3 Criteria I Used to Find the Right Financial Advisor for Me

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  • When my husband died, I had to figure out my financial future, which meant finding a financial advisor.
  • I was able to find a great financial advisor by thinking about my specific goals and needs.
  • Having an independent financial advisor isn’t cheap, but it’s been well worth the cost to me.

I started working with my independent financial advisor Liz in fall 2017, just months after my husband died suddenly, leaving me to manage a financial situation in flux and learn, for the first time, how to take control of my money.

When I began the search for a financial advisor to help me rebuild my life, I knew I needed to get clear on what (and who!) I was looking for. Here’s the checklist I used to settle on my fantastic financial planner.

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1. I knew I wanted to work with a woman

I’d always let men manage my money, whether my husband or my advisor at the bank. As a woman making a living on my own and just beginning my journey toward financial literacy, I knew I wanted a woman to help show me the way.

The New School of Finance, founded by certified financial planner and chartered investment manager Shannon Lee Simmons, is where I landed. My financial planner, Liz Schick, is part of the awesome all-female team. To say nothing of the gender-based pay gap and privileged position that can come with being male, it was important to me to work with a woman to start from a shared perspective and to support a female-owned and run business.

2. I was looking for someone with empathy

As a widow in the early stages of grief, I needed all the support I could get, including emotional support. I was doing the hard work of rebuilding my life after a shattering loss and I needed to know that my financial planner was on my side.

I’d just lost my partner in all things, including money management, and Liz stepped into her role as my financial planner with compassion, empathy, and a fierce sense of duty toward helping me get back on my feet. Liz understood implicitly that I hadn’t chosen the situation I was in.

This wasn’t even plan B for me. It was going to take time for me to figure out what I wanted now, and that meant I’d change my mind, make mistakes, and struggle to let go of the life I thought I would have. Liz was patient, kind, and proactive in her work with me, leaving lots of room to help me pivot when I needed to.

Talking about money is taboo, and it can be uncomfortable. That’s even harder when you have to ask questions like whether you can afford to stay in the apartment you shared with your late husband or how to invest a life insurance payout. It takes a very special person to really listen to someone in the throes of grief, to be with that pain, to help them create a financial plan to weather the storm, and set them up for success.

Liz has been the first person to congratulate me whenever I put my plans into action, like when I bought my first home, started my freelance business, and nearly doubled my income in under a year.

3. I wanted a financial advisor who works for me, not my bank

Before I started working with Liz, I’d always worked with financial advisors at my bank. For most people, it’s the default and for some, it’s the only option. I grew tired of meeting with bankers to discuss my financial situation, only to have them try to sell me products I didn’t want or need. No, they weren’t all bad, but they weren’t great either, and I didn’t trust that they had my best interests at heart.

I knew that I wanted to work with someone who didn’t have an agenda. I trust Liz 100%. She never recommends any product or service outright. Instead, she presents options and how they might work for me. It’s up to me to decide what’s right for me and my life.

I set money aside for my work with Liz. We meet at least once a year for a full financial check-up and to plan for the years ahead. Before I make any major life decisions that rely on and affect my finances, like buying my first home, planning a career change, or buying my first car, I meet with Liz to create a comprehensive plan, dedicating time to making that big life change happen.

Working with an independent financial planner isn’t cheap. But it has saved me money in the long run and helped me start and grow my business as a freelancer. Trusting Liz to be my guide toward financial literacy is the single best money management decision I’ve ever made. No regrets!

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