Skip to main content

Choosing the Right Financial Adviser

Just like a friend, you want to make sure that your financial adviser "gets" you. Here's what you need to think about to make sure that you find the right fit for you.

By Dominic Bova, CFP

Finding the right financial adviser for you and your family can be a challenging endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. Knowing what questions to ask and what to look for ahead of time can go a long way in finding the right match. Whether you are beginning your journey to finding that perfect adviser or if you already have one, these are tangible steps you can take to make sure that you are partnering with the right financial advisor for you.

Dominic Bova is CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and founder of Gateway Wealth Management, LLC. He focuses on highly personalized financial planning, that always begins with a process, never a product. He assists people of all age cohorts to create strategies to reach their life’s goals, both current and future, and is the resource that is with them every step of the way.

Dominic Bova

Do a Background Check

First things first, check their background before the initial meeting. This task isn’t nearly as overwhelming as it may sound. It is a very simple “Google-like” search function, called Brokercheck.com. It is a free database for investors created and maintained by FINRA (The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority). It details vital historical information about an adviser and their firm. You can search the database by the prospective adviser’s name or firm and view the Detailed Report where you will see:

  • Years of experience 
  • Exam qualifications/professional designations 
  • Firms they are associated with 
  • States they are authorized to do business 
  • Disclosures: FINRA Rule 4530- Reporting Requirements states that members need to report certain events directly to FINRA within 30 calendar days after an event or once they are aware of a disclosable event. These disclosures include but are not limited to violations of any securities, insurance, or investment-related laws, being subject to written consumer complaints, or involved in a felony. Click this link for a comprehensive list of disclosable events.

By doing this research, you will get ample information about the adviser before even meeting them.

After you have done your background check and have agreed to sit down with the adviser, you should be ready to ask the right questions. This part of the process is as much about the adviser getting to know you as it is about you getting to know the adviser. My advice here is don’t be afraid to ask the hard-hitting questions because that is how you will get the answers you need.

Interview the Adviser

During the first meeting, are they trying to sell you a product? For me, this is a telltale sign that the adviser is just trying to sell you something and move on. They view the relationship as a transaction. If they don’t take the time to get to know you and your situation on a personal level, how can they be ready to sell you a product during the first meeting?

You always want to make sure that the adviser’s goals are fully aligned with yours. A great question to ask is, how are you compensated? There are three ways an adviser can structure their firm: commission (or sales-related compensation), fee-based, and fee-only. I am not here to opine which is better or worse because I believe there are great advisers across the spectrum, but it is important to understand the distinctions and potential conflicts of interest that arise in each. Commission-based advisers are compensated by you purchasing or selling a financial asset, whereas fee-only advisers receive no sales-related compensation and traditionally charge an assets-under-management fee, flat fee, or hourly rate. Fee-based advisers are a blend of the previous two — they can receive both sales-related compensation and/or charge an assets-under-management fee.

Regardless of fee structure, you may prefer to seek out advice from someone who specializes in your particular circumstance. Whether you are a small business owner, a military family, or a blended family you can take comfort knowing you are working with someone who has been there before, helping people in similar positions. Be prepared to ask what their experience is working with people in your situation or if they specialize in your niche.

After your interview, you will have a pretty good sense of whether or not the adviser is right for you and if they “get” you.

After reading this article, I hope you feel confident in approaching a new adviser relationship and that you have the necessary tools to evaluate the merits of an adviser. My final advice: Do your homework because this is your money we’re talking about here!

About the author: Dominic Bova, CFP®

Dominic Bova is CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and founder of Gateway Wealth Management, LLC. He focuses on highly personalized financial planning, that always begins with a process, never a product. He assists people of all age cohorts to create strategies to reach their life’s goals, both current and future, and is the resource that is with them every step of the way.

Securities and Advisory Services offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor. Member FINRA & SIPC.

For a list of states in which I am registered to do business please visit: www.gatewaywealthmanagement.com