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Ask USAA: What should I bring on my first visit to a financial advisor?


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Hello, and welcome to Ask USAA. My name is Scott Halliwell. We have a question today from Don in Virginia, and he would like to know, "What should I bring on my first visit to a financial advisor?"


Well, nice work Don in scheduling a meeting with a financial advisor. I hope it works out well for you. As for what to bring to the meeting, I'm going to get to that in a minute, but before I do, I want to share with you some things I think you should do before the meeting to help you prepare for it.


You know, for a financial plan to make any sense and to compel you to take the required actions that come out of it, it has to be based on your goals. So, you're going to need to give some serious thought to setting goals for yourself. And if you're married, your spouse is going to need to be involved in those conversations as well.


There's some things we want to do to do this, and the first thing you need to answer is, what do you want to do? You want to think about broad things like retirement planning, college planning, saving for a new home, et cetera. We're talking about really big categories here.


The next thing you want to do is you're going to want to define it more clearly by setting a timeframe on when you want to achieve the goal. In other words, what's the date that you want to do this? When do you want to see this happen?


Now, once you know what you want to do, and when you want to do it, it's next important to figure out how much it's going to cost you. Said another way, you've got to put a price tag on the goal.


Finally, you're going to want to answer the question of, why is it important to you? The idea here is to attach an emotion to your goals. This is important because goals without emotions behind them frankly are nothing more than just words on a piece of paper. If you really want to achieve something, it's got to be important to you.


So, now once you've gotten those goals established, and hopefully you've written them down, you're going to want to assemble some financial information to take to this first meeting. The first thing you're going to want to do is you're going to want to start with a basic understanding of your income versus your expenses. Next thing you're going to want to do is you're going to want to have your net worth. You want to know what it is that you own versus what it is that you owe. And you want to be able to share the details of that with the financial advisor.


The next thing you want to do, the final thing, would be to bring with you any investment statements that you have as well as any retirement plan statements that you have. So, those are all the things you're going to need to do before the meeting.


Now, let's look at some questions that I think are important to ask the advisor during the meeting. I like to start out with a very simple one, and that is, tell me about yourself. You know, if this is going to work, it's going to be a long-term relationship that you're going to have with the advisor, so you want to get to know them as a person, and frankly, you want to make sure that you like them.


The next thing you should ask is to ask them to tell you about their experience. You're going to want to know things like how long have they been doing this? How many clients do they have? Are they a certified financial planner? If not, why not? You know, it's one of the most widely recognized and respected designations in the financial planning profession.


Also, you're going to want to ask them how do they get paid? You know, do they get paid commissions, or do they get paid fees? Is it some combination of those two? Bottom line here is you want to get comfortable that their compensation system is aligned with your best interest in addition to theirs.


Finally, you want to ask how it is that they think that they can help you, and the answer to this question better not involve any product recommendations. You know, a proper planning relationship starts with knowing what the client wants, and then as a financial planner, communicating to them what you're going to do to help them make that happen. Products will come later on, and frankly, those are a means to accomplish the goal. They shouldn't be part of the initial discussion.


So, there you have it, Don. You want to go into the meeting with those questions, ideas and basic financial information in-hand, and it should allow one of two things to happen. You should either be able to get a strong foundation for the relationship with your new advisor, or it's going to help you figure out that you need to look elsewhere.


I hope this information on how to approach this is helpful for you, and I wish you all the best in the meeting with the new planner.


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Views and opinions expressed in this program are provided for informational purposes only and are subject to change. This discussion is not tax, legal, estate planning or USAA product advice and is unique to the member only. The law concerning tax and retirement plans is complex, penalties are severe, and the laws of your state may differ. Consult with your tax, legal or estate planning professional regarding your specific situation.


This material is for informational purposes. Consider your own financial circumstances carefully before making a decision and consult with your tax, legal or estate planning professional.


Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. owns the certification marks CFP® and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ in the United States, which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.


Financial planning services and financial advice provided by USAA Financial Planning Services Insurance Agency, Inc. (known as USAA Financial Insurance Agency in California, License # 0E36312), a registered investment adviser and insurance agency and its wholly owned subsidiary, USAA Financial Advisors, Inc., a registered broker dealer.



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