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How to Prepare for Your Meeting With a Financial Advisor

Meeting with a financial advisor can sometimes feel intimidating. Whether it’s your first session (or your next one), find tips to prep and make the most of your time.

A close-up of a woman's hands writing in a planner.

Key Takeaways

Preparing for your initial (or next) meeting with a financial advisor can help you make the most of your session.

Your advisor can review your portfolio against the goals you have for the meeting and make recommendations.

Key post-meeting steps include deciding how you will track progress and communicate with your advisor ongoing.

You’ve taken the step. You’ve reached out to a financial professional, and now your appointment is on the calendar.

But your work isn’t done. You can help get the most of your session by prepping ahead. Gathering important information and thinking about your financial goals will help you and your advisor. It will also help you narrow your focus on what really matters and what you want to take away from the session. Below are eight tips to help you prepare.

First Meeting? What to Expect

At your initial meeting, your advisor will likely want to get to know you on a personal level, in addition to learning about your financial situation and goals. The advisor will ask about your goals around your money to build a financial plan to help get you there.

8 Tips to Help Prepare for Your Appointment

Tip 1 – Understand the Importance of the Meeting

There’s nothing wrong with socking money away for “someday.” However, sharing a clear and specific goal with your advisor will help them better define a path for success. What does that look like?

Your advisor can help turn your “I’m saving for someday” into “I’m saving to have a steady retirement income after I quit working.” Here are some general goals and examples of how to make them specific to you.

  • Retirement: I want to quit working at age 55.

  • College savings: My 12-year-old wants to become a doctor.

  • New business: I want to be my own boss in five years.

  • Estate plan: I want to make sure my family is secure.

Tip 2 – Bring the Right Documents

Be prepared with documents to help your advisor understand your current financial situation. These records include bank statements, investment statements (including for your 401(k) and other retirement accounts) and any insurance policies.

Tip 3 – Consider Your Portfolio Needs and Wants

Your investments should be closely aligned with specific goals. Think about how you feel about your current portfolio and if it’s doing the job you think it should. Most people want to know if they’re invested the right way. Your advisor should help you know if your portfolio works for the specific goals you set. Below are questions to discuss:

  • Is my portfolio aligned with my long-term goals?

  • Does my asset allocation allow me to sleep at night when markets are volatile?

  • Is my portfolio built to address my concerns about (inflation, taxes, lasting long enough … you fill in the blank)?

Tip 4 – Discuss Current and Future Life Events

Many people turn to an advisor when something happens—positive or negative—because they realize their money needs have changed. Discussing life events with a financial professional can help you adjust for new circumstances. Even if things are status quo now, it helps to plan for the unexpected. Here are some life events that can impact your money.

  • Marriage and divorce

  • Family addition (birth or adoption)

  • Family member illness or death

  • Job change or loss

  • Caring for someone else (aging parent, adult child, someone with a disability, grandchildren)

  • Nearing retirement

Tip 5 – Take Stock of Your Plan Progress

Most financial professionals focus on planning. It’s part of their job to help you prepare for both the expected and unexpected. Knowing where you are in the planning process can set the direction for your overall financial plan.

Whatever you do, don’t shy away from this topic—even if you don’t feel good about your current status. It’s important to move forward from wherever you are. Here’s what an advisor may ask you:

  • Do you have a budget?

  • Do you have an emergency fund?

  • How do you feel about your retirement savings progress?

  • Do you have a plan for income in retirement (may depend on how far away you are)?

  • Do you have a college savings plan (if needed)?

  • Do you have an estate plan?

Tip 6 – Have Questions to Ask Your Financial Advisor

Your advisor will ask questions to understand your situation, but don’t forget to ask questions of your own.

  • How are you paid? Some advisors charge an annual fee that’s a percentage (typically 1%) of how much money they manage for you. Other fee structures include:

    • Fee only – The advisor collects a fixed fee only, which could be an annual charge or an hourly rate.

    • Commission only – They collect a fee based solely on the investments or other products they sell you, such as mutual funds or insurance products.

    • Fee-based – Your advisor collects both a fixed fee and commissions for investments they sell to you.

  • What is your approach to financial planning? Different advisors have different areas of expertise. Some advisors can help with investing and retirement planning, while others can help more broadly in areas of estate planning and the impact of taxes on your finances.

  • How will you tailor your investment strategies to my risk tolerance? When it comes to taking risk with investments, not all investors are alike. Your advisor should measure and respect your comfort with risk and then build your portfolio accordingly.

  • Are you a fiduciary financial advisor? Fiduciary financial advisors are obligated to act in your best interest. For example, a fiduciary advisor must seek the best prices and terms for any investment. Non-fiduciary financial advisors operate under a suitability standard but don’t have the same obligation. All financial consultants in American Century’s Private Client Group advisor services are fiduciaries.

Tip 7 – Set Clear Expectations

After your meeting, it’s important that you walk away understanding your advisor’s role and responsibilities. Some advisors only work with investments, while others take a broader role for clients that includes financial planning, estate planning and helping family members.

Also, establish in the meeting what communication will look like and how frequently you’ll hear from the advisor. Do you prefer to speak by phone or receive email updates? If you have a quick question or concern, can you call directly or do you need to set up an appointment?

Most advisors schedule annual check-ins with clients, but you may want to chat more frequently.

Tip 8 – Determine Post-Meeting Steps

At the end of your first meeting, your advisor should review the information you shared and provide a timeline to present you with a comprehensive financial plan based on your conversation. You should set the timing of your first follow-up meeting. The advisor may also share how you can track your progress on your own, including digital tools and resources through online account access.

Be Ready for a More Productive Meeting

Following these tips can help you realize the things you most want to accomplish during your session with a financial advisor. Write them down and have them handy at your meeting. Even better, complete our Financial Session Guide and email it to your advisor before your appointment. It will help your consultant prepare for the meeting too.

Thinking About Advice?

If you’re still in the “considering it,” phase, find out which advice options are available to you.

This material has been prepared for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment, accounting, legal or tax advice.

Private Client Group advisory services are provided by American Century Investments Private Client Group, Inc., a registered investment advisor. This service is generally for clients with a minimum $50,000 investment. Call us to determine the level of service that is appropriate for you. The advisory service provides discretionary investment management for a fee. All investing involves risk.

Annual Investment Advisory Fee is 0.90% for balances $5 million and under and 0.70% for balances over $5 million. American Century Investments Private Client Group charges a single annual fee based on the value of your assets under management with us. The single fee includes our Private Client Solutions, along with any underlying trading costs, commissions, and custody services related to our recommendations. American Century Investments' financial consultants do not receive a portion, or a range of the advisory fee paid by clients. Client-oriented trades outside of our recommendations and other activities like wire transfer fees, may result in additional cost.

You could lose money by investing in a mutual fund, even if through your employer's plan or an IRA. An investment in a mutual fund is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency.