If you’ve been investing for a long time and want to turn the responsibility of running your portfolio over to someone else, choosing a wealth management firm is one way to do it.

But before you hire a firm, make sure you’ve chosen someone who really cares about your future and wants to protect your investments. Read our tips below to see what you need to look for in a wealth management firm. (For more, see: Wealth Management: How the Billionaires Do It.)

Don’t Focus on Price

When you’re choosing a wealth management firm, it’s easy to judge the differences between companies by one category: price. It’s simple, straightforward and you can’t argue if one number is smaller than the other.

But Tyler Landes, CFP at Tandem Financial Guidance, LLC, said that instead of getting too fixated on price, you should focus on value. Price is what you pay, value is what you get. 

“At the end of the day I tell people just know how an advisor gets paid, and what service or product they’re going to deliver in exchange,” he said. “Then decide if you think the value is in line with the cost. Cheaper isn’t better if the value isn't there.” (For more, see: Advice for Finding the Best Advisor.)

You should also ask other clients how their advisor treats them. And make sure to ask the advisor who their ideal client is. Landes said that if the description doesn’t match what your ideals, it won’t be a good fit. You want to feel like your advisor will care about your portfolio as much as you do. (For more, see: Find the Right Financial Advisor.)

“I've gained clients because their former advisor didn't reach out to set regular meetings, and the client felt like small potatoes,” said Landes.

Ask about how often you’ll be able to meet with your advisor or how you’ll stay informed about your investments. You want to be in the loop about what’s going on. (For more, see: Do You Need a Private Banker?)

Verify Credentials

When you’re choosing a firm, sit down with the advisor that will potentially be working on your account. You don’t want to have an interview with one person and then find out later that you’ve been handed over to someone else. 

Also ask about his/her background, where he or she has worked, if he/she is a Certified Financial Planner, and what other qualifications he/she has. Keep in mind that you’re the client, so it’s up to the advisor to win you and your business over. (For more, see: How to Find a New Financial Advisor Who's Right for You.)

You can verify if an advisor is a CFP here and look them up through the SEC here, or via Finra's BrokerCheck. Don’t be afraid to do the same kind of research you would perform on someone you were hiring at work. Ask what every credential and certification means and see if you can find any work history or talk to current and past clients. Do your due diligence before making a decision.

How Are They Paid?

There are different ways you can pay a CFP. Some charge a commission based on the products you buy from them, while others charge a set rate based on the size of your portfolio. You want someone who’s as invested in your portfolio’s growth as you are.

Be wary of hiring anyone who earns a commission on what they sell to you; they’ll be more interested in earning that extra money than making sure what they’re selling is the best fit for your needs. (For more, see: Paying Your Investment Advisor - Fees or Commissions?)

The Bottom Line

Choosing a wealth management firm may be one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. Whomever you choose to access your accounts may change the fate of your retirement. That’s not to scare you away from making any kind of decision, but you need to be aware that advisors are all different. Don’t make your decision on impulse; ask around for referrals from people you trust and do your own deep-dive research. (For related reading, see: Under What Circumstances Would I Require Private Wealth Management?)

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