What to Look for in a Financial Advisor

Guest Blog Post by John Wenzel

There are many financial advisors to choose from, so how do you find the one that's right for you?

Between the different types of financial advisors and financial disciplines to choose from, finding the right financial advisor for your specific needs is no easy task. Not to mention the interpersonal considerations of personality, experience, and client service that are just as important to factor into your decision making process.

Don’t rush it. Remember that selecting a financial advisor is a long-term decision (or at least we hope it is) and so it’s important that you choose someone who you believe can deliver what you need.

Here are a few things to look for when selecting a financial advisor.


That he or she comes recommended.

This is not a 100% guarantee that you will like the financial advisor or that he or she is best suited for you, but someone you know really enjoys working with them so you may be willing to give it a chance. Asking your network of friends, family and colleagues who they recommend for the financial services you are looking for is a great starting place.


They have a positive online presence.

What happens when you Google the name and firm of the financial advisor you are thinking of working with? Does anything come up? Are there complaints? Do they offer information you can look into to get a better sense of what they are like or how they work?

In today’s connected world, it’s perfectly acceptable to do a little research on the person you are considering to have manage your money before you actually sign on the dotted line.

You can also reference the Financial Planning Association to learn what credentials they have, their specialties, and whether they're paid by commission, fee, or both, although some don't offer a complete profile in the directory. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors also maintains a directory, which is searchable by name or location.  The advisors in this directory are all fee-only financial advisors, which do not earn commissions and who are bound to a fiduciary standard that requires that they put your financial needs above their own.


They possess designations that align with your needs.

It's important to look at the credentials your potential financial advisor has and make sure you understand what they mean.   Certified Financial Planners (CFP) as an example have demonstrated competency in every single area of financial planning (there are over 100 subject areas they have to study!).  They know about stocks, taxes, estate planning and many other facets of finance that allows them to draw from an impressive level of expertise to draw up your financial plan.


It feels easy and comfortable.

Credentials matter, but so does rapport.  A 2013 survey revealed that how well the advisor-investor relationship goes is a huge factor for people working with financial professionals.  Of course how well your plan is helping you reach your goals is the major determining factor, but the relationship matters, too.

When communication is open and easy, your advisor won't have any problem telling you what you need to know, even though you may not want to hear it.  They won't be afraid to tell you things like “you spend too much on eating out” or “you need to save more toward your retirement!”.

Make sure you feel comfortable with your advisor, and he or she communicates with you in a way that works for your personality and your life.  With the right credentials, the right experience and a winning style of communication, your financial advisor can help you achieve your goals.


John Wenzel is the Co-founder of Archvest Wealth Advisors, a Fee-Only financial planning firm located in the East Bay of San Francisco. Their offices are in the city of Walnut Creek, California. At Archvest, John works with high net worth individuals, executives and small business owners focusing on their planning needs around insurance matters, tax strategies, estate planning and investment management.

John and I became friends through the XY Planning Network and I asked him to write some thoughts as a guest for this site.