Wealth Management Since 1971

Finding a Financial Advisor in Atlanta

Not all financial advisors are created equal. Know what to look for and how a financial advisor can help.
Young couple communicating with their financial advisor in a meeting in the office. Focus is on man.

Finding a financial advisor in Atlanta is easy. Do a simple Google search and you’ll discover dozens of advisors. The real challenge isn’t how to find a financial advisor; it’s how to choose the right financial advisor.

Not all financial advisors are created equal. 

An advisor can specialize in retirement planning or helping young families. An advisor may work primarily with people just starting in their career or individuals with a higher net worth who have their own business. Finding the right financial advisor comes down to knowing what to look for and how an advisor can help you navigate your financial goals. 

Here are a few things to consider.

Chapter 1

Traits to Look For in a Financial Advisor

The first thing to look for in an Atlanta financial advisor is if he or she is a fiduciary. Financial advisors can be held to one of two standards of care: The full fiduciary standard or the lower “best interest” standard.

The fiduciary standard is the more rigorous of the two. Fiduciary advisors are required to act in their clients’ best interest at all times, even if doing so goes against the advisor’s best interest. This means a fiduciary financial advisor can never recommend an investment or strategy unless he or she truly believes it is the best possible option for the client. Advisors who are not full fiduciaries, on the other hand, may not always remain obligated to ensure their recommendations remain the best possible option for their clients. In other words, an advisor who is not a full fiduciary could choose to retain an investment offered by his or her own firm even though something arguably better has come along, as long as the investment was considered optimum at the time of commencement.

Another important consideration is how an advisor is compensated. Under the lower best-interest standard, advisors can accept commissions on the investments they recommend. This creates for the advisor a built-in conflict of interest to recommend the investment that will earn the advisor the highest commission, even if it isn’t truly the best option for the client.

A fee-only fiduciary advisor does not earn commissions, removing even the perception of a conflict of interest. Instead, he or she charges an annual, hourly, or flat fee. Often times, this fee is charged as a percentage of assets under management. Retainer fees are also common for higher net worth clients.

Be careful to understand the distinction that your advisor is “fee-only” and not “fee-based.” Fee-based advisors often use a hybrid compensation model where they charge both a flat fee and earn commissions on the investments they sell. 

Chapter 2

Who Can Benefit from Working with an Advisor 

When the financial services industry was just getting started, financial advisors were primarily investment managers. Their role was to help you attain investment results that would equal or exceed the financial market. Everything came down to performance, as if financial management were a footrace instead of an individual journey. 

Today, financial advisors typically provide much more than investment management services. They can help you in many different areas of your financial life. In taking a holistic approach, a financial advisor can help you manage your finances toward achieving your broader life goals.

Of course, part of achieving those goals is appropriately managing your investments, but even in the areas of investment management, an advisor’s services can go beyond beating the market. For instance, tax strategy often plays a key role for many high net worth individuals. An advisor can help you minimize your tax burden today and into the future, which can have a substantial impact on your financial picture.

Likewise, a financial advisor can help you in your career, especially if you’re a business owner or chief executive. Business owners have unique financial opportunities and challenges. Failing to recognize this can lead to missing out on your full financial potential.

An experienced and well-credentialled financial advisor can help you navigate the complicated aspects of your financial life, from the start of your career through retirement and beyond.

Chapter 3

Complicated Aspects of Your Financial/Retirement Life

The hardest part of any financial plan is coping with the unknown. Despite all the data and tools we have at our fingertips today, figuring out how much you’ll need in retirement or what to do in case of a future economic recession or severe bear market is still a major challenge. 

  • What will your future lifestyle look like? 
  • How much will this lifestyle cost? 
  • How much do you need to save today to afford it? 
  • If the economy goes into a recession or a new president takes office, will this alter the tax laws and, therefore, the plan?

A financial advisor can help you stress-test your financial plan to see what would happen in different scenarios. An advisor can also help you determine if you are saving enough, spending too much, or will likely run out of money later down the road. 

Chapter 4

A True Risk Tolerance Test

Risk tolerance is a measure of how much portfolio fluctuation you can appropriately and emotionally endure as an investor before you will feel compelled to sell or change your investment strategy. Your risk tolerance greatly influences your portfolio’s investment mix.

We have found over 50 years of working with clients that most investors’ risk levels typically fall into one of three basic categories: Aggressive, conservative or low. 

Like financial advisor listings in a Google search, it’s not hard to find an easy, simple risk-assessment test. But a true assessment of your risk tolerance requires more than a simple multiple-choice quiz. Remember, it’s your financial future that’s at stake. 

Chapter 5

Readjusting After COVID-19

It’s safe to say that 2020 was a challenging year. Many investors are still reeling from the COVID-19 fallout. 

While volatility is uncomfortable to live through, it’s important not to overreact to turbulent times. If you try to time the market by selling before the downturn and buying back before the upturn, you’re more likely to get one or both decisions wrong, and will find yourself having sold at a loss and being stuck in cash while the rest of the market rebounds. The Spring of 2020 was a vivid example of how trying to time the market requires hair-splitting accuracy on the buys and sells.

As we all readjust to life in 2021, remember your long-term goals. If you aren’t confident in your plan’s ability to weather any potential market condition without the need to make sudden adjustments in strategy, it’s time to talk to a financial advisor about creating a better one.

Chapter 6

When Your Financial Journey May Change

Not reacting to market events does not mean setting and forgetting your financial plan. There are certain times when your financial plan may need to be updated, and typically, this will be if your personal situation changes. Here are some important milestones where your financial journey, and thus your financial plan, may change:

  • Changing jobs: Anytime you experience a job or career change, it’s wise to revisit your financial plan. Will your income be affected by the change? What about your benefit options? Your savings and spending habits? These factors will likely dictate a lot of your financial future. Make sure your financial plan still makes sense and adjust where appropriate. 
  • Getting married: Marriage changes more than just your tax-filing status. When you merge your life with someone else’s, many aspects of your financial picture are likely to change, from your spending and saving to your income and even your retirement goals. All of these changes should be addressed in your financial plan.
  • Starting a family: One of the biggest life goals for many of us, starting a family, is a huge and rewarding undertaking. As you start to plan for the costs of raising a child (or children), your financial plan may need optimizing to make room for extra expenses.
  • Retirement: Your financial journey doesn’t end when you retire; it just shifts from the accumulation stage to the distribution stage. After decades of building your savings and investments, you’ll now need to strategize how you’re going to live off that money for the rest of your life.
Chapter 7

Going It Alone

As you can see, a lot goes into planning your financial journey. Your financial plan is the roadmap for that journey, but it is not a static map; it should be adaptive with your changing life circumstances. As your living situation, career and especially your financial goals change, so will your financial plan.

It is entirely possible to create and monitor a financial plan and investment strategy on your own. You need to know how to determine your savings needs and the right asset allocation given your timeframe, as well as how to evaluate your true risk tolerance and how to maintain focus during times of emotional turbulence. There are countless online resources to help you do this. While you may be capable of going it alone, the question is: Do you want to?

Chapter 8

Possible Outcomes

The risk to managing your finances on your own is that a lot can go wrong. Are you equipped to correct a mistake? Simply procrastinating can cost you thousands – even tens of thousands – of dollars in the long-run. Likewise, choosing the wrong asset allocation or being too conservative in your investments could leave your savings underfunded approaching or during retirement. Even if you do retire with enough money for the rest of your life, if you don’t have a good withdrawal strategy, you risk withdrawing too much too soon and thus running out earlier than anticipated anyway.

With so many potentially detrimental outcomes in your financial journey, it may not make sense to try going it alone. A well-trained and experienced fiduciary financial advisor in Atlanta can help you define, prioritize, and provide for all of your financial goals. He or she can be a partner and guide along your financial journey, helping you achieve everything you set out to accomplish. 

If you’re considering hiring a financial advisor in Atlanta, talk with the professionals at Linscomb & Williams. It never hurts to explore your options.