What you should look for in a finance professional

For most Americans, the do-it-yourself approach to finances can only get you so far.

While many people begin to manage their own long-term financial plan, when life changes bring new challenges, they may decide it’s time to start working with a financial professional. These changes could be moving to a new stage in life, such as getting married or having a child, or considering financial opportunities, such as buying a house or starting a new job.

Regardless of the circumstances, the vast majority of Americans say they appreciate the advice of a financial professional, according to the new 2022 Retirement Risk Preparedness Study* from Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America (Allianz Life). In fact, nearly 9 in 10 (86%) said working with a finance professional would support their future ambitions.

So how do you find someone to help you design a retirement income plan?

Finding a finance professional can seem like a daunting task. For many, the first step is to ask family or friends for recommendations. But, since financial health is often closely linked to age, a parent’s financial professional, for example, may not be the right fit for you.

It’s probably because you’re not at the same stage of life. Allianz Life’s latest study found that as people approach and then retire, the skills they value or demand from a finance professional change.

While 44% of respondents said making sure you have enough money is one of the most important things finance professionals can do to help, the study found that priorities change as as people age. You’ll want a professional who can offer tailored financial strategies that not only match your current stage of life, but can also provide contingencies for your financial future.

Here are some tips for finding a finance professional who might be the best fit for you and your future.

Know the different types of finance professionals

Before you start asking for recommendations or doing research online, ask yourself what kind of support you really want. You will also need to consider what type of compensation you want the professional to receive. Some work on commissions, some work on your account fees, and some work on a combination of these.

A good first step is to take some time and educate yourself about the different types of finance professionals who might be able to help you. There are different types of finance professionals who have different training, certifications, and responsibilities.

One way to think about the different types of professionals is to separate them by how they are paid. Paid professionals make money from the fees clients pay for their services, which can be a percentage of the asset. Other professionals are paid by third parties by earning a sales commission for the sale of certain products.

Some financial professionals are appointed fiduciaries and bound by a fiduciary duty. This means that they are legally bound to work in the best financial interests of their clients. Other professionals are held to a standard of fitness, which means they must make recommendations that are right for you based on the questions you answer, such as your comfort level at different levels of risk. While some advertisements tout one method over another, the reality is that financial advisers are subject to scrutiny by a number of regulatory bodies and oversee the advice and investments they offer.

Determine the services you need

Since finances have many facets, you’ll want to think about what kind of help you need. Is it specific to one area – budgeting, taxes, investment advice, retirement plans, debt repayment, insurance products, estate planning – or do you need help with all aspects of financial planning?

Keep in mind that your needs will likely change as you go through the different stages of your life.

According to our study, people more than 10 years from retirement are more interested in having a financial professional to help them ensure the financial future of their children (35%), balance their budget (33%) and repay their debts (27%) .

Those planning to retire in the next 10 years are the most interested in getting help maximizing their Social Security benefits (34%) and making the best decisions about Medicare and health insurance ( 30 %).

Retirees are more interested in professional help to maximize investment returns (56%), protect investments against market losses (45%) and minimize their tax burden (43%).

You’ll want to find a finance professional with the right credentials for your distinct planning needs. Many finance professionals specialize in specific areas, such as retirement planning. Others may be better suited to young people just starting out in their careers who want to build a solid financial footing.

Find the right fit

It is important that you take the time to do your research and evaluate your options. If you really need help planning for your retirement, but your financial professional’s main focus is on taxes, you’re wasting time that could be beneficial to achieving your goals. You should seek out a professional or an office that can advise you through all future phases of your future. It’s not uncommon for individuals to change advisors throughout their financial lives, but it takes time to build rapport and trust, so think about the future, not just the present.

Talk to several finance professionals before choosing one. Go into those first meetings like a job interview. You want to learn more about this professional’s systems and strategies and make sure they suit both your personality and your specific financial situation. Although you want to do your research on the person beforehand, whatever ratings they might give to others, you need to feel that you will be confident and comfortable with this person. They will know many details about you and your finances, so trust is an ultimate goal.

If you don’t know what to ask for, here are some ideas.

  • How is your typical customer?
  • How would you describe your approach to helping customers?
  • What technology do you have to help customers?
  • Do you develop written financial plans?
  • How to earn money ?

The right financial professional can help you with financial strategies so you can live the life you desire. Since financial needs change over time, don’t feel bad if you outgrow your current financial professional and determine it’s time for a change. As you go through life, make sure the relationship still works for you. Change is never easy, but change is inevitable.

*Allianz Life conducted an online survey, the 2022 Retirement Risk Readiness Study, in February 2022 among a nationally representative sample of 1,000 people aged 25 and over in the contiguous United States with an annual household income of 50 $000+ (single) / $75,000+ (married/partnership) OR $150,000 investable assets.

Vice President, Advanced Markets, Allianz Life

Kelly LaVigne is Vice President of Advanced Markets for Allianz Life Insurance Co.where he is responsible for developing programs that help finance professionals serve clients with retirement, estate planning and tax strategies.

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