You may have heard the expression, “It takes a village…” If you have meaningful assets or complex financial issues, you will most likely require a team of experts to manage your affairs.
The Wealth Management Ecosystem
The wealth management ecosystem is a network of professionals, each with their respective areas of expertise, working to craft and execute a comprehensive financial strategy.
The key members of this team often include financial advisors, estate planning attorneys, accountants, and insurance professionals. They each contribute individually, but their real power is realized when they coordinate to integrate all aspects of your wealth to meet your unique financial goals and circumstances.
Your role as the client
Your role as the client in this collaborative environment is critical.
Your engagement in the process, feedback, and willingness to communicate openly about your needs and concerns make the collaborative wealth management process work. You should review your financial plan with your advisor regularly, stay informed about your investments, and communicate any changes in your circumstances or financial goals.
The role of a financial advisor
A financial advisor plays a crucial role in selecting and coordinating the other members of your team. The advisor is responsible for assessing your financial situation and needs and recommending the appropriate professionals to help achieve your goals.
The advisor works closely with each team member to ensure everyone is aligned and working towards the same objectives while keeping you informed and involved throughout the process.
Think of your financial advisor as your general contractor or your team’s quarterback.
How to select a financial advisor
Selecting a financial advisor is an important decision. Here are some key considerations and credentials to look for:
Credentials and Qualifications: Look for advisors who hold recognized credentials like Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Private Wealth Advisor (CPWA), or Personal Financial Specialist (PFS). These designations require rigorous education, experience, and adherence to ethical standards.
Regulatory Registration: Confirm that your advisor is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission or state securities regulators.
Experience and Expertise: Consider the advisor’s experience and areas of specialization. Some advisors focus on retirement planning, while others specialize in tax planning or investment management. It can be helpful to choose an advisor whose expertise aligns with your specific financial needs and goals.
Fee Structure: Understand how the advisor is compensated. Some advisors charge a percentage of assets under management, while others charge hourly or fixed fees. Make sure the fee structure is transparent and reasonable based on the services provided.
Fiduciary Duty: All registered investment advisors (RIAs) are legally required to act in your best interest and provide advice aligned with your goals. Confirm that your advisor is an RIA.
Reputation and References: Research the advisor’s reputation and read client reviews or testimonials. Ask for references and speak with current clients to understand their satisfaction with the advisor.
Compatibility and Communication: Consider your compatibility with the advisor. Financial planning is a long-term relationship, so it’s crucial to work with someone you trust and feel comfortable sharing details of your financial situation candidly and forthrightly.
Estate Planning Attorneys: Your Legacy Protectors
Estate planning attorneys focus on the preservation and transfer of wealth. They work closely with you and your financial advisor to develop strategies to ensure your wealth is passed on according to your wishes while minimizing estate taxes. This may involve setting up trusts, creating a will, or making charitable donations.
How to select an estate planning attorney
Estate planning is a serious endeavor that requires significant knowledge, expertise, and attention to detail. When selecting an estate planning attorney, you should consider the following qualifications and factors:
Education and Credentials: An attorney should have a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from an accredited law school, and be a member of the bar in your state. It’s also helpful if they hold any certifications specific to estate planning, like being a Certified Trust and Estate Planner (CTEP), an Accredited Estate Planner (AEP), a Certified Trust and Fiduciary Advisor (CTFA), or similar credentials.
Specialization in Estate Planning: Look for an attorney specializing in estate planning. Some attorneys may only dabble in this field while focusing on other areas of law. An attorney focused on estate planning should be up-to-date on current laws and regulations and have significant experience.
Experience: The more experience an attorney has in estate planning, the better equipped they should be to handle potential complications. Try to find out how many years they’ve been practicing in this area and how many clients they have helped.
Communication and Personal Compatibility: You must feel comfortable discussing personal matters with your attorney and that they are responsive to your needs and questions. You should feel they listen to you, respect your views, and patiently explain their advice.
Transparent Fees: Estate planning can be complicated and time-consuming, and, therefore, potentially costly. An attorney should be transparent about their fee structure, whether they charge a flat fee, an hourly rate, or a percentage of the estate.
Proactivity in Planning: Good estate planning attorneys don’t just draft documents; they also help you make plans, considering the financial, legal, and emotional aspects of end-of-life planning.
Accountants: Your Fiscal Watchdogs
Accountants serve as the fiscal watchdogs of your wealth management team. They ensure you comply with tax laws, help you understand your tax obligations, and strategize ways to minimize your tax liability.
How to select an accountant
Choosing an accountant is a crucial decision. Here are some qualities and qualifications to look for:
Education and Certification: An accountant should have at least a Bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. A Master’s degree or an advanced certificate in accounting is a plus. They should be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), which means they have passed the Uniform CPA Exam and meet state licensing requirements.
Experience: Check their expertise in your particular industry or your financial needs. The type of business you run, or the complexity of your financial situation can require specialized knowledge.
Integrity: You’ll trust this person with your sensitive financial information, so you need someone with high integrity. Look for signs of honesty and transparency in your interactions with them. Ask for references and follow through by calling several of their clients.
Communication skills: Accountants should be able to explain complex financial concepts in terms you can understand. They should also be responsive and available to answer your questions promptly.
Tech-savviness: In today’s digital age, many accounting tasks are completed using software. They should be proficient in popular accounting and tax preparation software and understand how to use digital tools to streamline processes.
Continuous learning: Tax laws and financial regulations change frequently. A good accountant should stay current.
Proactive and strategic thinking: Rather than just doing routine tasks, a good accountant will proactively provide strategic advice to help you save money, reduce risk, and grow your wealth or business.
Reasonable fees: Ask about their fees. Accountants can charge by the hour a flat fee for specific services or a percentage of the income managed.
Services offered: Depending on your needs, you might require more than just tax preparation. Other services could include bookkeeping, auditing, financial planning, business consulting, or assistance with obtaining loans.
Insurance professionals: Risk managers
Insurance professionals identify potential risks to your wealth and recommend insurance policies to protect against these risks. This could involve life insurance, disability insurance, property and casualty insurance, and long-term care insurance.
How to select an insurance professional
Selecting an insurance professional can be critical because it involves protecting your financial well-being. Here are some steps and qualifications to consider:
Licensing: Ensure the insurance professional is licensed to practice in your state. Each state in the U.S. has an insurance department, and professionals must be licensed. You can usually check the status of their license online.
Specialization: You might choose an insurance professional specializing in a particular area. For instance, some professionals might specialize in life insurance, while others might specialize in auto or health insurance.
Credentials: Various professional designations can indicate a professional’s expertise and commitment to the field. Some of the most recognized credentials in the insurance industry are Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), and Certified Financial Planner (CFP). These credentials require passing rigorous exams and adhering to ethical standards.
Reputation: You can often find reviews and ratings of insurance professionals online. Consider these reviews and personal recommendations from friends, family, or coworkers.
Communication Skills: Good insurance professionals should be able to explain complex insurance terms in simple language. They should be able to answer your questions and provide clear and concise information.
Integrity and Trustworthiness: Since insurance involves essential aspects of your life and finances, you need a trustworthy professional who acts with integrity. Trust your instincts when you meet with potential professionals.
Service: Consider the level of service the professional provides. Do they take the time to understand your needs and answer your questions? Are they available when you need them?
The collaborative success of wealth management hinges on the collective expertise of qualified professionals, including financial advisors, estate planning attorneys, accountants, and insurance professionals. As a client, your active participation, transparency, and communication are vital in shaping your team’s decisions and strategies. Your wealth management team isn’t just there to protect and increase your assets; they should align financial strategy with your unique needs, goals, and aspirations. Select your team wisely, ensure they have the credentials and experience, and cultivate a relationship based on mutual trust and understanding.