Finding the Right Advisor for You

Those of a certain age will remember the iconic “financial advice” scene in the 1967 movie, The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman. Twenty-one-year-old Benjamin Braddock—played by Hoffman—has just graduated from college, and his wealthy parents have thrown a party for him. One of their friends, Mr. McGuire, takes young Braddock aside, telling him he has some important advice to offer. “One word,” McGuire says: “Plastics.”

In the movie, of course, this was intended to convey to Braddock everything he found distasteful, artificial, and shallow about the prospects lying before him. On the other hand, Hoffman’s character might have done worse than to invest, or even make a career, in plastics. After all, from a strictly financial perspective, plastics haven’t done so poorly for James Dyson, whose revolutionary vacuum cleaners, hand dryers, and other air-moving equipment depend heavily on plastic manufacturing technology. The same could be said for enterprises like Boeing, Tesla, Celanese, DuPont, and Exxon Mobil.

The larger point is, the type and quality of financial advice you receive really does matter. Especially for those who are building strategies for retirement, education funding, or other important financial goals, having an advisor who understands you and has your best interests at heart is one of the most important keys to success. And both of these qualities are vital. While Mr. McGuire may have thought he had Benjamin Braddock’s best interests in mind, he clearly didn’t understand the new graduate’s priorities, goals, or core values. If he had, his advice would have gone beyond “plastics.”

The right advisor takes the time to get to know you.

At JFS Wealth Advisors, the most important thing we do is listen. Before we make any recommendations, plans, or anything else, we spend time getting to know our clients’ needs, aims, priorities, attitudes toward finance and investing, and core values. How else can we learn the best way to help them build a diversified portfolio that conforms with the level of risk appropriate for them? Without understanding their most important goals and their timeframes for achieving them, how can we properly guide our clients in choosing the mix of investments that will enable them to achieve their goals? Unless we have a thorough grasp of their business and personal liabilities and the nature of their employment income, we can’t advise them properly about important financial matters like insurance and retirement accounts. And if we haven’t asked the important questions about their wishes for the ultimate disposition of their assets, we can’t make proper recommendations for tax-efficient estate planning and other matters that could have a pivotal effect on the next generations. It all starts with listening carefully and asking the questions of the client that allow us to really dig deep and gain a 360-degree view of their financial lives, both in the present and projected into the future.

If you can’t say with confidence that your financial advisor listens to you and thoroughly understands your situation, then maybe that’s not the right advisor for you.

The right advisor places your best interests first—always.

As a fiduciary wealth advisor and financial planner, JFS is ethically and professionally bound to act in your best interest. In fact, the client’s interest must come first in everything: even ahead of the interests of the firm or the individual advisor. Here’s how this requirement is worded on the website of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc® (CFPs®): “A CFP® Professional must place the interests of the client above the interests of the CFP® Professional and the CFP® Professional’s firm…” This means that in every decision, every recommendation, every transaction, we are obligated to consider what is best for the client—period. What does this mean in practical terms? Among other things, it means:

  • We will never recommend a product or service based on its profitability for the advisor or the firm;
  • We will fully disclose all fees and other costs incurred by the client before proceeding with any recommendation;
  • We will avoid conflicts of interest whenever possible and, when not possible, will fully disclose them, mitigate them to the degree possible, and ensure that the client understands them and is able to make a fully informed decision.

In other words, complete transparency in all dealings is a basic expectation. If you don’t believe your advisor is being completely transparent with you, or you aren’t sure that all recommendations are placing your best interest first, maybe that’s not the right advisor for you.

The right advisor communicates clearly.

Have you ever read an agreement—say, for example, a warranty agreement for a product you’ve just purchased—and felt as if it was written in another language? Unfortunately, too many people are intimidated by the world of finance and investing because they don’t understand the “jargon,” and no one has ever bothered to translate it into terms they can understand. In fact, a recent survey by insurer Allianz Life indicates that 53% of Americans say they are hesitant to invest at any time in the foreseeable future. One of the main reasons for such hesitancy is a lack of confidence and knowledge about the financial markets and their place in the average person’s investment plan.

As a fiduciary advisor, JFS has the obligation to make sure that our guidance and recommendations are presented in a way that our clients can understand. Rather than trying to impress a client or potential client with insider lingo, we believe that it is essential to provide people with authoritative, research-tested information, presented in everyday language and including enough repetition to ensure that the message has been received accurately.

If you come away from conversations with an advisor feeling more confused than when you started, then maybe that’s not the right advisor for you.

At JFS Wealth Advisors, our goal is to be the right advisor. By listening closely and asking good questions, by always placing the client’s interests foremost, and by communicating clearly and for as long as it takes to achieve understanding, we believe that we will deliver sound financial guidance that will enable our clients to move confidently toward their most important financial goals. To learn more about how we help individuals and families build sound strategies for the future, please visit our website.

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