Broker Check

10 Questions To Ask When Choosing Your Financial Advisor

| March 13, 2019
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  • Experience - What is your experience as a financial advisor?
    • Do you want someone who is fresh out of training practicing with your FINANCIAL plan?
    • Consider the advantages of working with an experienced representative who has years of experience and a solid succession plan with a younger partner.  
    • Tom Has been in the business since 1984, Trish since 1991, and Ryan since 2003.
  • Commitment - Does your advisor have any designations such as CFP® or ChFC?
    • Designations are an indication of how serious the advisor is about their career. It takes a huge commitment of time and study to obtain these designations.
    • Tom is a ChFC (Chartered Financial Consultant) and CLU (Certified Life Underwriter), Ryan is a CFP (Certified Financial Planner), and Trish is a CES, Certified Estate Specialist.
  • Service – When you need to speak with your advisor, does someone who knows you by name pick up the phone or do you call an 800 number and speak with a clerk?
    • When we meet with a potential new client, a common frustration is the level of service they receive from larger firms. They often speak with a different clerk (who may have just graduated from the sales training program) each time they call. There is no consistency of a relationship.
  • Staff – Does your advisor have any staff members?
    • At best, throughout the industry most financial advisors share a support staff member. This means the financial advisor is the one who schedules appointments, does paperwork, trading and manages the day to day servicing.  If your advisor is wearing all of these hats, how much time do they really have to spend on your planning needs?
    • At Ela Financial Group, we put a high priority on providing superior client service. We are a team of 8, with 5 staff people supporting Tom, Ryan and Trish.   When a client calls, they will always speak with a person who knows their name.
  • Owner vs. Employee– Have you ever gone into a restaurant or shop and the owner is not there? – it can be a very different experience.
    • Tom, Ryan and Trish are all owners of the firm. They built this firm one client relationship at a time, and each client relationship is abundantly valued.
  • Background Check –Be sure to complete your due diligence before choosing an advisor. Visit to see your advisor’s financial services history.
    • Does the advisor jump around from one firm to another often? This may be an indication that the advisor is getting a big pay day when he changes firms, but it is also a disruption to the client.
    • Are there any regulatory issues with the advisor? Advisors may change firms as a result of a regulatory issue.
  • Local Office vs. Phone Center – Will you ever have a face to face meeting with an advisor?
    • We encourage multiple in person client meetings per year. Many of our clients prefer to do online meetings, and we are happy to accommodate that meeting format.   We have clients all over the country and we employ technology to make those meetings as personable as possible.  Whenever possible we actually meet with our out of state clients because we feel that in person contact is so important.
  • Proprietary Products – Does your advisor offer proprietary products? Most clients don’t even know what this means so you are not alone if this term is unfamiliar to you.
    • There are Financial Advisors who recommend their firm’s products (proprietary products) when there may be a product more well priced or well suited to the client’s needs. In recommending the proprietary products, the advisor may receive a higher compensation or a bonus for recommending these products or satisfying their firm’s quota.  If your advisor is with Fidelity and they recommend Fidelity products, it is important to ask if have they considered other vendors whose product may be a better fit for the client.  The bottom line is, are the proprietary products being selected with the client’s best interest as the primary qualifier.
    • Ela Financial Group and their broker dealer Cetera Advisor Networks never offer any proprietary products. Our recommendations are made with the client’s goals, risk tolerance, and timelines in mind.   Never are any products recommended because anyone is encouraging us to do so.
  • Relationships - Who is your broker/dealer and custodian?
    • Cetera Advisor Networks is our broker dealer – Information on them can be found on They are one on the largest independent broker dealers in the business.
    • What happens to you and your account if you change firms? If you work with an advisor who is an employee of their firm, you are technically a client of the firm, not the advisor.  Should your advisor leave that firm, the financial advisor is not permitted to take their clients with them.  Your account is assigned to another advisor and you have very little control over this.  On the other hand, we can continue to be your financial advisor and we are allowed to contact you if we should ever see fit to change our broker/dealer.          
    • Since none of our products are proprietary they can be moved to any firm.   If you own proprietary products and ever want to move to another firm you would likely have to sell them and incur any capital gains taxes to make a change. 
  • Portfolio Analysis - How do you analyze my accounts?
    • Are they providing you with Morningstar reports and just sales material?
    • We utilize Morningstar for our analysis because they offer independent analysis.
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