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How to Find the Perfect Financial Advisor for You

10/23/2014 04:47 EDT | Updated 12/23/2014 05:59 EST
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Friendly, hard-working and dependable person seeking a partner with similar qualities for a long-term relationship. You must be well-educated, understand my priorities, willing to listen and eager to provide good advice. CFA designation preferred.

Finding "the right one" these days can be very complicated, and by the one I mean the right financial advisor! Searching for an advisor that is the perfect match takes time, effort and plenty of research. Much like online dating, the bulk of this due diligence can be done online by checking for relevant qualifications and client references. Of course finding your financial "soul-mate" also involves less tangible components -- is there a good rapport, do they understand my needs, can I work with them; these will be the acid test for any burgeoning liaison.

Like any good relationship, certain elements should be expected, such as honesty, open communication and trustworthiness. You should seek the same qualities in a relationship with a financial advisor, after all, this person will be a vital component in helping you develop fiscal discipline, construct an appropriate investment portfolio, manage your investments wisely and help avoid bad decision making that could impact your long-term financial well-being. In short, this could be one of the most important financial decisions you ever make!

The right chemistry

Finding the right financial advisor is not necessarily a simple task but it can be straightforward if you follow some basic guidelines. Keep in mind that the ideal financial professional and financial service provider not only has the ability to solve your problems but also shares similar values about investing. This is your starting point.

Begin by compiling a pool of professionals you are confident can do the job. Don't be afraid to ask tough questions and set the bar high. What are your credentials? How many clients do you work with? How long have you been in the business for? What kind of a team stands behind you?

Once you have established a strong pool of candidates, set aside time to meet with each. The rule of thumb is to remember that just because someone can do the job, does not mean this person should do the job. The person who you eventually hire should not only demonstrate the high level of competence and professionalism that you demand, but will also have a complementary philosophy and personality and will be a person you can see yourself working with closely day-to-day. Most importantly, consider whether a prospective advisor will put your interests ahead of his or her own.

In 2013, the CFA Institute/Edelman Investor Trust Study questioned 2,100 investors around the world to better understand how they felt about the financial services industry. Most respondents affirmed that financial service providers that were "trusted to act in my best interest" were more desirable than ones with the "ability to achieve high returns." No advisor can guarantee you will achieve a certain rate of return; however, the right advisor will guarantee to be honest and transparent about all things, including fees and business practices.

The right values

The right advisor will follow either voluntary or formal ethical codes or professional standards, and will act responsibly and rationally when addressing an issue or crisis. One of the hallmarks of demonstrating integrity is maintaining independence and objectivity, and doing what's right. At CFA Institute, we have endorsed and in many cases developed the standards that help financial markets work better and in the best interest of the investor. We continue to develop tools to facilitate truthful and transparent relationships.

We are also looking ahead. We started the Future of Finance initiative to be a long-term global effort to shape a trustworthy, forward-thinking financial industry that better serves society. The initiative leverages the perspectives of industry and prominent global leaders, and has already produced several products to help clients and advisors develop an honest and transparent dialogue about investment issues such as performance reporting and fees. The initiative's most globally relevant and successful product to date is the Statement of Investor Rights, which explains ten rights that any investor should expect from a financial service provider.

If it sounds like finding the right investment advisor is overly daunting, take a breath and get back to basics. While it is an important decision, do not allow any sense of urgency to compromise the decision-making process you have set out for yourself. The benefits of taking some extra time to make the right decision far outweigh the temporary comfort of making a quick decision.

The process of finding the right person may require you to revert to some traditional means. If you have a real conversation, ask questions face-to-face, stay true to your values then finding "the right one" could be easier than you think.

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