Financial planning can seem daunting to many people who are just starting, but it doesn’t have to be. Once you’ve identified your target market, engaged in different prospecting ideas, and have successfully made an appointment, the next step is to understand your client’s goals, current challenges, and financial situation. One way to do this is by creating a checklist of questions to ask clients to ensure that you cover all the bases and provide them with the best possible advice. This blog post will discuss some of the most important questions to ask clients and questions your clients may ask you.
Questions to Ask Your Clients on Your First Meeting
#1 What are your overall financial goals?
At the start of the conversation, the answer to this question should be clear to you and your client. Is it for asset protection or retirement? Is it to finance a big purchase (a car, a house, or travel) or for capital appreciation? Or does your prospect need someone to help manage their finances?
For example, financial advisors can provide a debt management plan if prospects are trying to get out of debt. If they are trying to save for a down payment on a house, you can provide investment recommendations to enable clients to grow their money within your client’s timeframe or target purchase date.
Likewise, if clients are close to retirement age, the overall financial plan and goal might be to preserve their capital. On the other hand, if they are new to investing, the goal and strategy are to grow their portfolio faster.
You can use these goal-oriented topics to explore more about a person’s goals:
- Short and long-term financial objectives and goals
- Retirement income goal in life
- Investment portfolio goal
- Estate and tax planning goal
- Cash flow management objective
Why is this relevant: One of the most common mistakes new (and even veteran) financial advisors make is assuming that they know what their clients need. While it is your job as a financial advisor to give direction and plan their financial milestones, it is ultimately up to your client what they want to do and how they want to grow their money.
#2 Do you work with any other financial professionals?
Some clients have worked with a financial professional but aren’t satisfied with the results. Or, your client may already be working with a different financial advisor, insurance professional, accountant, and lawyer handling various aspects of their finances or investment.
Why this is relevant: If your client is already working with another financial professional and already has an investment or insurance at play, it will help you create a plan that supplements or enhances their existing investments. You don’t want to develop redundant strategies that will waste both you and your client’s time and resources.
TIP: It is always best to observe your clients, including their verbiage, subtle nuances, and habits. Having a good relationship involves establishing good and open communication, both verbal and non-verbal. Once your client is comfortable with you, they are more likely to trust you with their money.
#3 What is your experience with investments and financial planning?
There are different types of customers in the financial advising industry: the newbies, the advanced, and the expert. Each type has a varying degree of knowledge and skills in finance and investments. Have they been investing for a long time? What does their overall investment portfolio look like? How long have they been investing? These are some of the supplemental questions you need to get answers to after your initial meeting with your client.
Why is it relevant: Knowing the answer to this question will give you an idea if you need to educate your clients about financial and investment planning before proceeding on the more complex part of the process.
#4 What is your current financial situation?
You should know the overview of their household budget, income, debts, assets, net worth, and expenses but not the specifics such as amounts. These details should also include other portfolios. You can use this information to create a custom financial plan that meets the client’s specific needs.
Here are some follow-up questions you can use to explore more in the client’s way of life:
- Do you own or rent your home?
- Do you have any dependent children?
- What is your current health situation?
- Do you have any pets?
- Do you have any chronic illnesses or special needs?
Why is it relevant: Understanding one’s financial picture is critical to creating the best financial and investment plan for their needs. It’s important to know if they can sustain the financial program in the long run.
#5 What keeps you up at night?
According to an article by CNBC, 73% of Americans rank finances as their #1 cause of stress, and sadly, your client may be one of them. Not only does it rob them of their peace of mind, but it also affects their physical and mental well-being, causing them to make poor financial decisions.
Why is it relevant: Knowing what causes them financial stress helps you devise a strategy that alleviates it. For example, a client with a massive amount of debt but would rather focus on investing will be very uncomfortable in bear markets even though the loss is standard in the industry. A better strategy would be to bring down their debt to an acceptable level where they can sleep at night and devote their time to investing.
#6 What is your retirement planning situation?
According to a FinanceBuzz survey, 35% of Americans have no retirement savings at all. Reasons vary: the younger generation may not see it as a priority while older generations may not have enough money to invest. That is why more and more Americans are working way after 60 years old and are not able to really enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Why is it relevant: This question will help you set the starting point and establish how much your client needs to invest in order to reach their desired annual income amount and gain financial security. Your investment strategy, timing, and portfolio will soon follow.
#7 Do you have an estate plan?
Estate planning is a tedious process that some clients do not want to handle since it involves their death. As a financial planner, it is your responsibility to highlight the importance of estate planning regardless of net worth or income level.
Why is it relevant: Estate planning not only protects the client’s assets but also protects the family or loved one they will leave behind. Instances, where the family has to sell heirlooms or properties just to pay estate taxes, are not unheard of.
#8 What is important to you?
The financial planning process also involves understanding what is important to your client. It may be their families, the charities they are working with, the continuity of their businesses, the collections they have, or even as simple as peace of mind come retirement.
Why is it relevant: Sometimes, a client’s financial goal is not aligned to what they value or to what is important to them. Often, these are not aligned with their investment strategy. Knowing these can help you recalibrate their portfolios to protect what is important to them and to invest in companies to which their values are more aligned to.
#9 Are you comfortable making decisions about your finances on your own?
Not all are confident with making financial decisions. Several reasons may cause this, such as a bad experience with DIY investing, lack of financial knowledge and investing ability, or simply because they don’t want to face the risk involved. That is why clients employ financial advisors to help them decide on these things.
Sometimes, clients want to be consulted for everything, like which stocks to buy and when to buy them, industries to invest in, even the percentage of holdings the portfolio has.
Why is it relevant: While this also affects your investment strategy, this question is geared towards making your client satisfied with your products and services. A client who wants to be consulted every time but is left in the dark will more likely look for a different advisor who can meet his expectations.
#10 How do you feel about risks? What is your risk appetite?
Risks are inherent in every financial plan and investment. Bears and Bulls are a common occurrence and as a financial advisor, managing investments aligned to your client’s risk appetite.
Why is it relevant: Knowing your client’s attitude to risk will help you plan a strategy that they are comfortable with. For example, stock indices, REITs, and mutual funds will be better for a conservative (risk-averse) client who is not comfortable taking in huge losses.
Likewise, high-risk-high reward investments, such as start-ups, blockchain, and cryptocurrencies, may be preferred by clients with higher risk tolerance.
TIP: It is best to only offer high-risk investments to clients who can afford to take on such risks. Clients who are new to financial planning or are nearing their retirement age should have stable, diversified investments.
#11 Do you have any questions for me?
This question allows your client to clarify any points they may not have understood. It is a go-signal to clients and is a way to build trust. Asking this question tells them that you’re still giving them more control over the next course of actions they need to take. Plus, this question shows you’re concerned about how much the person has understood your presentation.
10 Questions Clients Might Ask a Financial Advisor
Expect your clients to ask questions. Like you, they also want to know more about you and understand the relationship business you are in. Clients also want to gauge your knowledge. So, here are questions financial advisors should expect from clients, and you should answer these questions as truthfully as possible.
- Are you a certified financial planner (CFP) or a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA)?
- What are the fees associated with your services?
- What is your experience in this field?
- How often do you communicate with clients?
- What is your process for handling client money?
- Do you have any specialties or areas of expertise?
- What are the risks associated with investing?
- How do you handle market volatility?
- What is your experience with retirement planning?
- How do you help clients reach their financial objectives and goals?
Tips for Formulating Questions
One of the most important things you can do is to learn how to ask the right questions to strengthen an advisor-client relationship. This will help you better understand the needs, concerns, values, and goals and ultimately provide them with advice that brings added value. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when asking questions:
Avoid yes/no questions: These types of questions usually don’t lead to much productive discussion. Instead, ask open-ended questions that will encourage your client to elaborate their focus on investment and finance.
Ask follow-up questions: Once your client has answered your initial question, follow up with additional relationship questions to get more information. This will help you gain a deeper understanding of the situation.
Be prepared: Before meeting with a client, take some time to review their file and develop a list of questions that will help you make the most of your time together.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, there are a lot of important financial planning questions to ask clients. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should give you a good starting point. Remember, the goal is to help you create a plan for your clients, whether they are new or existing ones. Alternatively, you can invite your prospects to seminars discussing important financial topics if you need to educate them.