments. Often, there is opportunity to add value in tax or protection strategies when done from a holistic approach.

Specialist. You may have a specialized situation that requires someone with experience in what you are facing. Small business owners, second marriages, alternative couples, all may benefit from someone experienced with the opportunities and threats presented to your plan.

Independent expert voice. You may prefer to do the heavy lifting yourself, but an expert opinion, even if simply a second set of eyes, can give piece of mind or a cautionary flag on your thoughts.

Coach. We all need motivation at times to move forward with what we know we need to do. A 'nudge' to change just a few parts of your financial life can significantly improve your results.

The internet has opened the doors to the financial products, information, and calculators that once defined part of the value an adviser could provide. The above traits represent those the new paradigm financial advisor will use to add value in the future.

Now that you have some idea of areas you may benefit from, start your search for an advisor who embodies those characteristics that will improve your feelings about your finances.

I recommend starting with a tool technology has given us. Internet search engines including those found on the The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, Financial Planning Association, or CFP® Board websites allow for simple pre-screening and qualification of financial advisors that serve your area.

*Traits taken in part from the Alliance of Cambridge Advisors, Inc. ‘Pledge to Clients’