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Financial Planning

What to Ask Your Financial Adviser

How to Break the Ice

You'll probably be asked in advance to submit a profile and answer a questionnaire about yourself. Once you arrive at an adviser's office, however, take charge firmly but politely. Even if you're upset because the misjudgments of some other financial outfit cost you a bundle, don't come across as belligerent. And even though fees and charges are important, haggling rubs many advisers the wrong way. Use these icebreakers:

Q: Here's my situation. Any ideas on how to fix it? Ask how the adviser has handled similar situations.

Q: How will we work together? How long will it take to develop a plan and put it into effect?

Q: What is your policy regarding phone calls, e-mails, or just sounding off about the awful stock market? Some advisers like to chat, while others will ask you to make an appointment or have a quarterly sit-down.


Q: What's your investment philosophy? Some advisers swear by index funds. Others want you to hand over your money for professional management, often in a RwrapS or separately managed account for a percentage fee. You need to agree on who has the final say.

Q: What's your procedure for telling me how I'm doing? Some advisers have access to extensive asset-allocation and risk-assessment software, such as LPL's WealthVision, which measures your holdings every night and compares them with your benchmarks. Others have less-sophisticated programs.

But this isn't a software arms race. You want to be taken seriously and given time and courtesy in exchange for your money, plus a road map to solving a problem or retiring richer.