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Jerry Citarella: Where is your ‘financial adviser’ focused?

Financial Truth

Posted: April 24, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 24, 2012 1:55 a.m.

As you go through your process of finding the right person to work with regarding your finances, it can get confusing sometimes.

Who’s right for you, and who will best serve your specific needs? What type of adviser should you use? Should the broker be one who works for one of the big-named brokerages or maybe a big insurance company? Maybe someone at a local independent firm might be best for you.

It can get overwhelming, but I believe the first thing you need to discover is where the adviser’s true focus the adviser’s true focus, background and the affect those factors might have.

On the subject of focus, I think it’s very important to be clear about where your adviser or potential adviser might be coming from and how he or she provides services. When I say “coming from,” I mean that in a literal sense.

Just as most other professionals, we advisers begin at specific points in this business, and I believe that our beginning impacts how we do business for the rest of our careers, even if we change structures later.

There are only a couple of ways most people begin their careers prior to heading in different directions. The two basic beginnings are based on either needs or desires. They may seem similar, but they’re actually very different.

Those who started in life insurance learned about analyzing people’s needs and putting things in place to reach goals and protect people or assets.

People who started in the stock brokerage side of the business were taught how to sell returns, potential and dreams. They learned how to fulfill desires. Admittedly, the stock brokerage side of the business always seemed more exciting, but I’m very happy that I grew up in a world of analyzing and fulfilling needs.

It’s a much better way to do what’s necessary to set and accomplish realistic goals. I hold nothing against people for selling a dream, especially if it can come true once in a while. I just think that people seeking advisers should fully understand what they’re getting themselves into.

Eventually, most people in my business focus more on overall planning and much less on one specific area of the business. Many, however, will only handle the insurance side of the planning process. There are some very hard-core, committed insurance agents with a passion like none you’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, many refer to themselves as, or are perceived by others to be, financial advisers. They are not.

They are insurance providers, and the only products they have are insurance-based and maybe a few mutual funds thrown in when necessary. There are also some who sell only specific types of investments.

Refer to my incessant warnings about knowing what you’re getting. Many people are mistaken for financial advisers when they are simply salespeople. Worse yet are those people with limited knowledge and product offerings who just don’t know any better. A true adviser will have experience, options, ethics and ability.

The adviser-or-salesperson question will be with us forever, but knowing a bit more about what you’re looking for and how your potential candidates do business will help you be more successful.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask about potential advisers’ backgrounds. Ask what excites them about their job. Ask them about the two best experiences they’ve ever had in their business. Questions like these will truly help you get to know who you are considering letting handle your future. Ask why they started in the business, and why they know they’ll still be in it in 10 years or more.

Be creative. Don’t ask what type of returns they’re planning to get you. You don’t get to know them that way, and believe me, you really want to know the person who is handling your money, your family’s well-being and the security of your future.

Jerry Citarella is the owner of Infinity Wealth Management 23734 Valencia Blvd., Suite 301, Valencia, 661-255-9555, ext. 11.  He is also the author of The Truth Helps Series of financial planning books. Citarella’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. Submit questions to:  Securities and investment advisory services offered through NEXT Financial Group Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC.  Infinity Wealth Management is not an affiliate of NEXT Financial Group Inc.


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