For our initial consultation with a financial planner, they are asking for documents that include mortgage debt and the worth of all our real estate. When I call and speak to my mortgage company, what kind of information do I need to request? Another request they have includes investment and bank statements. How extensive do we have to be in providing this?
The documents you need to bring to the first meeting with a financial advisor are the ones you are comfortable bringing. But the advisor certainly isn’t wrong to ask you to bring these documents either. It really depends on what the two of you want and plan to discuss in this first meeting. It will vary with each planner and client relationship.
Because it differs from planner to planner, I suggest you ask him or her this same question directly and be honest with them about why you are asking. I’ll explain why.
The Initial Meeting With a Financial Planner
It will probably help to frame this discussion. Your word choice – “how extensive do I have to be” – makes me think there’s some apprehension about bringing detailed information to the first meeting. If so, you aren’t alone in that thought. This is a common concern, and I completely understand it.
I like to describe turning over your financial information to an advisor for the first time as the financial equivalent of walking into your physician’s office and dropping your pants. It’s incredibly personal.
Different financial planners take different approaches to the initial meeting with a client. Some will have a formal arrangement while others may be more casual. Some may ask for little or no documents, and others will provide a checklist of many documents they’d like to see. Any of these styles can be right, as long as they are right for you.
Regardless, however, of the very first meeting is structured, all financial planners will need to see and should therefore ask for these documents at the onset of a relationship. Without the information in them, planners can’t really do their job correctly. Whether that happens at the very first meeting or shortly after isn’t as important.
My First Meetings
For an example, when I meet with a potential new client for the first time, I always tell them something along the lines of this:
“For this first meeting, you don’t need to bring anything. Just show up prepared to talk about yourself and what you’re hoping to accomplish. Be ready with questions you might have, I’ll explain my process, then we can go from there. However, if you want to bring the information I’ll eventually need if we end up working together, that’s fine too. Here’s the list.”
Most people end up bringing everything on the list, but some don’t. If they don’t, we usually end up talking about most of it anyway. Sometimes, I can tell if they aren’t wanting to divulge too much specific detail, and I’m fine with that.
Why is this my personal approach? For starters, I really don’t need detailed data in my first meeting. For me, the first meeting is like a first date. I’m looking to see what is on the person’s mind to answer two main questions:
- Is my particular skillset what they need or are looking for?
- Does this seem like a good fit personality-wise?
If the answer to both of those questions is yes, the new client thinks so too, and they went ahead and brought the documents, then I can get started right away. If not, they simply gather them and bring them later and it’s no big deal. If the answer to either of those is no, then I didn’t need the documents.
I want to be clear, though, this isn’t the only right way to do it or even the best way for everybody. There are many good reasons an advisor might want you to bring detailed statements to a first meeting. Some advisors prefer making the same assessments I talked about from data rather than casual conversations. Some clients prefer to not be so chatty and would rather just turn over documents. Those preferences matter.
Also, because this is ultimately about a relationship, advisors have to assess potential clients the same way potential clients assess us. It’s possible that the advisor is gauging how serious you are by asking you to bring statements to the first meeting.
A major point I want to make about this is that whatever you and your potential new planner agree will be brought to the first meeting, bring it in its entirety. If you decide that you are OK bringing outside brokerage statements and tell the planner that you will, don’t leave one out. It’s much better to just tell them you don’t want to show them something yet.
Going back to the medical analogy, that would be like hiding symptoms from your doctor while seeking treatment. It’s almost certainly not going to lead to the best care.
What to Do Next
I suggest you ask the planner this same question and ask them which specific documents they’d want you to bring.
That said, a recent monthly mortgage statement should contain everything the advisor needs to know about your property, assuming this is your residence. If you have online access, you can probably just download one from your account. With your address, the planner should also be able to assess the approximate market value using their preferred method.
The same thing goes for bank and investment accounts. All of them will have a corresponding monthly or quarterly statement that shows holdings and total account values. A recent statement is likely sufficient.
Brandon Renfro, CFP®, is a SmartAsset financial planning columnist and answers reader questions on personal finance and tax topics. Got a question you’d like answered? Email AskAnAdvisor@smartasset.com and your question may be answered in a future column.
Please note that Brandon is not a participant in the SmartAdvisor Match platform, and he has been compensated for this article.
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