Finance

I spoke to a financial advisor who was very “interested in talking about me and my finances”. Should I run for the hills?

How can I be sure I will find a counselor who cares about me and my situation?

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the question: I need a financial planner because I want to review my current financial status and goals. The last one I talked to was more interested in talking about myself and my finances, which wasn’t productive. How can I be sure that I will find someone who cares about me and my situation? (Looking for a financial advisor too? This tool can help you find an advisor that might meet your needs.)

The answer: Some advisers believe it is important for the client to know something about how they approach their own finances, while others are strictly against sharing personal information. “Most of the time when I hear a financial planner sharing personal financial information, it’s to sell envy, not financial planning.” That tactic is usually taught as part of a high-pressure sales technique, usually to sell a product rather than advice or planning,” says certified financial planner Mark Struthers.

And unless your advisor has a bankruptcy on their record, Struthers says it’s not imperative that you know anything about their personal finances. “The only personal financial information I can ask a CPA or financial advisor for is to see their credit score.” Other data points are too personal and have little to do with planner reliability,” says Struthers.

Having a problem with your financial advisor or looking for a new one? Email picks@marketwatch.com.

For his part, however, fee-only certified financial planner Steve Stanganelli says it’s sometimes appropriate to share financial details. “In my case, I’ll share childcare costs from my experience when talking to a client about young children or infants.” I will share my experience as a landlord with those who are considering a direct real estate investment. I will share the pros and cons of tax planning for the self-employed with those who are already or are considering self-employment. For those dealing with elder care or end-of-life issues for their parents, I will share with you the problems and frustrations I have had.”

But, he adds, there’s a fine line between sharing helpful personal tidbits and red flags to watch out for. “I would consider it a problem if an adviser only talked about winning stock positions and never talked about losses in the market,” he says. (Looking for a financial advisor too? This tool can help you find an advisor that might meet your needs.)

Regardless of how personal details are shared, the bigger question is how you feel. And in your case, it’s not great, which is why you’re (rightly) looking for a new advisor. “A financial planner should be listening and focusing engagement around you, not themselves,” says certified financial planner Danielle Miura of Spark Financials.

When looking for a new advisor, here are 15 questions to ask that person. And as for finding someone who cares about your situation, it’s part instinct and part making sure the way they’re paid is in line with your goals. “Do they take a flat fee?” Percentage of assets under management? Do they have a fiduciary duty to act in your best interest? says Andy Rosen, investment spokesperson at NerdWallet. You may want to look for a fee-only certified financial planner, as they are required to act as fiduciaries. “Knowing when your planner can benefit from your investments can also help you spot red flags,” Rosen says.

The bottom line is that if you feel uncomfortable, take it as a sign that the planner may not understand or care about your best interests. “If you’re having a hard time talking to your financial planner, it’s going to be hard to have honest conversations about your money, which is part of what you’re paying them for,” says Rosen. (Looking for a financial advisor too? This tool can help you find an advisor that might meet your needs.)

The questions have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Having a problem with your financial advisor or looking for a new one? Email picks@marketwatch.com.

The advice, recommendations or rankings expressed in this article are those of MarketWatch Picks and have not been reviewed or endorsed by our commercial partners.

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