I was recently stuck in traffic on an airport shuttle bus with a group of advisors.  One advisor was referencing an older widowed client and stated, “She didn’t earn that money, so it really didn’t matter to her. Her husband was the one who worked”.  I was at first offended on a personal level but after long consideration and persuasion from my colleagues, I realized this was an opportunity.  It is an opportunity to educate others on how to find financial advisors that meet our needs, help us identify our goals, and put our best interests first.

On initial consultation with a financial advisor, you are probably walking through the door with a list of things you would like to get accomplished.  It is the advisor’s job to allow you to share what those needs are…and then delve a little deeper. What other needs might you have that you might not have even realized yet?

I remember years ago, when we were still a young family, sitting with our advisor and speaking about retirement.  My late husband was law enforcement and had a mandatory retirement age well before 67.  We had not planned for income to help us fill in the gap for the 10 years before social security would possibly start.  Also, early retirement would mean about 10 years less of our funding retirement compared to our peers, AND an additional 10 years that we would be utilizing those funds. And thus, we realized a need for financial planning in our early 30’s if we wanted to hit our goal of retirement in Greg’s 50’s.  Without the guidance and experience of our advisor, we may never have realized that we had such a great need between 57 and 67…and beyond!

Goals take it up a notch. Needs are what I like to think of as “have-to’s”.  You need a cash reserve for those emergencies in life.  You need to have funds to live on.  You need to pay your rent or mortgage.  Most goals are long-term, some may seem more like wants, and the solutions can be vast and creative.  When you sit with your advisor he or she should be asking you thoughtful questions to learn more about who you are, how you make decisions and what the future looks like.   Only through such questioning and conversation can goals be clearly identified, and most importantly, clearly understood.   You can begin to build a pathway to reach those goals. A quality advisor will be helping you find each stepping stone along the way and will show you the different routes.

As mentioned above, there are often many paths one can take to get to the same place.  There are also many solutions and available products that can help one achieve their long-term and short-term goals.  When preparing recommendations and finding the solution that is right for you, a thoughtful advisor takes many considerations into account. Your risk tolerance, your time frame, fees and your future need for liquidity to name a few. Only then can an advisor offer solutions that work for your best interest, not his or hers.  Their understanding of your needs and goals above, along with consideration of the other elements of a sound financial plan, ensure solutions and outcomes best suited for you.

For anyone reading this blog, and especially to my fellow widows, I implore you to make sure you get a good referral for your advisor or get out and meet with more than one!  Once you begin working together, make sure your advisor understands who you are, what your goals and objectives are, and that you truly feel comfortable with him or her.  Your advisor should be a confidant along this beautiful, winding journey of life.