Sedona Arizona

How to choose the right financial advisor

Have you ever wondered how to choose the right financial advisor?

Whether you’re looking to work with a financial advisor for the first time, or you are looking to change advisors, the looming question in your mind might be:


One thing I will admit is there’s no shortage of financial advisors in the world!

In fact, when it was suggested to me by a friend of mine that I should consider being a financial advisor, my response was “hey man, thanks – but, the last thing the world needs is another financial advisor!”

I’m glad I rescinded that statement, however. I love the work I do now.

What do you want the financial advisor to do for you?

What should you be looking for in an advisor? What questions should you ask, and what questions might they ask you?

In my opinion, you want to choose someone who you can get to know, get along with but also be challenged by, and someone who you can trust and can earn your trust in return.

Another part of that is getting clear on what you expect from a relationship with a financial advisor. A few factors to consider:

  • What do you want them to do for you? There’s a huge gap between someone who only manages investments and someone who provides complete financial advice. Knowing the difference here will set the right expectations and narrow down your selection process.
  • How often do you want to talk with or meet with them? If you’re someone who doesn’t have a lot of financial complexity, maybe the right cadence for you is one or two meetings per year and a check-in call here and there. If you have a higher financial complexity, you need to be sure the advisor has capacity to meet and talk more often throughout the year.
  • Do credentials or the name of the firm matter to you? If you want the status of having a certain logo on your statements, this will also narrow down your search. If you feel like credentials communicate experience and expertise in a certain area, then you’re narrowing down to only people with certain credentials, like the CFP, ChFC, etc.

What to look for in a financial advisor

Many people get referred to an advisor from a friend, family member, colleague, coach, or therapist. Or, maybe you have that college buddy or family member who is an advisor.

Regardless of how you find them, the next question is: How will I know if this is the right advisor for you?

The factors I just talked about cover the expectations of the job.

This question – how to find the right advisor for you – is very important, and one I think you should spend the most time thinking about. Most advisors I know can do the job and do it well.

Some who carry the job title of “financial advisor” are only focused on selling financial products that may or may not be in your best interest. Those folks need a wake-up call to how they’re really impacting people’s lives, but that’s another blog article for another time.

Actually, let me just say one more thing about these folks: a product salesperson – I won’t name specific firms, but it their lead is life insurance or annuities – they are not delivering financial advice at all, and are therefore not qualified to be the right advisor for you.

Moving on…

When interviewing for the right financial advisor, here are a few things to look for:

  • What are their values? Do they align with yours?
    • Think in areas of family, community involvement, hobbies, etc.
  • Do they talk about themselves too much?
  • For married couples: are they engaging with both of you during the meeting?
  • If you’re a female, do you feel comfortable in their presence?
  • Are they asking questions to get to know more about you? Or, are the questions more about your money and investments?
  • Do they seem approachable? Do they talk to you or do they talk above your head? Are they receptive to your questions?
  • Do they seem genuinely interested in you, your story, and your concerns? Or, does it seem like they are genuinely concerned about getting you to become a client?
  • Do they seem like someone you would want to hang out with socially? Would you invite them to your house or to a family function?
  • Is this someone you would want to refer to your closest family, friends, and colleagues?
  • Do you think you’ll still like them 10 years from now?
    • This is something I recommend to everyone who meets with me for the first time. If there’s something about me that doesn’t feel right and you’re not sure you’ll still like me in 10 years, please reconsider hiring me.
    • May seem hard to know with one or two meetings, but your intuition knows better. Trust your gut on this one.

Questions the financial advisor should ask you

Now that we’ve covered what expectations to consider and what to pay attention to during the meeting, let me share a couple of questions you want the advisor to ask you, as well as a couple of questions you may want to ask the advisor.

First, the right financial advisor is probably going to ask some variation of good questions, such as:

  • A decision to meet with an advisor isn’t one you probably came by lightly…. What is the most important thing on your mind today? Or, What do you want to be sure we talk about during our meeting today? Or, Why is it important for you to meet with me today, and why is now the right time?
  • What’s most important to you about how you use your money?
  • What do you remember about money growing up? How does that influence your financial decisions today?
  • Think about where you were a year ago – do you feel further ahead today than you were then?
  • Based on your current situation, do you feel you’ll be able to reach your most important financial and life goals?
  • What do you expect from a financial advisory relationship?
  • What is your current investment strategy built to accomplish? Over what period time?

All of these questions have a monetary implication, but none of them dig into your financial specifics.

That’s precisely why I do not ask anyone to bring any statements to the first meeting. I don’t ask anyone to fill out the 10-page “intake” form that has you list everything out for me.

My approach with this is highly intentional. In my first meetings, I do not ask financially nosy questions! From my perspective, your financial specifics are none of my business until we decide to begin working together.

Some people don’t want to waste time, they want to get right down to brass tacks, and that’s fine. I can adjust. However, I find most people appreciate lowering the pressure for the first meeting.

Questions you should ask the financial advisor

Now, here are few questions you may want to ask the advisor in that first meeting:

  • Why do people decide to hire you… or, what kind of client are you really good at serving?
    • “Anyone or everyone” as an answer is a red flag here. A great advisor will have a primary “ideal client” with maybe 2 or 3 other subsets.
  • How often do you communicate with your clients? What does that look like? How often will we talk and/or meet?
  • How do you handle client communication and meetings during periods of market volatility?
  • How are you compensated by me and/or other third-parties?
  • There’s probably not a right or wrong answer here – fee models vary by advisor. But, you’ll understand where their advice could be biased by how they’re compensated.
  • If the advisor wavers or evades answering this question in any way, consider it a big red flag!
  • Why did you become an advisor? What are your values around money? Or, ask the question the same way the advisor might ask you… What’s most important to you about how you use your money?

Use this as a resource

If you are considering working with a financial advisor for the first time, or feel underserved and looking for a new advisor, use this as a “know before you go” resource.

If you’re reading this and want to talk with me about your situation, or click here to access my calendar and schedule time to explore how.


Life Moves Wealth Management is a registered investment advisor offering advisory services in the States of Arizona and Indiana, and in other jurisdictions where exempted. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. Information contained on this site should not be considered a solicitation to buy, an offer to sell, or a recommendation of any security in any jurisdiction where such offer, solicitation, or recommendation would be unlawful or unauthorized.

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Author: Dale Shafer II, CFP®, APMA®, CDFA®

The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors
The Society of Advice

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