You hear a lot of talk these days about wealth management, a term that's probably overused and often misunderstood. It seems to mean different things to different people.
In fact, I suspect some people have no idea what it means beyond that it has to do with getting advice and assistance with your investments. In essence, it's keeping your financial house in order and possibly improving your financial situation.
But what does that entail, exactly, and how do you know your financial adviser--or an adviser you're considering hiring--is truly giving you the assistance you need?
Let's break it down so that you have an idea of what you should be looking for and considering when building a financial strategy to fit your needs and searching for the financial professional to help guide you along the way.
To me, wealth management consists of three parts:
1. Investment Consulting
This first piece is something qualified financial professionals can provide. Some financial professionals may be better suited or experienced than others for your individual situation.
2. Advanced Planning
This is the point where many--if not most--financial professionals apply the brakes. It's where you'll start seeing a little separation if you're in the market for an adviser who will do more than just suggest stocks, bonds or mutual funds in which you should invest your money.
Advanced planning includes growing clients' investments, but it also involves a whole lot more. For example, I've found that the number one concern that high-income clients have is asset preservation. So this part of wealth management involves helping clients protect their investments from excessive taxation and other fees and costs, both now and in the future. One reason they worry about their assets being nibbled away, of course, is that they want to transfer their wealth to their families, not to the government.
In many cases, they also like to have some of those assets available for charitable giving. My experience has been that about one in four clients wants to donate some--and in some cases, a lot--to charity, which can be complicated and, if not done properly, wasteful.
The important thing to understand here is that advanced planning--including aspects of wealth enhancement, wealth transfer, asset preservation and charitable giving--is a powerful thing and, if an adviser doesn't present plans that align with your financial goals, maybe that adviser isn't the one for you.
A good adviser should be able to help you identify and dodge financial roadblocks that may impede your investments.
3. Relationship Management
Finally, the third leg of wealth management is the how an adviser relates with his or her clients.
Relationship management consists of two parts. First, as the term implies, it's how an adviser interacts with clients. In my view, the best way to start that relationship is with a discovery meeting to determine a client's hopes, dreams and goals, and to identify any gaps between those and the numbers in their savings, portfolios, investments and any insurance contracts they own. The meeting shouldn't just be about financial consulting. It should go far beyond that.
The second part of relationship management involves enlisting the assistance of other professionals. Clearly, with wealth management, a number of areas come into play that may be outside the financial professional's skillset. So it's important that an adviser has access or the ability to refer clients to a more comprehensive team, which might include an attorney, a certified public accountant or other professionals.
So, there it is: the "secret" to finding an adviser who not only will show you the way toward managing your investments but maybe even offer up something more.