Finding the Right Fit: How to Choose a Financial Advisor in St. Louis

Finding the Right Fit: How to Choose a Financial Advisor in St. Louis

Are you in the market to find a financial advisor in St. Louis and surrounding areas, are you looking for the right fit for your needs?  Are you confused by the different titles used and what they mean or don’t mean – financial advisor, investment advisor, wealth manager, and retirement planner?  Even more confusing are specialized titles such as tax advisors, debt counselors, and insurance brokers which may sound appealing if you want specific help in those areas.  

So what are the differences, if there are any, amongst all those above titles? How do you gain valuable insights into a specific financial advisor or group of financial advisors?  How can you best understand how they would work and interact with you and your situation?

The above are all very real concerns. The fact is, it’s rarely clear how to go about finding the best financial advisor fit for your needs. 

Here is a step-by-step guide to choosing a financial advisor in St. Louis.

1. Determine what you want in a financial advisor

Start with your own needs and goals. What caused you to start looking for a financial advisor? Do you want to set up a plan for retirement? Or are you looking for business advice? Do you want to save for a major purchase?  Trying to figure out how much to convert to a Roth? Or how to simplify and optimize your charitable giving? Do you want to turn your investments over to a professional manager of money?

Then, think about your financial and life goals overall. Do you want to travel, save for your children’s education, or set up an estate plan for your family’s security? Goals can vary widely and change through time. Knowing yours can help you pinpoint the financial advisor you want.

2. Be aware of what financial advisors do

Comprehensive financial advisors help their clients with multiple aspects of their financial life. These aspects can include management of cash flow (income and expenses), saving for specific goals, investment management, retirement planning, tax advice, small business advice, risk management (insurance), estate planning (end-of-life disposition of assets), and more. If you want to focus on one, several, or all of these goals, that’s fine, but it’s helpful to know the range of services available whatever your goals are. 

People who use more narrow terms, such as “retirement planner,” “insurance broker” or “debt counselor” may focus more narrowly on those specific areas only. 

Comprehensive financial advisors also periodically review your plans. It’s prudent to meet at least once a year to review your goals, portfolio performance, life changes that can affect finances (such as marriages, births, divorces) and more.

3. Know their experience and expertise

Once you have identified your own needs and goals and understand what a financial advisor does, it’s time to focus on their experience and expertise. The fact is, the term “financial advisor” is not subject to any requirements regarding education, experience, or expertise in a specific financial field (or any other). Anyone can use it.

For that reason, it’s important to know that there is a designation that assures you of extremely high standards in experience and expertise. It’s the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional designation. Obtaining a CFP® certification requires extensive education and work experience that ensures a high level of competence. 

CFP® candidates must pass a six-hour exam covering the following five areas of finance: investments, retirement plans, insurance planning, tax planning, and estate planning.  CFP®s  also must adhere to high professional standards of conduct and are required to be fiduciaries.  There are also ongoing educational and ethical requirements to maintain their CFP certification.

4. Understand the fiduciary designation

As you look for financial advisors, it’s highly likely you will come across the word “fiduciary.” This term is very important to understand.  A fiduciary is a specific designation meaning that the advisor is required to put your best financial interests ahead of their own. That may sound like the kind of designation every financial advisor should have, but not all are required to. Choosing a financial advisor who is a fiduciary gives you further peace of mind.

5. Know how they are compensated

Financial advisors can use various different compensation structures. Fee-based advisors, for example, usually charge a combination of fees for services combined with commissions.  Some advisor types, such as stockbrokers or insurance brokers, may work on commission only.  Fee-only advisors usually charge a percentage of the assets that they manage.

6. Interview them to determine a good fit

To find the best fit between yourself and a financial advisor, there’s no substitute for talking to them – just as you would a lawyer or accountant before choosing them. 

What should you look for? Well, first look at the intangibles that determine a good fit. Do you feel comfortable talking to the key advisors you will work with and feel comfortable in their office environment? Do you see evidence of shared ethical or religious values or a tradition of community involvement? Is the office logistically comfortable for you (i.e., would it be convenient for you to work with this advisor and get in touch with them)?

Second, ask them questions that might indicate how they work with clients. You should feel comfortable asking them about how they would develop a plan to meet your goals, how frequently they might meet with you, and what ongoing meetings might look like. If you want advice on investments or retirement planning, ask them about their investment philosophy. If you have specific questions about any aspect of comprehensive financial advice, ask them.  Do their explanations seem clear? If you are unfamiliar with the terms they use, did you feel comfortable asking for an explanation?

Third, ask them about their expertise in working with people who share your financial and stage-of-life characteristics. Some financial advisors, for example, specialize in high-net-worth individuals, while others have expertise with young adults just starting their financial journey. Some specialize in retirement planning and some in complex situations.  It’s important to know from the start that you will have a good fit for your life situation.

Fourth, ask them who you would specifically work with. Some financial advisors work one-on-one with individual clients, trying to perform every function.  Other firms have a lead advisor for point of contact consistency who then accesses other team members for special expertise. 

Trinity Wealth Advisors: Your Financial Advisor in St. Louis, Missouri

Want to know where we fall in your search for financial advisors? We’ll tell you! Trinity Wealth Advisors is an integrated team of CFP®s with more than 25+ years of experience (on average) in comprehensive financial advising. We are active members of the St. Louis community who hold strong Judeo-Christian values. We are fee-based and unbiased.  We particularly enjoy digging deep into your complex problems so we can explain them to you in simple actionable steps.  We will work to help you achieve your objectives and enable you to live your life in accordance with your goals, beliefs, and values. 

Adapt to Life's Increasingly Complex Financial Twists & Turns
Trinity Wealth Advisors

Trinity Wealth Advisors

At Trinity Wealth Advisors, you get the power of a team of financial professionals with 25+ years of experience on average. All of our partners are CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERS ®. We have specialists in the fields of investments, planning, tax, estate, service, and more.