The first date is over and you’ve said your farewells. The chemistry was good, and you’re pretty sure you’d like to meet again. Now comes the agonizing part. 

Do I call first, or wait? When should we see each other again? Is tomorrow too soon? Is next week or next month too late?

I’m talking about an engagement that could last a lifetime, and hey, these are serious questions. But what you may be surprised to know (unless you read the headline!) is that I’m not talking about your recent rendezvous with the potential Mr. or Ms. Right, but rather your budding relationship with your financial planner.

Hopefully you’ve taken the plunge and found your match with a competent financial professional.  Now that you’ve found him or her, what are “The Rules?” Here are some things to keep in mind.

  • In the beginning, the relationship should be pretty intense.Your planner will want to know everything about you: what you have, what you’ve done, and what you would like to do (financially speaking, that is). You may need several meetings for this heady process of self-disclosure and mutual discovery. And you should be even more honest with your planner than you would a new romantic partner:  Go ahead and tell your planner about every one of your former advisory relationships and your past financial indiscretions. Your planner will love you all the more for being so open. 
  • A good relationship will inevitably settle down into something more predictable.If your planner is helping you with portfolio management, a quarterly meeting is the norm. Anything less than annually will not keep the relationship alive.  Telling your planner how often you would like to see him or her is also a good idea, but playing hard to get is not. 
  • Unfortunately, money often gets in the way of relationships.If you are paying for the planner’s time, either hourly or on retainer, you may be reluctant to meet very often.  If, on the other hand, you are paying a commission, a fixed fee, or an assets-under-management fee, you might be motivated to ask for a lot of the planner’s time. Keep your focus on the value you are getting from the relationship and not the dollars spent per minute of interaction. If everything is going well and there is no need to meet, all the better. After all, feeling secure is what this relationship is all about.
  • There will be times when you have to talk. You’ve had a change in your circumstances: a job loss, an offer on a house, or you’re even – God forbid – thinking about seeing someone else because things aren’t working. Be sure to talk over these changes in fortune or heart with your planner.  The relationship will improve from these necessary conversations, or will at least end on a positive note.

As for who calls whom? As we all know, there are a zillion ridiculous excuses for one person or the other in an incipient relationship not to call back: her grandmother died, he had to go to Pittsburgh where there is poor cell phone service, the cat’s got her tongue, the dog ate his homework.   

When it comes to your financial planner, it’s a whole lot easier to know how to handle a prolonged silence. There are NO excuses for not calling or otherwise communicating with you periodically, especially when you think he or she should. Market’s down 500 points? There has been a major tax law change? The office has moved and has changed its phone number? In this case it is okay, ladies and gentlemen, to keep your cell phone right at your side. A good planner will definitely be calling you.