Before you even consider choosing a financial planner to help you on your journey, you need to determine what you want to accomplish in terms of long and short-term goals.
Goals, though most may not seem financially oriented at first, many of them are likely related to finances: retiring, purchasing a home, helping your children attend college or just helping them, starting your own business. A good financial planner can help you to reach those goals by setting up a financial plan.
It has been my experience that defining life goals can be emotional, it may seem mundane, but it can be life changing. We all deal with personal challenges that are part of everyone’s journey but once we start documenting specific goals, we start a process where we become the person we want to be.
So, take an evening or weekend to write down your specific money-related goals, whether it be buying a bigger house, paying off debt, or setting up a college savings plan for your child. It also may be helpful to list where you want to be in 5 years, 10 years, even 50 years.
Once you have done this, this will give the financial planner a more well-rounded view of where you’d like to be financially. Then they can help you get there.
Find a Financial Planner that understands the challenges of an expat.
When you move abroad or invest internationally, one of the questions that you will often ask yourself is “how do I ensure I’m managing my global finances in the most tax efficient manner possible”.
Just like in your home country, seeking professional advice from experts that understand your challenges is vital when it comes to managing your finances to ensure that you’re on the right side of the law while remaining as tax efficient as possible. Unfortunately, when it comes to finding the best financial planner there are steps you can take to ensure that they have your best interests at heart, and not find ways to separate you from your money.
Ask about his education, Licenses and who Regulates him.
The financial advisor ecosystem can be surprisingly complex. Nearly anyone can call themselves a financial advisor, financial planner, or financial coach, with minimum qualifications required. Consequently, it’s important to be careful and thoughtful when selecting a professional to help you save, grow, and protect your savings.
Here are some things to consider when shopping for a financial advisor.
Education and Experience
Review your prospective advisor’s educational background and experience to learn why that person may be uniquely positioned to help you. Seek advisors who have demonstrated they have acquired the knowledge and can apply their knowledge to develop a strategy for you.
The Professionals website and articles he published could be a good starting point to learn about his/her qualifications, experience, and how he thinks but a referral from someone you trust who has worked with him/her may be even better.
Check about him on the internet, this may sound mundane, but you can learn a lot about a person easily just by searching his name, if you find nothing that too can we a warning sign, if he/she was involved in litigation on issues involving advice that too can be a warning sign for you to avoid.
Don’t just put your money with the first financial planner you meet with. Do your research and ask around. Often, word of mouth is the best way to find a great financial planner.
Ideally, you should ask friends or relatives who have similar goals and strategies regarding finances. This will help you find a financial planner who is a better fit.
Try to see what steps your proposed advisor has taken to increase their knowledge base and how often he studies. One way to gauge this is through the various certifications he/she may hold. Specifically, take the time to learn about both the upfront requirements needed to attain a certification and the ongoing requirements for maintaining it.
For example, the Certified Financial Planner designation (CFP®) is considered an excellent standard in financial planning circles. To get the CFP® designation, planners must take extensive, specialized coursework, pass an exam, and accrue three years of relevant experience. Every two years, certificates must complete many hours of continuing education.
Other common designations that could be relevant include Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), for advisors that specialize in portfolio management and investing, and the Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC®), for advisors who may focus on financial coaching and counseling.
Trust and relationships.
When working with any professional, chemistry is important, and each planner is unique. In many cases, simply providing good advice is often not enough. It is also important that you can build a personal relationship with your adviser. A good planner is not just someone who understands you and your goals, he will be your confidant and he should care about your journey as if it is his own.
It’s hard to quantify exactly how important trust is when working with an advisor. In business, a lack of trust can be the biggest liability. Without trust, transactions cannot occur, influence is destroyed. Trust and relationships, much more than money, are the currency of financial planning.
Trust is the natural result of thousands of actions, words, thoughts, and intentions. Trust usually does not happen at once as gaining trust takes work. It might take years for you to really trust a professional.
So, it is important to make sure that whoever you choose will act in your best interests.
If you consider that some investments will be extremely long term what you don’t want to be doing is transferring your assets from one solution to another because you’ve had to change your adviser.
The next question you should ask is how is your professional being compensated, are you his client or is your money his client?
It is likely however that with every transfer, the adviser will take some form of commission as payment. This creates a conflict of interest with you. You may want to work with a professional who is compensated by you directly and not from the product or at least be completely transparent and tell you what he is earning and how.
When you can build a relationship with your adviser, your adviser must make an effort to understand your personality, values, what kind of a person you are and what kind of a person you want to be, understand in detail your risk profile so he/she can make decisions on your behalf, if you so wish.
Once that level of trust is established, much of the pressure of keeping an eye on your assets will be removed and you can live in comfort knowing that your best interests are being withheld.
Sorting them out
There are thousands of professional advisers around the world. Some are exceptional, some are little more than estate agents who now sell financial products.
So how can you spot the good from the bad?
The first thing you can do is some due diligence on their existing clients. So, you make any formal arrangement, ask to speak to a few existing clients to find out how they feel. Make sure the client’s profiles are like yours (being an expat). Beware of those who either cannot or do not wish to provide you with references.
It’s also important that you don’t simply go with what is on the websites and you speak to the people directly. While time consuming, it might just enable you that additional peace of mind before deciding.
Most importantly, don’t go with the first adviser you come across, even if they seem perfect. Quite often, good salespeople can fool anyone, so the safest option is to get a second – or even third – opinion on any planner. Most advisers will offer a free consultation up front to enable them to understand more about you. Take advantage of this.
Thirdly, if they claim to be regulated, make sure you double check on the register. And even then, if you or they are not in the jurisdiction of the regulatory body, it may not mean anything anyway. But at least you know that they are regulated somewhere.
Finally, don’t just go with the cheapest or most expensive. When you evaluate the agreements and costs, ensure you know everything and get it in writing. It’s far more important to be cost effective in the long run than keep costs low – or go with an expensive option because the price is a guide of quality.
Don’t let a professional drive you to action by using fear.
Whether you currently have a financial planner or not, making snap decisions normally ends in a disaster. If an adviser is using fear to get you to react, take a step back and consider again. You should never be rushed into a decision which could have a major effect on your long-term financial health.
In addition, you must be aware that no financial planner is a prophet, and occasionally investments will not perform exactly as we wished, so rather than making an impulsive decision, sit with your adviser, discuss the situation and try and adjust your plan accordingly with him/her.
This is where trust comes into play.
Remember, all investments come with some degree of risk – and there is no such opportunity which is a sure thing. Even the best professionals can get it wrong. The key is to work together to mitigate these risks as much as possible.
Too good to be true?
Last and by no means least, if something appears too good to be true, it usually is.