It's Your Money  

Once you've picked a financial advisor, ask these questions

Questions to ask

In last week’s column, I discussed five questions to ask when looking for a new financial advisor.

As a follow up this week, I wanted to look at five more questions to ask your existing or new advisor during your annual review.

Once you’ve selected your ideal financial advisor, you should be meeting with him or her at least once a year to go over the past 12 months and look ahead to the next year.

These are some of the questions to ask your financial advisor to make sure everything is staying on track:

1. How has my portfolio performed?

How you judge your investments’ performance will depend on the expectations you set with your financial advisor. If you told them that you have a high risk tolerance and want to maximize growth, then your portfolio’s performance should reflect that.

Your financial advisor should be able to explain not only how your portfolio performed, but also what factors may have influenced it.

Similarly, it’s important for you to know where your net worth sits and how it compares to last year. Again, your financial advisor should go over the reasons for any changes.

2. Are all of my goals still on track?

This is where you get to test the value of the financial plan your advisor put together for you.

You should expect to see consistent progress towards all of your goals. If this is not the case, your advisor should not only be able to explain why, but also have a plan in place to get them back on track.

Ask them if you can still retire on time, with the amount of income you expect to need to maintain your preferred retirement lifestyle.

This is the chief concern for most investors, and your advisor should be confident in being able to help you reach this goal. They should be able to tell you how much you currently have saved for retirement, how much you’re on course to save by the time you stop working, how long that money will last (while including all other retirement income, such as CPP and OAS) and if you are falling short in any way.

If it currently looks like you won’t have enough money by the time you want to retire, your plan needs to be tweaked to make up this shortfall.

3. Do I need to make any changes to my plan?

When you ask this question, your advisor should in turn ask you if there have been any major changes in your life, such as getting married, having a baby, or switching jobs. If you’re earning considerably more (or less) money, then not only your plan but also your goals may need to be modified.

Do you have new financial goals, such as the need to save for a wedding, or start an education savings plan, or a desire to travel the world when you retire? Or has there been a major change in global stock markets?

Now is the time to bring those considerations into your financial plan.

4. Is my plan making the most of tax strategies?

When it comes to the most important questions to ask your financial advisor, this is often the one that people forget, even though it can be the most crucial.

A thorough financial plan will incorporate every aspect of your finances and each aspect should be set up as tax efficiently as possible. Now is the time to go over which tax strategies your advisor has put into place, how well they’re working and what you should do before you file this year’s taxes.

5. What should I concentrate on in the coming year?

Your annual review conversations should prompt ideas and directions that may be different from last year.

Your financial advisor may set new goals for you to aim for this year, along with ways to achieve them and any tax strategies that will be helpful along the way.

You should leave your annual review with a clear plan of action for the upcoming 12 months.

Now that you know which questions to ask your financial advisor, it’s time to put them to the test.

If you haven’t heard from your advisor in some time, reach out to them to arrange a review and have these questions ready to ask.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Brett, designated as a chartered investment manager and certified financial planner, is the regional director (Okanagan) for IG Wealth Management.

In addition to his “day job," Brett was appointed to the board of directors of FP Canada (formerly FPSC) in 2014, named as the board’s vice-chair in 2017 and took over as board chairman in 2019. 

Brett has been writing a weekly financial planning column since 2012 and provides his readers with easy to understand explanations of the complex financial challenges that they face in every stage of life.

Enhancing the financial literacy of Canadian consumers is a top priority of Brett’s and his ongoing efforts as a finance writer and on the regulatory side through the FP Canada board focus on this initiative.   

Please let Brett know if you have any topics that you’d like him to cover in future columns by emailing him at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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