By Mark Sievers, MBA, CFP®, AIFA®, CIMA®, CIMC®
We have no lack of options these days. Whether it’s choosing a restaurant or finding a doctor, there are so many choices that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and doubt your decision. When it comes to choosing a financial advisor, the stakes are even higher. How do you know which one will be the right fit for your situation or personality? How do you know if you’ll like them or work well with them?
The financial professional you choose to handle your family’s wealth will have a significant impact on your investment strategy, the fees you pay, and your confidence in your financial future. This is not a decision to take lightly, especially since each advisor has a different level of service, experience, and ability. Taking all that into consideration, it is vital to take your time to find an advisor who meets your needs and makes you feel at ease. So, when you start your advisor search, ask potential candidates the following questions.
Are You a Fiduciary?
There’s a reason this is the first question—its importance cannot be overstated! An advisor who serves as a fiduciary accepts a responsibility to put his or her clients’ interests first and foremost in all decisions. A fiduciary is legally required to avoid conflicts of interest and remain unbiased in their recommendations and advice.
How can you know for certain that an advisor you’re interviewing is a fiduciary? The firm will either be listed as a Registered Investment Advisor or the advisors on the team will hold certifications that hold them to the fiduciary standard, such as the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Chartered Financial Analyst®, or Certified Public Accountant professional designations. Keep in mind, if the advisor doesn’t fit those descriptions, they may still act as a fiduciary in certain situations, like sharing a recommendation, but not necessarily when selling products.
Epsilon Financial Group is a Registered Investment Advisory firm and abides by the fiduciary standard of professional conduct. We believe in transparency and honesty, doing what we say, and finishing what we start—all for your benefit. Also, as Real Fiduciary™ Advisors, we will commit in writing to acting as fiduciaries for our clients at all times.
Do You Hold Any Credentials?
We take credentials seriously, and we think you should too. Credentials and education play a critical role in the ability of your advisor to deliver competent and valuable advice. There are hundreds of designations in the financial services field, and some are more applicable to your needs than others. (1)
All advisors on our team hold the CFP® certification (or are working towards achieving it), which requires comprehensive education and experience. In addition, our team members hold other credentials, including the Accredited Investment Fiduciary Analyst® (AIFA®), Certified Investment Management Analyst® (CIMA®), Certified Investment Management Consultant℠ (CIMC®), Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA®), Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®) and the Accredited Investment Fiduciary® (AIF®) designations. As a firm, we pursue education and credentials because of our commitment to continuous learning and dedication to providing unparalleled client service.
Use a designation-check database to learn more about the credentials financial advisors can earn, and ask the advisors you are researching what they do to continually hone their skills and stay up to date in the industry.
What Is Your Planning and Investment Philosophy?
It’s important to work with an advisor who shares a planning and investing philosophy similar to your own. Does your advisor stick to a scientific, evidence-based approach? Do they believe in buy-and-hold or do they make moves based on a forecast or opinion? Talk with an advisor about how they guide clients’ investing and financial decisions.
We at Epsilon Financial Group know that a sound asset allocation strategy is a key way to turn your wealth into new ways to live your life. Our investment strategies are customized to your unique goals, needs, and risk tolerance so you can maximize your growth while protecting your wealth.
How Much Do You Charge?
Financial planning and investment costs can be confusing. And too often financial advisors don’t readily disclose their compensation. As independent fee-only advisors, our clients always know what they’re paying and what they’re receiving for their money. We recommend financial strategies and structure investment portfolios that are consistent with the unique goals and priorities of each client. We want our clients to feel confident that there are no hidden fees eating away at their hard-earned savings.
The most common way we are compensated is by a flat annual fee or a fee based on your assets under management (AUM), both of which are paid quarterly. There are no other hidden costs from us, we do not earn money through commissions, and we do not receive any compensation from any third party (such as investment companies, etc.).
Whom Do You Serve?
Some financial advisors focus on serving a specific demographic or level of investable assets, so you’ll want to find this out before choosing an advisor. Why is this important? Because you deserve advice and services tailored to your unique needs.
At Epsilon, we work with a diverse array of clients but specialize in working with hardworking pre-retirees who want to partner with a professional to help them prepare for retirement and pursue their ideal financial future.
Who Else on Your Team Will Be Working With Me?
At some firms, you may work with multiple financial advisors depending on your appointment time or needs, while other firms may pair you up with one financial advisor with whom you’ll work one-on-one. This is important to know so you can meet the other team members with whom you might be collaborating. While you will have a strong relationship with your primary advisor, everyone at Epsilon works as a team to offer you the highest level of service. We spend a lot of time getting to know our clients and their goals, and we strive to put your dreams at the heart of your financial plan.
What Financial Planning Services Do You Offer?
Not all financial advisors can provide comprehensive financial planning. Some cannot sell insurance or securities, such as mutual funds or stocks if they don’t have the appropriate licenses. Ask a financial advisor what services they provide, whether or not they have a focus, and if they offer a broad spectrum of solutions to meet your needs. When creating a plan together, be sure to ask your advisor why they are recommending particular services and solutions over others. Epsilon Financial Group’s comprehensive services include comprehensive financial planning and wealth management, including detailed retirement planning, portfolio management, generational wealth strategies, risk management, and more.
What Sets You Apart From Other Financial Advisors?
We know you have plenty of options to choose from, but there are a few things Epsilon does differently:
- Our firm has been around for more than 35 years and during that time we have used academically proven research to support our investment philosophy. Having an objective disciplined strategy provides consistency and better results for our clients.
- Our advice is tailored to you. Instead of giving boilerplate answers, we do the homework to get to know you, your situation, your dreams, and your challenges, and then guide you to the options that benefit you most. Our clients know they can rely on us to truly listen and give them the knowledge they need to fulfill their goals in a comprehensive way.
- Our client’s interests always come first. All recommendations that we make are based on the client’s needs and best interests and not on our business. This fundamental approach provides the basis for long-term success and maintains professional integrity
- We build our client relationships on integrity, dependability, and accountability. We are passionate about what we do and confident in how we do it. We pride ourselves on our proactive, authentic approach, and the invaluable clarity we bring to our clients’ financial lives.
How Can I Know if Your Firm Is Right for Me?
When selecting your advisor, the relationship should feel right and you should never feel pressured to make a decision quickly. We offer a complimentary consultation, during which you can ask questions, evaluate our processes and services, determine if our personality is a good fit, and give you the information you need to make an informed decision.
Don’t Rush Into Anything
An advisor should be happy to answer these questions and any others you may have about how they operate. If you don’t know where to start, ask friends and family for referrals to set you down the right path.
At Epsilon Financial Group, we believe in complete transparency and want our clients to feel comfortable working with us and asking us questions. If you’d like to learn more about our answers to these questions or any others, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for an introductory meeting by emailing me at Mark@wealthmatters.com or calling (707) 428-5500.