In an unfortunate skiing accident, I recently tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in my left knee. I am now three weeks post-surgery and doing well, but beforehand spent a month tirelessly interviewing and researching surgeons to perform the operation. Through this process I figured out that they are all “really nice” people and because of this I was stuck in decision paralysis on who to choose. It wasn’t until I dug deeper that I found the perfect match for me, and I couldn’t be happier with where I am today.

In this case, digging deeper included the following:

  1. Who matches best with my personality and long-term goals?  
  2. Who has the most/best experience working on ACL repairs and especially the type I want to have? 
  3. I consider myself young and active. Does this affect what type of reconstruction I should have (hamstring tendon vs. patellar tendon vs. cadaver tendon)?

Choosing the right surgeon and surgery type was important for me and I wanted to make sure I didn’t regret my decision. After going through the above list, it was easy for me to narrow down the list of surgeons and confidently come to a decision I know was best for ME.

I believe the same holds true for people looking for a trusted financial advisor. At the end of the day, I believe, like surgeons, advisors are all “really nice” people, so investors must dig deeper to help find the right match for their situation. Usually a life event (marriage, children, retirement, changing jobs, etc.), just like my injury, sparks your need to look for an advisor or second opinion. Without the right list of questions, it’s easy for decision paralysis to take over!

Below are some questions that hopefully will help every investor distinguish the right financial advisor from the rest of the “really nice” people in the industry:

  1. Are they a fiduciary? In other words, do their goals align with yours and are they truly placing your best interest in front of theirs.
  2. Are they a Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®)? CFP®’s have gone through rigorous coursework around financial planning and are better suited to help you understand how your savings will translate into available spending in retirement.
  3. Do they even offer comprehensive financial planning? Most investment firms only concentrate on how your money is invested, and often overlook the importance of how other factors will affect your retirement picture (i.e., Social Security timing, college savings, insurance needs, pension vs. lump-sum decisions, etc.).
  4. How much do they charge for their services? Costs are one of the few things you can control as an investor and have a large impact on your overall financial success. Make sure to find out what the advisor charges for their annual fee as well as what the annual charges are on the investments he recommends.

Just like my experience finding a surgeon, choosing the right financial advisor can prove to be tough and decision paralysis often takes over. Hopefully the list above will help you weed through the plethora of “really nice” people in this industry and find the perfect financial advisor for you.