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Choosing a Retirement Planning Advisor

Choosing a Retirement Planning Advisor

Written by Melissa Mlasko and Linda Clarkson, Financial Advisors with Futurity First Wealth Management

A strong retirement plan is essential to your financial health, not to mention your peace of mind. Beyond the insurance and investments you choose, the person who advises you on the creation and management of your plan is a critical element to your success.

First, make sure your advisor can address a variety of issues. Specifically he or she should be well-versed in four key areas: Income Planning, Asset Protection, Legacy Protection and Healthcare Planning. Let’s take those one by one.

Income Planning is the base of any good retirement plan encompassing retirement income strategies, life insurance and disability. The better handle you have on these key issues, the stronger your plan. Asset Protection builds on the Income Plan with investment management, 401(k) rollover strategies and long-term care planning. The next part is Legacy Planning; what you wish to leave to those you care about. Make sure your advisor understands wealth transfer, charitable giving, insurance policies and business continuation planning if that’s relevant to you. Finally, comprehensive Healthcare Planning will make a real difference in your quality of life during retirement. Medicare is a part of it but you need to also think about how you will handle things like short-term care and critical illness.

What should you look for in addition to someone who is adept in these four areas? First, check for credentials. Ask what the requirements are for any certifications the advisor holds. That way you won’t get lost in the “alphabet soup” following your advisor’s name. Second, interview a new advisor before you get down to business. A person who begins promoting products before getting to know your situation probably doesn’t have you best interests at heart. Finally, look for someone who invites you to ask questions. Being a fiduciary is all about open communication and trust. Don’t settle for an advisor who rushes you or discourages your participation in the planning process.

What types of advisors should you avoid? Certainly anyone who makes harassing phone calls or is overly persistent. Beware of someone who can’t or won’t fully explain their recommendations. On another issue, understand that there’s a great deal of paperwork involved in financial planning. Take the time to read documents carefully and look for an advisor who is willing to discuss it all. Finally, if you feel uncomfortable with an advisor you’re considering, follow your instincts and keep looking.

Fortunately new government regulations are helping. The Department of Labor recently developed rules requiring professional financial advisors to “act in the best interests of their clients”. This new rule requires advisors to be very clear about their charges and affiliations. That disclosure makes it easier to spot potential conflicts of interest and hold advisors accountable. It also protects employees who are deciding how their 401(K) funds are invested when in the past that money was controlled by plan managers.

The bottom line is do your homework.  Think about everything you want in your retirement plan and then interview a number of potential advisors to get the right fit. These are important decisions and you need the best possible partner to help you make them.

Melissa Mlasko and Linda Clarkson are Financial Advisors for Futurity First and Futurity First Wealth Management . Melissa lives in Medford, Oregon and can be reached at 541.842.0905 or  Linda Clarkson, also from Medford, can be reached at 541.973.2122 or Investment advisory service provided through Sequent Planning LLC (also doing business as Futurity First Wealth Management), a registered investment adviser. Insurance and annuities offered through Futurity First Insurance Group Inc., a licensed insurance agency and affiliate of Sequent Planning LLC.