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How to Prepare for a Meeting with a Financial Adviser

Kristin McGrath

May 17, 2012

Some people need personal trainers to help them stay on track with their fitness goals — and to correct bad habits before they turn into wasted time. I figure my financial habits could also use some structure and expert guidance.

So, after making it to my late-20s without a money plan, I’ve decided to meet with a professional — a financial adviser (someone comes highly recommended from a person whose judgment I trust). I have a phone call scheduled for next week to review my financial big picture and to, hopefully, learn of any mistakes I’m making with my money.

In preparation, I’ve been searching for tips about what to do before meeting with an adviser.  Here’s some advice I’ve found:

Get the numbers
You won’t get far without hard numbers, advises David Ning from personal finance blog MoneyNing in a piece for US News & World Report. Compile statements from all your bank, investment and retirement accounts and send them to your adviser.

This was a good exercise for me. Too often, I divide up money tasks instead of concentrating on my overall financial health. For example, I’ll dedicate a Sunday to verifying transactions on my checking account. Two weeks later, I’ll pay my Roth IRA a visit. A few weeks after that, I’ll check in on my 401(k).

Knowing that a stranger will be seeing these numbers is a bit nerve-racking. Yet just like doctors need personal information, so does the person helping you become financially healthy.

Give some thought to the future
Having an open mind is important — yet so is having some long-term goals for your money, according to a guide from Hartford Investor. What are you saving for? When do you want to retire, and will you have enough money to do it?

Looking at my account histories has made me aware of the fact that I don’t have financial goals. Money from my paycheck tends to chill in my checking account until it’s spent, rather than get routed toward investments for my future.

I do automatically route some of my money each month into a savings account (and meticulously track the amount in it). Yet unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my Roth IRA. I guess car problems and vacations are immediate, pressing needs (and wants), while retirement just seems so far away.

Study up on financial basics
A working knowledge of investment terminology and products will help streamline the meeting, Ning advises. I figured I had a sufficient grasp on money matters (I do work for a personal finance website). Then I got an email from my adviser with some investment performance charts. Let’s just say I’ll be doing a bit more studying.

Next week, I’ll be blogging about some things I learned from this first meeting — and (hopefully) some of my new money goals. With turning over a new financial leaf in mind, here are some of the best money blog posts of the week:

Money Crashers has some advice for couples who want to stop fighting about money.

Fitz from Ready to be Rich shares his favorite methods for avoiding procrastination.

According to 20 Something Finance, Generation Y might be leading the frugal revolution.

Financially Poor gives readers some techniques for overcoming debt fear.

SavingAdvice describes three tell-tale signs that you’re trying too hard to “keep up with the Joneses.”

Life and My Finances is “swimming” in cash after selling an unneeded vehicle.