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I recently had a trusted friend recommend a financial planner (close friend of his) to me. I briefly talked with the planner about scheduling a meeting to discuss my current financial situation and discuss my plans for the future. I'm not sure, however, what I would be responsible for paying him. He hasn't yet mentioned any rates, but I'm concerned that this meeting will constitute a paid-business meeting for him. I have no idea, as I've never met with a financial planner before. What can I expect?

  • Also, have you looked at some of the related questions? You are starting a big process and information (as you clearly know) is your friend. – MrChrister Jul 29 '13 at 16:17
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    (close friend of his). No way should you do this deal. Consider the situation when you ask the planner difficult questions regarding his decisions, and he complains to your friend about you asking too much. Will your friendship go BHOOSH or will it be able to withstand the trial ?? – DumbCoder Jul 29 '13 at 16:33
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My suggestion would be to ask the planner as an initial question as there could be a couple possible explanations for a free meeting:

  1. Initial consultation - Within some industries there will be that first meeting which is free to see how well do two people work together. In Canada there are some lawyers that will give a half-hour of their time and I'd imagine some financial planners may have a similar practice. This would be where that first meeting is a half-hour or hour to see what is your situation and what expertise do you want that the planner would have.

  2. Straight commission - There is also the possibility that the planner is compensated by the products you purchase through him. In this case, the mutual fund companies, insurance companies and other institutions that he recommends will be handling his compensation. While this does present a conflict of interest, you have to decide whether you want a fee-only planner which wouldn't have this issue though you'd have to pay out of pocket.

Something to consider is what are you bringing to this meeting and how long is it intended to be. If you are bringing a lot of paperwork then it is definitely worth asking upfront while if it is an informal chat for a half hour then things may be different.

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    +1 for mentioning the potential conflict. I'll add: The conflict of interest with a commission fee structure means you risk being recommended & placed into higher-fee mutual funds that pay good commissions to the planner, but which might not be the best investments for you. Studies have demonstrated that lower-fee funds outperform higher-fee funds. So, even though you might not pay the planner directly under a commission arrangement, you could end up paying more over time with such an arrangement, though it might not be evident until you look into the fund fees. Remain mindful of this. – Chris W. Rea Jul 29 '13 at 16:36
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A complete analysis of your current situation, goals, and formulating a plan to meet those goals, including discussing your risk tolerance cannot be completed during the initial meeting. The first meeting should be him trying to convince you of his skills and services, he will also be collecting the required data from you.

You could inquire a few days before the meeting what information he needs from you. The less he asks for the less though the analysis at the initial meeting. This would also be a good time to ask about fee structure.

Some planners make money on the initial plan, others make money on the execution of the plan. What fee that is expected for the initial analysis can vary greatly. You should ask, but most will consider this first meeting as the cost of doing business.

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