• How often will you meet with the advisor?
  • How will meetings be conducted: virtually or in person?
  • What are their work hours?

You should come away from the meeting with a sense of whether you like the advisor and how their services will work with your financial goals, says Xiao. You should not feel pressured to hire the advisor on the spot.

“A good financial planner is unlikely to pressure you to make a commitment,” he says. “I always tell my clients they should sleep on it. But if [an advisor pushes] for a decision, you can simply politely thank them for their time and explain you’d like to take some time to consider such an important decision.”

Prepare for the discovery meeting

Once you’ve spoken to a few candidates and decided on an advisor, they should schedule a longer discovery meeting, typically one to two hours, to get to know you better, including your lifestyle, specific needs and financial picture.

To prepare for the meeting, gather your previous tax returns, insurance policies, group benefits plan information, pension statements, shareholder agreements, mortgage or debt terms, and any other documents that are relevant to your needs. The discovery meeting is also your opportunity to get to know the advisor, so write down the questions you want to ask.

The advisor will ask about your financial goals, discuss your comfort level with investments and map out possible investment scenarios. This might include optimizing a nest egg by “crafting one’s retirement income in an efficient way,” says Xiao, adding, “it’s important to drill down” and determine not only a client’s financial priorities, but also what may be missing from their larger financial roadmap.

The advisor may ask you to grant authorization to access your account on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website, says Xiao. “We want to find out everything that is important to them,” he says of his clients.

Review the advisor’s letter of engagement

It’s customary for clients and advisors to sign a letter of engagement before any planning work is done. This is a legally binding contract that outlines the scope of work, the time frame and what fees will be charged, says Xiao. The letter will include agreed-upon financial strategies, plus wording that acknowledges that these plans can be revised if necessary.

The letter will also mention how often the advisor will meet with you. It will include the advisor’s relationship with other financial services companies, and it will outline when the advisor is legally able to share your personal financial information with the custodian of your assets or a provider of portfolio management services. The letter of engagement should include language around what will happen if you are unhappy with the advisor’s services.

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