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Asian financial advisorHiring a financial advisor can make sense when you need or want professional guidance with managing money or building wealth. While advisors often prefer to build ongoing relationships with clients, there are finance professionals who offer one-time consultations. Meeting with a one-time financial advisor means knowing how to make the most of your time together. If you’re interested in getting a checkup from a professional financial advisor, there are a few things you can do to plan ahead.

What Is a One-Time Financial Advisor?

Financial advisors and financial planners both offer financial advice to their clients. Generally, financial advisors work with clients over time, helping to guide them through different life stages. For example, your advisor may help you create a financial plan in your 20s or 30s, then help you adapt and fine-tune that plan as you move into your 40s and 50s.

A one-time financial advisor meets with a client just one time versus scheduling regular check-ins. You can use the time to discuss your financial situation. In exchange, the advisor charges a fee. But once the consultation ends, you’re not obligated to meet with the expert again.

Why Schedule a One-Time Financial Checkup?

There are different reasons why you may choose to meet with a financial advisor one time only. For example, you may be set to inherit a substantial sum of money from your parents. In that scenario, it could make sense to meet with a financial professional to get advice on how to manage your inheritance.

Or you may be planning to retire and need advice on the best way to maximize your assets. Meeting with a one-time financial advisor could help you create a plan for claiming Social Security benefits, withdrawing money from your 401(k) or IRA and establishing a realistic retirement budget.

A one-time meeting with a financial advisor can also be helpful if you simply want to get a professional opinion on your financial plan. For example, you might be in your 30s and wondering whether your current retirement savings rate is sufficient to reach your end goal. You could connect with a financial advisor and spend an afternoon discussing your current savings and investment strategy to determine if you’re on the right track.

Meeting With a One-Time Financial Advisor

Financial advisor works with his client

If you’re ready to schedule a one-time meeting with a financial advisor, the first step is finding the right professional. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help with this step. You can get personalized recommendations for advisors in your local area, just by answering a few brief questions. The entire process can be handled in just a few minutes. When choosing a financial advisor to meet with, ask about:

  • Fees and how they’re paid
  • Specialization and what type of clients they typically work with
  • What typically happens in a one-time meeting

This can help you narrow down the list of advisors to find one that best suits your needs and budget, which is important since you’re only planning to meet one time. For example, you may be looking for an advisor that charges a flat fee versus by the hour, or one that caters to retirees instead of younger clients with families.

Once you’ve settled on an advisor and scheduled a meeting, the next step is preparing for it. Again, the goal is to make the most of the time you have with a financial advisor. Here are a few things to do before your meeting:

  • Decide which issues/topics you want to address. You may be interested in meeting with an advisor for a specific reason or you may just be looking for general advice. Making a list of topics you want to cover can help you keep the discussion focused once you’re meeting with the advisor.
  • Plan a list of questions to ask. Planning out your questions beforehand can help you use your time wisely. So go back to your list of topics you want to cover and come up with some specific questions to address them. For example, if one of your topics is retirement you might ask an advisor how much you should be saving each month or where you should be investing to meet your goals.
  • Get your financial documents together. Your advisor may ask to see copies of your financial statements before or during the meeting. Getting those ready in advance can save time and help the advisor be more prepared when it’s time to answer your questions.

During the meeting, it may be helpful to take notes – or even record the discussion – so you have something to refer back to later. Once the meeting ends, you can review what you discussed with the advisor to determine which action steps to t ake next. You can also use your experience to decide whether you need or want to work with an advisor on a regular basis.

When It Makes Sense to Hire an Advisor Full-Time

A one-time session with a financial advisor can be helpful if you have a specific financial situation to address or you want some broad advice about how well you’re doing with your current plan. On the other hand, you might consider working with an advisor on a regular basis if:

  • You’re interested in getting ongoing investment advice
  • You want a detailed analysis of your portfolio, including a breakdown of individual holdings
  • You’re interested in exploring alternative investment options, such as owning real estate in a self-directed IRA
  • You need help creating a detailed financial plan for retirement that spans Social Security, tax-advantaged accounts and taxable investments
  • You’re ready to tackle college planning or estate planning

Those are all things a financial advisor can help with but they can take more than an afternoon to flesh out. If you have any of those needs, then it could be worth the investment of time and money to meet with an advisor more frequently.

Again, consider the fees they charge and how they’re paid, the services they offer and the typical client base an advisor works with. Also, take note of whether an advisor is held to a fiduciary standard. Fiduciary advisors are obligated to act in your best interests at all times.

The Bottom Line

Male financial advisor working with two of his clientsHaving a fresh set of eyes review your finances can be helpful if you’re feeling stuck or you’re not sure what to do next to further your money goals. Hiring a one-time financial advisor can help you pinpoint potential weak spots in your plan that you might meet to address. It can also help with deciding whether working with an advisor more frequently is a good fit for your financial situation.

Tips for Financial Planning

  • Consider whether any advisor you hire is fee-only or fee-based. Fee-only financial advisors only charge fees for the advice they offer. Fee-based advisors can earn commissions based on the products they sell. If you’re hiring an advisor to meet with regularly, also take note of whether they charge an hourly fee, an annual retainer fee, a flat rate fee or base their fees as a percentage of assets under management.
  • If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can make connecting with professionals in your local area easy and convenient. It takes just a few minutes to get your personalized financial advisor recommendations online.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages, ©iStock.com/Cecilie_Arcurs, ©iStock.com/Inside Creative House

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She's worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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