Article Date: 7/1/2011

No Matter Where You Are, You Need a Financial Plan
o.d. to o.d.

No Matter Where You Are, You Need a Financial Plan

And that means hiring a financial planner. Use these tips to select an advisor who can formulate the right strategy for you.

By Walter D. West, O.D., F.A.A.O.
Chief Optometric Editor

Whether you're an optometry student, recent graduate or a seasoned practitioner, a large part of managing your career is related to your finances. The student's focus is most likely on day-to-day expenses and living on a limited budget. The new practitioner focuses on student loans (now student debt) and likely growing a practice. The seasoned practitioner has likely developed a financial balance and is focused on investing for retirement. The bottom line is regardless of where you are in your optometric career, finances play a major role.

Your financial planner

As a result, financial guidance can be a great advantage. You may be wondering how to choose the best planner. Here's my suggestion: Approach it as you would hiring anyone to do any job. Start by identifying several candidates, and then begin the interview process.

Before you meet a planner, consider the services you need. Write down your goals, and bring them with you to the interview.

Treat the initial conversation with the planner like a mutual interview. The planner should ask you about your goals, your financial situation, your plans for the future as well as your philosophies related to saving, investing and risk tolerance. By learning about you, the planner can formulate an appropriate investing strategy. At the same time, be prepared to ask questions that will allow you to judge the planner's ability to manage your finances. (See below.)

One caveat: Don't rush into any agreements. Interview each advisor thoroughly so that you feel confident in your decision. Just as you would visit several car dealerships and test several cars before a purchase, check each financial planner to ensure that the advisor's qualifications, personality and goals match yours.

Questions to ask

Here are a few specific questions you should ask the financial planner right up front:

Do you provide an initial meeting at no cost? (Generally the initial meeting is free.)
How do you charge for services (hourly, flat fee, percentage of products sold or commission)?
Is the fee schedule flexible? (Ask for a written estimate of fees.)
Can you provide references? (e.g. other folks with whom he's worked.)

Also, while you want a strong fit between you and the financial advisor, but keep in mind that the more extensive the services, the more expensive they will be.

Once these questions are answered, you'll have a good idea of whether an advisor provides the services you desire. Don't settle for someone you are unsure of—there are many advisors from which to choose.

Interviewing and deciding on your financial planner are important, but implementing your financial plan is the key to your success. There's no time like the present to start your financial planning process. OM

Optometric Management, Issue: July 2011