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What you need to know about financial firms, investments and plans

A financial advisor should be willing and able to answer your questions.



Are you ready to meet with a financial advisor but you’re not sure where to start?

Choosing a financial firm

Just as not all financial plans are alike, neither are financial firms. Before selecting a financial advisor, do your research and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If they’re not willing or don’t know how to answer your questions, they may not be the right fit for you.

Keep in mind that financial firms are not all the same.


Banks may offer investment services but they are not a traditional investment firm. They’re really in business to offer banking products like checking and savings accounts, mortgages, other loans, and a limited number of investment options. Even though you may purchase investments from a bank, no investments are FDIC insured; they’re covered under the Financial Industry Regulation Authority (FINRA).

Investment Firms

While focused solely on investing and highly regulated by FINRA, investment firms are often limited in which products they can offer clients.

Independent advisors

They are small financial firms with oversight companies where investments are placed. They are FINRA regulated, have the flexibility of how to market and manage their business, and freedom to choose from a wide variety of investment products.

Types of investment products

Over the years I’ve had clients approach me with ideas of stocks or funds in which they’d like to invest. My first question is almost always, “Why do you want to make this investment?”

Just because your college buddy wants you to do it isn’t a good enough reason. It has to make sense for your portfolio.

A portfolio can be made up of a variety of investment products including, but not limited to, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and/or annuities.

If you’re thinking about investing in one of these or other products, I encourage to ask questions like:

  • Is the investment from a captive company?
  • What are the payout terms?
  • What does the company do with profits?
  • What is the commission and how is it paid?
financial firms

Investing in stocks or funds have to make sense for your portfolio. (Source)

Communicating with your financial advisor

It might sound strange to say that you need to ask your financial advisor if you can ask questions but it’s probably one of the most important! If they aren’t willing to answer questions like what their investment philosophy is or why they became an advisor, you may want to avoid them. You have to be able to communicate with them!

Questions to ask your financial professional include:

  • How do you get paid?
  • How much does it cost to work with you?
  • What’s your education and training?
  • How often will we meet to discuss my portfolio?
  • What happens to my account if something happens to you?

In addition, you’ve got to be willing to share your current financial status including how much you’ve saved for retirement, your accurate amount of debt, and your estate plan.

Financial advisors, financial firms, and our clients are not all the same. There is no one-stop shop so it’s important to ask questions and understand your investment portfolio.

DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation in writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.

Shanna has extensive experience providing a wide range of financial services to small business owners, women, individuals and couples, and members of the LGBTQ community. She knows how to explain complicated financial matters in clear language that anyone can understand and actually makes money talk interesting and fun! A veteran of the financial services industry, Shanna was 19 years old when a meeting with a financial advisor revealed her purpose and passion. The advisor dismissively reached across the desk, patted her on the head, and said, “Don’t worry sweetheart. Your husband will take care of this money stuff for you someday.” Since then, Shanna has built a career out of helping others take charge of their financial future.