Ah yes, the idea of meeting with an investment advisor. For some, this is ultimately an insanely foreign concept (I mean, insane). For others, it is a way to sort things through (I’ve got a million and 1 questions: are you ready sir/m’am?). What I would like to tell you up front is…do not let fear root out the idea of visiting with an investment advisor. Especially if you have chosen to participate in an employee sponsored retirement plan.
The reason my fiancé (shameless plug: we got engaged last weekend!) & I decided to set up a meeting with an investment advisor at a local firm? It’s a wonderful answer: the company we work for covers the fees for it’s employees who participate in the 401(k) plan to visit with an independent financial advisor. In other words, we have access to someone who can help overlook our portfolios for retirement, offer suggestions, and provide contacts for other life events that involve finances.
So…do you have time to check out, assess & rebalance the different asset allocations of your 401(k)? Nah, me neither. I’m working 40 hours, blogging, maintaining a (somewhat?) regulated work out schedule, keeping up with family & friendships, connecting through technology & social media, collaborating, one word: Netflix, scanning books & articles, oh wait – can’t forget eating…yeah…not too sure I’ve really got all that much time for that. I know this is sounding all too familiar for a lot of you as well!
That’s where the amazingness comes in. An independent investment advisor is keeping up with our company’s retirement plan. They are overseeing the performance & trends and can create suggestions for where to allocate the money we are so awesomely auto-depositing from our paychecks to our 401(k) plans (what the heck are small cap, mid cap, 500, bond, stock, money markets?!) Okay, so maybe I am being a bit modest here. I actually do like re-balancing my portfolio (nerd alert)…but pretty much just once a year is when I can find the time to hunker down & do so. An investment advisor can notify us whether our choices are fairly sound, or not. So here is my challenge: if you are currently participating in a 401(k) plan through your employer, do you have access to an investment advisor (also, do they cover the fees)? If so, set that appointment up! Even a one time appointment will enlighten you.
In the spirit of DIY’s and How To’s, here is a run-down of what to expect:
Step 1: Contact the Investment Advisor Office
“Hi there, my name is __(insert name here)__. I am looking to set up an appointment with one of your investment advisors?” Prearranged date and time for the meeting will be coordinated. You may be notified by the investment advisor/receptionist to bring any information regarding your retirement portfolio.
Easy peezey, lemon squeezey. We all know how to set up doctors appointments, dentist appointments, etc. via phone. You’ve got that step down on lock!
Step 2: Attend Meeting with Investment Advisor
You will hear words and phrases such as: (1) “Let’s take a look at your portfolio.” As well as: (2) “You were up 4.2% for the past year.” Or: (3) “Here is what your plan offers and what that means.” You may be asked questions like: (4) “How much are you currently contributing to your 401(k)?” And: (5) “Are you taking advantage of your employer match?”
Here are some hypothetical sample responses/answers to above questions:
(1) Alright, let’s!
(2) That’s great news, should I diversify more to try to keep my rate of return up? (This is how much you are earning on top of the money you are contributing)
(3) Great, can you tell me what the difference is between Target Retirement Funds, Small Cap Funds, and Large Cap Funds? (You will encounter a whole slew of financial terminology that is offered in your retirement plan. Make sure to ask questions to recognize which each one means, and why you should put your money there)
(4) I am currently contributing 5%. (This is how much is being taken from your paycheck to be deposited in your retirement plan)
(5) Yes, definitely. My employer matches 4%. Since I am contributing 5%, I get to receive the full match. (To reiterate, employer match is free money you do not want to miss out on. If you are only contributing 2%, but your employer matches 4% – that’s an additional 2% of money you are missing out on! Challenge yourself to bump your contribution to the total percentage of what your employer matches to take advantage of the retirement plan)
Also, be prepared that the investment advisor may dress more formally than you – most investment advisor offices have formal dress codes. Do not feel as if you are not worthy of being there. Thank the investment advisor generously for their time after the meeting is over.
Step 3: Implement Action Steps/Advice
You’ve got advice, tips & guidance – now put it to use!
Throughout the meeting, hopefully you will have gathered multiple pieces of advice and suggested action plans. This could be anywhere from rebalancing your 401(k) portfolio, saving more for a future money goal, or even plans to create a household budget. After our one meeting, my fiancé & I walked away with a incredibly detailed excel spreadsheet budget to use (trumped my old school layout of a budget), contacts at local banks that we can visit for mortgages when we begin house hunting, the best things/practices we are doing currently, and how to recognize our overall financial picture. Not to mention, the investment advisor also asked us personal questions to get to know us better – as well as threw in stories about his own personal experiences. There was no sense of “stuffiness,” or intimidation whatsoever. As a bonus: afterwards Kun Fusion (a Korean BBQ food truck in Eugene) was parked outside the business center – an awesome lunch was waiting for us after a successful meeting (I hope a reward manifests itself for you as well after your first investment advisor meeting)!
Wait…so we’re talking 3 steps? That’s right! No need to experience information paralysis. If anything, one meeting with an investment advisor can assist you with eliminating the overload of financial thoughts you’ve got going on in your brain. Also, it gives you an opportunity to consult with a professional. You do not have to take on every aspect of personal finances all by your lonesome, there’s resources out there for you.
Until next time, re-balancing your personal finance mindset one post at a time…
All my best,
P.S. To all my Portland contacts, I’ve got a financial advisor for you in the PDX area: her name is Sara Stillwell and she is wonderful – find her on LinkedIn & send her a message! Set up an appointment today. Her services can offer an entire holistic picture of every financial aspect in your life.