The hardest part of planning for your financial future is figuring out where to start.
You’ve already taken the first step by doing your due diligence and selecting a financial planner. Now is the time to meet with them to discuss your current situation and create a plan to help you reach your goals. It’s natural to feel a little off guard, because there are so many moving parts, and discussing your finances with someone new can be intimidating, especially if you’re not sure what questions to ask.
To get the most out of working with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, it helps to come prepared to discuss your financial situation. At your first meeting, it’s common to discuss the financial planning process, the goals you’d like to achieve, and how your CFP® professional can help you work toward them. You should have key information ready and be ready with a few questions to ask your new advisor.
The steps below will help you prepare for a successful relationship with your planner. They help your financial planner do their job of providing a personalized, holistic approach to assessing and building your financial future in a way that ties all the pieces of your financial life together.
Understand what to expect from your advisor
Your CFP® professional will usually start by guiding you through the financial planning process. They will then conduct a comprehensive review to assess your current financial situation and work with you to develop or refine your goals.
In subsequent meetings, your financial planner will use that context to create and discuss a personalized plan to help you reach your goals. They’ll also walk you through the steps and help you chart your progress over time.
know what you don’t know
Many times, clients spend their first meeting with their planner over-explaining or justifying their past financial decisions. Know that your CFP® professional is not there to judge you, only to help you.
To speed up your first conversation and put your mind at ease, you may want to learn more about some of these topics beforehand:
- Understanding insurance and what its policies protect (and what they don’t)
- Establish and fund an emergency account
- Knowing the difference between good and bad debt
- Considering your estate planning needs
Gather key information
To plan for your financial future, you must share an accurate picture of your financial present.
You can help your CFP® practitioner understand your current situation by bringing the following documents and information to your meeting, in addition to any paperwork or questionnaires that may have been sent to you in advance:
- Statements of savings and investments.
- Income and expenses.
- Declarations of mortgages and other debts.
- Insurance and estate planning documents.
- Employee benefit information.
- Social Security benefits and pension (if you are close to or in the process of retiring).
You don’t need to provide all of those details right away, but having a rough estimate of your income, investments, and debts will help gauge the scope of work needed.
Identify your goals
Start thinking about your short- and long-term goals and have a clear expectation that they make it to the meeting. Be prepared to answer the following questions:
- Do you expect to retire soon?
- Are you saving for a life milestone, like buying a home or financing a wedding?
- Will you help finance your child’s education?
- Do you have an emergency fund or a savings goal?
Knowing what you want from your finances now and what you expect in the future will help you assess the changes you’ll need to make to achieve those goals.
Prepare a list of questions before the meeting.
To make the most of your meeting time, request an agenda or provide your own 24 hours before the meeting. You can ask these questions at your first meeting or send them ahead of time so the advisor is ready to answer them when you meet.
Also be sure to check the advisor’s website for any information that might be helpful before you attend the meeting. They may even have FAQs prepared, saving you some time in your first meeting.
Know what your CFP® professional will talk about
At your first meeting, you should expect your CFP® practitioner to explain several things to you, including:
- The importance of understanding not only your assets, income, and liabilities, but also your goals and objectives for your plan.
- How you will work together to create a personalized planning experience for you and your family.
- An example of how progress toward your goals will be measured.
- Your risk management and investment philosophy.
When the meeting concludes, your financial planner should provide you with a summary of next steps. Must follow a formal proposal.
Talking with a CFP® professional can help you find your way to achieving your financial goal, no matter where you are in life. So you should leave your first meeting feeling connected to your CFP® professional. You must also have confidence that they understand and are aligned with your values and goals.
The result should be a long-term relationship with your planner based on trust, honesty, and understanding. That way, your CFP® professional can help build confidence today and lay the groundwork for a more financially secure future.
Executive Director, Board Certified Financial Planner, Inc. (CFP Board)
Kevin R. Keller, CAE, is Executive Director of the Certified Financial Planning Board of Standards Inc. The CFP Board sets standards for financial planning and administers the prestigious CFP® certification, one of the most respected certifications in financial services and a of the few accredited financial institutions. service designations. He leads the CFP Board to benefit the public by awarding CFP® certification and upholding it as the standard of excellence for competent and ethical personal financial planning.