With the Super Bowl happening this weekend, no doubt many NFL fans – and all Swifties – will be scouting for signs that the storied romance between Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift is alive and well. Will Taylor defy the time zones after her performance in Tokyo to make it to Las Vegas in time for kickoff? Will Travis reward all fans with the sign of a heart if he scores a touchdown? Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen. Bookies are standing by.

And now to the real world – the one in which you still need to file your taxes, update your estate plan, and organize your finances. While you may or may not have a romantic relationship to think about (if so, don’t forget – Valentine’s Day is next week!), you might have a professional relationship with a financial advisor – one who is supposedly looking out for your best interests and helping you work toward your personal and financial goals. How is that relationship going for you?

When Things Go South

While relationships of all kinds often start out well, we all know that some end up on the rocks. When it comes to working with an advisor, Morningstar reports six common reasons why clients decide to part ways:

  • Quality of financial advice/services
  • Quality of relationship with an advisor
  • Cost of services
  • Return performance-driven factors
  • Comfort/discomfort handling financial issues, and
  • Quality of communication

Let’s face it. When it comes to your money, you deserve to work with an advisor you can trust. So what are some signs that things just aren’t working out? According to Experian, some people think twice about their advisor relationship when situations like these occur:

You can’t seem to reach your advisor. You call. You email. You get no response. With some firms, you may not even have a dedicated advisor, so you find yourself on perpetual hold, waiting for the first “available” professional.

You don’t understand your advisor. The charts and graphs. The jargon. The tiny, lengthy disclosures! If your advisor can’t explain what’s happening in a way you can understand, you may need to gain clarity elsewhere.

You don’t have a grasp of what’s going on. How often does your advisor provide you with updates? Do you know what’s happening with your portfolio and how it’s affecting your goals? If you’re feeling in the dark, perhaps a new advisor could shed some light.

You’re not feeling the love. If your advisor makes you feel uncomfortable or intimidated, or ignores you while focusing on your partner instead, it may be time to seek someone new.

Putting Things Right

Neil Sedaka wasn’t kidding when he sang, “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.” As if moving your accounts to another firm isn’t daunting enough, how do you know your new advisor is any better than your last advisor? Here are nine attributes we believe you should look for when seeking the “right” advisor for you and your family:

Your advisor has a vision and a mission. Great advisors focus on doing the right things, knowing that they’re doing their best to help set their clients up for success.

Your advisor has a clear, defined process. Managing finances can be complex, and it can be easy to overlook a necessary step or two. In his book, The Checklist Manifesto, author Atul Gawande discusses errors of ignorance (mistakes people make because they don’t know what they don’t know) and errors of ineptitude (mistakes people make because they don’t properly use what they DO know). When situations are complex, it’s easy for an otherwise capable financial advisor to miss something – unless they follow a consistent process. Great advisors have a defined process that helps them avoid critical errors with your hard-earned nest egg.

Your advisor is a great listener. According to the Harvard Business Review, great listeners don’t talk when others are speaking; they show that they are listening by responding verbally or with facial expressions, and they can repeat what others have said, practically word for word. In addition, they create a safe environment for discussing difficult, complex, or emotional issues. Instead of immediately offering solutions, they seek to understand the problem first. How well does your financial advisor listen to your ideas or concerns?

Your advisor is with you on the journey. There’s a saying that to understand the needs of another person, you should walk a mile in their shoes. However, because each person’s situation is different, great advisors walk alongside their clients. That way, when the client’s feet hurt, it’s likely the advisor’s do too. This type of empathy can help motivate a great advisor to listen deeply, find new solutions, and share in their client’s success.

Your advisor is curious. Great advisors really get to know their clients and learn what’s meaningful to them. They understand that often, it’s not really about the money – it’s about what the money can do to help their clients pursue what’s important to them.

Your advisor manages your expectations. While it may sound dreamy to “get rich quick,” great advisors know it’s not realistic, and they work with clients to manage expectations around investment returns. They help their clients understand how the markets work and that a disciplined, long-term approach is designed to help lead to a better investment experience.

Your advisor doesn’t rest on their laurels. Great advisors realize their clients’ needs are ever-changing, and they seek opportunities for continuous improvement to better serve them. This could include embracing new technology, keeping up with best practices for security, or considering different asset classes to help clients pursue their financial goals.

Your advisor follows a code of ethics. Great advisors place their clients’ interests first and work to mitigate any potential conflicts of interest when working with clients. They also communicate as much as possible to help clients understand risks, fees, and other information critical to their decision-making processes.

Your advisor is a lifelong learner. No industry is static. Great advisors recognize the need for continuing professional development throughout their careers and pride themselves on staying up-to-date on the latest trends and industry best practices. They pursue advanced degrees and/or professional certifications to stay current.

Download Our Checklist to Compare Advisors

To help you in your search for the right advisor to meet your needs, we’ve designed an easy-to-use checklist that lets you make a side-by-side comparison of the firms and advisors on your list. The checklist also includes a variety of questions you can use to help guide your conversation. Our checklist can be useful whether you’re interested in working with an advisor for the first time or if you’d like a second opinion on your portfolio.

This weekend, as you enjoy all the fanfare of the big game, consider this: Some people spend more time making vacation plans than they do selecting a financial advisor! We believe choosing the right advisor – even if it means breaking up with your current one – could potentially make a major difference in your long-term financial wellbeing.

About Savant Wealth Management

Savant Wealth Management is a leading independent, nationally recognized, fee-only firm serving clients for over 30 years. As a trusted advisor, Savant Wealth Management offers investment management, financial planning, retirement plan and family office services to financially established individuals and institutions. Savant also offers corporate accounting, tax preparation, payroll and consulting through its affiliate, Savant Tax & Consulting.

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Savant Wealth Management (“Savant”) is an SEC registered investment adviser headquartered in Rockford, Illinois. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk. Therefore, it should not be assumed that future performance of any specific investment or investment strategy, including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended and/or undertaken by Savant, or any non-investment related services, will be profitable, equal any historical performance levels, be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful. Please see our Important Disclosures.