By Melanie Hasty-Grant


I have heard so many stories from people about how their advisor doesn’t meet with them, doesn’t call them, doesn’t manage their investments. They say to me …”well, he’s a really nice guy but Idon’t think he knows what he’s doing”. Listen, nice is not good enough! Think about it. You are hiring someone to manage (in many cases) your life’s savings.

So where do I start? You may ask. Start by googling the names of several advisors within a 40 mile radius that you want to check out. By googling their name you will learn a lot about who they are as people and as professionals. If you don’t see anything about them there you should wonder… why not? Research their website. If they don’t have one…again you should wonder why not?

Visit the FINRA website and do a broker check. This will tell you their credentials, employment history, and if they have any disciplinary actions against them. Once you have done this “prescreening,”set up an appointment to go and visit with them. You should go to their office. This way you get to see if they really have an office. You also will meet their employees. I am always surprised by people who would trust their life savings to someone that didn’t even have an office! Really?

The following are some questions you should ask at your appointment:

  • What is your process for determining when to buy and sell an investment? Many advisors have a buy side strategy. They buy as soon as they get your money. However, most do not really have a sell side strategy. By this I mean, they buy and hold forever. The market goes up. The market goes down. And the strategy is to just hold on and it will come back up. You are looking for a well defined process that they have in place that they can communicate to you about when and why they would sell and invest. If they don’t have one you will find yourself riding the market roller coaster up and down again.
  • How much does it cost? And how do you get paid? Remember, what you are looking for here is not the cheapest. Just as you would not choose your brain surgeon because he is the cheapest. You are looking for the best. You want to know if they get paid a commission up front or if they have “skin in the game” with you. You may pay 2% a year to have a professional manage your  investments. They are worth every penny. You could easily lose that in 30 minutes in this market environment.
  • Ask about conflicts of interest. Are they able to make the decision about what to sell you without any downward pressure from their employer? Do they sell propriety products? Does their company hold inventory of certain investments that they want them to sell? Do they get “kickbacks”, trip points, or other incentives to sell you certain mutual funds or other products?
  • How often do they meet with you to review your investment? Will you be working with them directly or through a 1-800 “no help” number? Hire someone who will sit down with you face to face a couple of times a year. Hire someone who will take the time to get to know you personally and your unique situation.
  • Other questions you may want to ask would include: if they have insurance, if your money is going to be “tied-up” or if you can get to it when you need it? And for how long? How do they handle catastrophic downturns in the market? How many clients do they have? Could you speak to some of them about their experience working with you? What is their average account size? Do your homework. Hire the best advisor. Who you trust matters!

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Melanie Hasty-Grant is an experienced and licensed Professional Counselor and Managing Principal at Waterstone Private Wealth Management. Securities offered through Cetera Advisor Networks LLC, Member FINRA/SIPC.