Financial Planning

How To Choose a Financial Advisor

Key questions to ask when researching candidates

Whether you’re wondering when the best time is to buy a home or looking for ways to maximize your retirement investments, a qualified financial advisor can help guide you through important financial decisions. Over time, an advisor can have a significant influence on your financial health. That’s why it's crucial to find one who understands your goals and acts in your best interest.

Just as doctors have different bedside manners, advisors bring different approaches and personalities to the table. Most financial advisors do not charge for an initial meeting, so meet with three to five candidates to get a feel for how their style fits with yours before settling on one. "If you want to understand an advisor’s financial recommendations and he or she seems unwilling to explain it, then that's a bad match," says Tom Warschauer, a professor emeritus of personal financial planning at San Diego State University.

In addition to assessing a potential financial advisor's style and approach, ask these questions:

  • What are your qualifications? The financial industry has many different designations and acronyms so if you're unsure what something means, ask. Certified Financial Planner (or CFP) is one of the best-known professional certifications. To become a CFP, an advisor must meet strict standards for education and experience, and comply with the CFP Board's code of ethics, which includes rules on disclosing conflicts of interest and protecting client confidentiality.
  • What types of clients do you work with? If you're new to investing, you may feel most comfortable with an advisor who works mostly with clients who are also just starting out. On the other hand, if you're nearing retirement, you might prefer an advisor whose clients are at a similar life stage. Advisors can draw on their experience with these clients to suggest tested solutions to common problems, spot potential pitfalls in your retirement plans or call out investment risks you never considered.
  • Are you bound by the “suitability obligation” or the “fiduciary standard”? Broker-dealers are required to fulfill the suitability obligation. That means they must make recommendations that match the client’s investment objectives, time frame and risk tolerance, for example. The fiduciary standard goes a step further, requiring the financial advisor to place clients’ interests above his or her own. For example, this standard prohibits advisors from recommending products solely because they pay higher commissions to themselves or their firm.
  • How are you paid? Finally, Warshauer explains, it's important to understand how your advisor is compensated— whether through a flat fee, commission or a combination of the two.

"People need to make a lot of investment decisions in their lives, and if they base those decisions on faulty premises, then they're going to make bad decisions," Warschauer says. "That's why it's important to find a financial advisor you trust and feel comfortable with."

For more information about retirement and financial planning, consult with a SunTrust Investment Services Inc. Financial Advisor or learn more about how SunTrust can help you plan your retirement.


This content does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.

Related

Investment and Insurance Products:

Are Not FDIC or any other Government Agency Insured   Are Not Bank Guaranteed  May Lose Value 

© 2018 SunTrust Banks, Inc

equal housing logoSunTrust Bank is an Equal Housing Lender. Member FDIC

equal housing logoEqual Housing Lender. SunTrust Mortgage, Inc

SunTrust, SunTrust Mortgage, SunTrust PortfolioView, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, SunTrust Premier Program, AMC Pinnacle, AMC Premier, Access 3, Signature Advantage Brokerage, Custom Choice Loan and SunTrust SummitView are federally registered service marks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Services provided by the following affiliates of SunTrust Banks, Inc.: Banking products and services are provided by SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. Trust and investment management services are provided by SunTrust Bank, SunTrust Delaware Trust Company and SunTrust Banks Trust Company (Cayman) Limited. Securities, brokerage accounts and insurance (including annuities) are offered by SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., a SEC registered broker-dealer, member FINRA, SIPC, and a licensed insurance agency. Investment advisory services are offered by SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc., a SEC registered adviser. GFO Advisory Services, LLC is a SEC registered investment adviser that provides investment advisory services to a group of private investment funds and other non-investment advisory services to affiliates. Mortgage products and services are provided by SunTrust Mortgage, Inc.

SunTrust Mortgage, Inc. - NMLS #2915, 901 Semmes Avenue, Richmond, VA 23224, 1-800-634-7928. CA: licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act, IL: Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee #MB-989, Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, 100 W. Randolph, Suite 900, Chicago, IL 60601, 1-888-473-4858, MA: Mortgage Lender license #-ML-2915, NJ: Mortgage Banker License - New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, NY: Licensed Mortgage Banker—NYS Department of Financial Services, and RI: Rhode Island Licensed Lender.

"SunTrust Advisors" may be officers and/or associated persons of the following affiliates of SunTrust Banks, Inc.: SunTrust Bank, our commercial bank, which provides banking, trust and asset management services; SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., a registered broker-dealer, which is a member of FINRA and SIPC, and a licensed insurance agency, and which provides securities, annuities and life insurance products; SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc., a SEC registered investment adviser which provides Investment Advisory services.

SunTrust Private Wealth Management, International Wealth Management, Business Owner Specialty Group, Sports and Entertainment Group, and Legal and Medical Specialty Groups and GenSpring are marketing names used by SunTrust Bank, SunTrust Banks Trust Company (Cayman) Limited, SunTrust Delaware Trust Company, SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., and SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc.

SunTrust Bank and its affiliates do not accept fiduciary responsibility for all banking and investment account types offered. Please consult with your SunTrust representative to determine whether SunTrust and its affiliates have agreed to accept fiduciary responsibility for your account(s) and if you have completed the documentation necessary to establish a fiduciary relationship with SunTrust Bank or an affiliate. Additional information regarding account types and important disclosures may be found at www.suntrust.com/investmentinfo.

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey is the trade name for the corporate and investment banking services of SunTrust Banks, Inc. and its subsidiaries, including SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., member FINRA and SIPC.