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45 Questions Financial Advisors Ask

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A financial advisor asking clients questions.

When you’re embarking on a new client relationship it’s important to set the right tone. That includes getting to know their needs and expectations better by asking the right questions and absorbing what they have to say. There are certain questions financial advisors ask that may be helpful to include as you sit down for your first conversation with a client.

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Why Advisors Need to Ask Clients Questions

A new client may essentially be a blank slate for you. They might provide you with copies of their financial statements or some cursory information about their investments, but if you’re not asking questions, you only have a part of the picture. And it’s not important to just ask questions—you have to ask the right questions to grab their attention.

That’s an idea executive speaking coach Alan Parisse puts forth in his book, “Questions Great Financial Advisors Ask..and Investors Need to Know,” co-authored with David Richman. The book examines some of the most impactful questions successful advisors ask to facilitate meaningful conversations with prospective and existing clients.

With the right questions, advisors can better position themselves to understand not only their client’s risk tolerance and goals but their emotional connections with money. When you can help a client separate how they feel about money from what they do with it, it may become easier to guide them toward their financial goals.

45 Questions Great Financial Advisors Ask

The best questions to ask new clients or existing clients require more than just a yes or no answer. Asking open-ended questions encourages clients to take a moment to think about what they want to say rather than giving an automatic response.

With that in mind, here are some helpful questions to ask when meeting with new and existing clients. And remember, you don’t have to try to fit all of these questions into the conversation. These are simply examples of talking points that you may need or want to cover.

Questions to Ask New Clients

  1. What brought you here today?
  2. Have you worked with a financial advisor before? If so, what did you like/dislike about the experience?
  3. Who makes the financial decisions in your household and what does your decision-making process look like?
  4. Who are you responsible for financially?
  5. Do you anticipate that changing later? For example, is there a possibility that you may have to care for aging parents eventually?
  6. Where are you career-wise, and where do you expect to be five, 10 or 20 years from now?
  7. Can you tell me a little about how you’ve invested so far?
  8. How would you rate your knowledge and level of confidence about investing?
  9. If you could describe your financial situation in just three words, what would they be?
  10. What do you feel the most positive about when it comes to your finances?
  11. Where do you think you could improve?
  12. What keeps you up at night or gives you the most cause for concern when it comes to your money?
  13. Are there other worries or concerns outside the scope of finance that you’d like to share?
  14. If you could change one thing about your financial situation right now, what would it be?
  15. What are your top three financial goals?
  16. How would achieving those goals make you feel?
  17. Now, how do you feel about your ability or capacity to reach those goals?
  18. How do you think I can help you make your goals a reality?
  19. What’s most important to you where your money is concerned?
  20. What’s most important to you outside of money?
  21. What does your ideal retirement look like?
  22. At what age would you like to retire? At what age do you think you realistically will retire?
  23. What would you like to happen to your wealth when you’re gone?
  24. What kind of life insurance do you have?
  25. If you haven’t purchased life insurance yet, what’s holding you back?
  26. Do you anticipate needing long-term care at some point?
  27. How do you define risk?
  28. If the market were to crash tomorrow, how do you think you’d react?
  29. What do you hope to get out of today’s meeting?
  30. What do you want the next steps in our professional relationship to be?

 Questions to Ask Existing Clients

  1. How are you feeling about your financial situation right now?
  2. Would you say you’re feeling more or less confident about your finances since the last time we met?
  3. You said more/less confident. Can you tell me why?
  4. How do you feel about the state of the market right now? Are you leaning more optimistic or pessimistic?
  5. Have there been any significant life changes since the last time we met that might affect your financial plan? For example, have you gotten a raise or changed jobs?
  6. What life changes may be on the horizon that we should discuss?
  7. When was the last time you looked at your portfolio?
  8. How satisfied are you with the investments I recommended last time we met?
  9. Is there anything in your portfolio that you feel isn’t working for you?
  10. When was the last time you reviewed your estate plan?
  11. How does your family feel about your plan? What objections have they raised, if any?
  12. Last time we met I asked you to do XYZ. Can you tell me how much progress you’ve made?
  13. We covered a lot of ground last time. What could we circle back on that you may still have questions about?
  14. What questions do you have for me about your financial plan?
  15. When would you like to meet again?

How to Ask Clients Questions Effectively

Financial advisors discussing potential questions to ask clients.

Asking the wrong questions could cost you a client if they find your questioning style intrusive or off-putting. Therefore, you may want to avoid:

  • Limiting yourself to asking closed-end questions that don’t move the conversation forward.
  • Bombarding clients with multiple questions in rapid succession, without giving them time to consider what they want to say.
  • Interrupting your client with another question when they’re still in the middle of answering the one you just posed.
  • Pressing clients to answer questions they clearly feel uncomfortable with.
  • Spending more time talking than you do listening.

Alternatively, you may find it helpful to:

  • Ask questions that are relevant to the conversation at hand.
  • Listen to your client’s responses and use them to guide your selection in choosing the next question to ask.
  • Pace your questions appropriately so that you’re giving clients plenty of time to answer thoughtfully.
  • Repeat your client’s answer back to them to underscore that you’re A) listening to what they have to say and B) understanding what they’re trying to convey.
  • Keep the focus on the client and their needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Advisors Prepare for Client Meetings?

If you’re planning a discovery meeting with a prospective client for the first time, it’s helpful to do as much research as you can beforehand. For example, you might ask the prospect to fill out a short questionnaire that covers some basic questions about their expenses, income, assets, debts and risk tolerance. That can provide you with a starting point for deciding which questions to ask once your meeting begins.

Are There Any Questions Advisors Shouldn’t Ask Their Clients?

Generally speaking, it’s unwise to ask questions that a client might deem offensive or overly personal. You may also want to avoid technical questions about investments that the client has limited understanding or knowledge of.

What Questions Should Financial Advisors Be Prepared to Answer?

When a new client comes to you, they may be armed with questions of their own. Some of the most common questions clients ask advisors can include:

  • Are you a fiduciary?
  • How do you get paid?
  • What’s your preferred investment style or strategy?
  • How often will we meet?
  • What’s your preferred way to communicate?

Being prepared to answer these kinds of questions can help you make a solid first impression with a new client.

Bottom Line

Financial advisors reviewing a list of questions for clients.

Asking questions is the best way to build a rapport with clients and they may be more likely to remain loyal to you if they feel heard and understood. And building a base of satisfied clients can help you grow your business through referrals—without even having to ask.

Tips for Growing Your Advisory Business

  • If you want to gain new clients and grow your practice you have to give some thought to how visible you are in the online space. Working with an online lead generation service can help increase your exposure, without tying up hours of your time. SmartAsset AMP (Advisor Marketing Platform) is our holistic marketing service financial advisors can use for client lead generation and automated marketing. Sign up for a free demo to explore how SmartAsset AMP can help you expand your practice’s marketing operation. Get started today.
  • Reading books for financial advisors is an excellent way to expand your knowledge and pick up tips on how to strategically grow your business. In addition to books, you might also consider checking out some of the top advisor blogs and podcasts or following financial influencers online to stay up to date on the latest industry trends.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Ridofranz, ©iStock.com/seb_ra, ©iStock.com/Jacob Wackerhausen

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