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Let’s Make a Plan: Preparing for Your First Meeting with a CFP® Professional

If you are reading this article, congratulations! You have already taken the most important step in achieving your financial dreams by deciding to partner with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional. You will soon find that by working with a CFP® professional, you will be able to take a holistic, personalized approach to bring all the pieces of your financial life together.

Now that you’ve selected a CFP® professional to meet with, how do you make your first meeting as productive as possible?

At your first meeting, you’ll usually discuss the financial planning process, what you would like to accomplish, and how your CFP® professional can help you. The first steps in the financial planning process are to:

  1. Understand the client’s personal and financial circumstances
  2. Identify and select goals, and
  3. Analyze the client’s current course of action.

To prepare for this conversation, I recommend taking the following actions:

Familiarize yourself with the financial planning process. Your CFP® professional will do a thorough review to assess where you stand and then work with you to develop your goals. From there, your CFP® professional can help you make a plan designed to reach your goals, guide you through it and review your progress over time. Not every relationship is the same, and your plan may evolve as your life changes, but this is the process that a CFP® professional has been trained to follow.

Gather key financial information. The most important part of your “review” is getting a better understanding of your finances. This may include a list of your assets and liabilities, your budget, your investment and insurance statements, and your recent tax filings. It is not necessary to show all those details immediately, but having a ballpark estimate of your income, investments and debts will help gauge the scope of the work needed.

You can help your CFP® professional understand your current situation by bringing the following documents and information to your meeting, in addition to any paperwork or questionnaire that they may have sent you ahead of time:

  • Savings and investment statements
  • Income and expenses
  • Mortgage and other debt statements
  • Insurance and estate planning documents
  • Have an idea about your goals. Start thinking about your short-term and long-term goals, and have a clear expectation of them going into the meeting. Your CFP® professional can help you prioritize your financial goals. Before your visit, ask yourself:

    • What are my goals, and how can this professional help me achieve them?
    • Do I want to buy a house in the next few years?
    • Am I saving for kids’ college?
    • When would I like to retire?

    Prepare a list of questions prior to the meeting. Most first meetings can be short, and to be respectful of time, ask for an agenda or provide your own 24 hours before the meeting. You can ask these questions at your first meeting or send them in advance, so the advisor is ready to address them when you meet. You might also find some of this information on the advisor’s website.

    Know what your CFP® professional is going to discuss. At your first meeting, you should expect your CFP® professional to explain several things, including:

    • How you will collaborate to create a planning experience customized to you and your family,
    • An example of how progress toward your goals will be measured, and
    • Their risk management and investment philosophy.

    You will probably complete the session with an outline of the next steps. Sometimes a formal proposal will follow where the CFP® professional will explain their fiduciary duty, standards and requirements.

    But most importantly, you should complete the session feeling a connection, and with an understanding of and alignment on values and goals. If you leave your first meeting feeling uncomfortable in any way, take some time to consider why that is, and whether you might be better off choosing a different CFP® professional to work with.

    Generally, you want assurance that the CFP® professional exemplifies your values or expertise you are seeking for. If not, you should consider another CFP that matches your expectations. Your CFP® professional should be a partner you trust and enjoy working with. That way your CFP® professional can help provide you with confidence today and a more secure tomorrow.

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