3-step checklist when selecting a financial professional

Whether you’re just starting to explore investments, revisiting your life insurance policy or maybe take a more serious look at your estate plan, finding the right financial professional to help you along the way can be a challenge. From RIAs to Financial Advisors to Life Insurance Agents, financial professionals come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s important to make sure you find one that suits you and your family’s needs. 

Beyond that, finding the right person to work with is essential. That way, you make sure you're getting the services you need in a way that makes you feel comfortable, and confident with the advice you’re getting. Here are three key considerations to keep in mind when selecting a financial professional. 

Checkbox 1: Fit 

Comfort and an ability to speak candidly with the person you’re working with is important in a financial professional. You need to trust and have confidence in them to make the best decisions for you and your family throughout your financial lifecycle. Consider that these financial relationships can last for decades, even generations, and endure multiple economic cycles. You’ll want to choose someone you and your family will feel good about working with. 

Look for signs that you are compatible with one another during an initial meeting. This can include whether you feel like you and your partner’s needs are being addressed and whether their style or approach matches your personality. Pay attention to conversation topics you seem to enjoy discussing and whether you feel comfortable in their presence – how does your spouse feel when they talk? 

If you find yourself feeling awkward or having long silences, it's likely that your personalities won't click. Ask yourself, is this the kind of person you and your partner would feel comfortable going to coffee or lunch with? Having something in common with your financial professional beyond the business relationship is often a good sign that they’re a fit for you. 

To be sure, trust your intuition; it is often the most accurate indicator. You should also ask about their typical client profile to see if you are a match on paper.  

Checkbox 2: Approach 

Investigate a potential financial professional’s financial wellness philosophy – how do they view protection needs, investment approach, risk appetite, or personal beliefs? All of these factors can deeply affect how you approach your finances and the role that they’ll play in your planning. 

Keep in mind what matters most to you when considering a financial professional’s approach. Perhaps safety is your top priority, and you are looking for a professional who can provide you with secure, low-risk investments and protection of your assets and income. Or perhaps you are looking for rapid growth, and you want to find someone knowledgeable about the stock market who can help you make investments that might yield higher returns.  

You could also be looking for a more personalized approach or to work with someone who will avoid jargon and take the time to get to know you, your family, and your financial goals. Be sure to align your values with those of your financial professional for a more positive and productive experience together. 

Checkbox 3: Type of financial professional 

Not all financial professionals have the same levels of specialization or areas of expertise. Make sure you get to know what each type of professional specifically does and who they serve. Here are some of the most common types of financial professionals, and the services they provide: 

  1. Life Insurance Agent  

    • Services provided: A life insurance agent can provide guidance and service on various financial products, including different types of insurance policies, and other protection products. 

    • Fee structure: Life insurance agents typically make money through commissions on any products or policies they sell to clients. 

  2. Financial Planner 

    • Services provided: A financial planner creates a financial plan to help you achieve your goals. They will often offer a variety of services, including advice on investments, budgeting, saving and tax matters. 

    • Fee structure: Financial planners typically charge per plan. 

  3. Financial Advisor 

    • Services provided: A financial advisor offers advice and guidance on investments and asset management. 

    • Fee structure: Financial advisors typically make money through fees, normally based on a percentage of the assets they are managing. 


  1. Estate Planner 

    • Services provided: An estate planner helps you manage your estate and helps you create a plan to pass down your assets to your heirs. 

    • Fee structure: Many estate planners will charge an hourly fee for services, ranging from $100 to upwards of $400/hour depending on their level of experience and clientele. They may also have flat fees for certain services like preparing a will. 

  2. Tax Advisor 

    • Services provided: A tax advisor can help explain and provide guidance on the tax implications of your financial decisions. 

    • Fee structure: Tax advisors typically charge an hourly rate for services, which can range from under $100/hour to more than $400/hour. They may also charge flat fees for certain services, that can range drastically depending on the complexity of the service. 

  3. Accountant 

    • Services provided: An accountant will help you with your tax and accounting needs and may also advise on money management. They can assist you with filing your income taxes. 

    • Fee structure: Accountants typically charge an hourly rate for their services, ranging from $100 to more than $500 per hour, depending on the accountant and the services being provided. Some accountants may have scaling flat fees for services like income tax filing. 

Each financial professional will have different fees associated with their services. An insurance agent may not charge any fees at all, while an advisor or investment manager may have higher fees that reflect the complexity of the work they do. Fees may also be based on different criteria, depending on aspects like your portfolio performance, the financial products you purchase, the complexity of your accounts, or the total amount of wealth you have to manage.  

Before making a choice, understand how they are paid for the work they do with you and determine if it’s right for you and your needs. Also, think about if your situation requires a more specialized professional and if it is worth paying the extra fees for their services. Ultimately, the decision should reflect your individual needs and goals. 

Invest in your financial future with the right financial professional 

Choosing the right financial professional doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process. By following our three-box checklist, you can narrow down your options and find the one that fits your needs at a cost you can afford. 

Working with a financial professional can also give you peace of mind knowing you have the guidance and support necessary to make informed financial decisions. 

This article is provided for general informational purposes only. Neither New York Life Insurance Company, nor its agents, provides tax, legal, or accounting advice. Please consult your own tax, legal, or accounting professional before making any decisions.?? 

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