One tried-and-true method of finding a professional advisor is to ask your friends and relatives. But, unfortunately, that isn’t as easy as it sounds. The truth is you can’t ask just anyone. You need to ask someone who:

  • shares your goals and values and
  • has an advisor who does what you want an advisor to do.

What type of advisor do you need?

For example, are you looking for someone to help you build your investment portfolio? Then you may need someone who’s licensed to sell mutual funds or securities.

Are you looking for someone to do your income taxes? Then you’re looking for a tax practitioner or an accountant.

Or, are you looking for an advisor who can help you create a financial plan that reflects your goals and values? Someone who can guide you on your way through all life’s stages? If so, you’re looking for someone who takes a well-rounded approach. This person would also have access to savings and insurance products that can protect and build your wealth.

So establish your criteria first. Then start asking around. Do you know anyone whose advisor does for them what you want an advisor to do for you? Ask for a referral.

“Ask a friend you trust,” says veteran Sun Life Financial advisor Brian Burlacoff.1 “Ask someone who is financially responsible.”

In fact, ask two or three friends for referrals. Sure, you can find an advisor who’s knowledgeable and can offer the products you need. But you want more than that. Let’s say you also want to to find an advisor who can take you from saving for a house to saving for your children’s education. Or maybe you also want one who can help you plan your estate. In such cases, you’ll need an advisor with whom you can have a long-term relationship.

So if you’re in it for the long run, then you want to find an advisor with whom you “click” – someone you can trust. After all, you will be sharing the intimacies of your life with this person.

Check an advisor’s credentials

With your list of referrals in hand, you’re ready for the next stage: research. Most advisors have websites and some time spent online will tell you about their credentials. Do they have a professional designation? Some designations are given by industry-wide groups that set standards and hold their members accountable. Other designations are given by educational bodies. Some advisors belong to professional organizations that have continuing education requirements. Some have distinguished themselves in their professional communities.

You also want to make sure your candidates are reputable and haven’t had run-ins with financial services regulators. Half an hour spent online familiarizing yourself with the advisor’s profile will stand you in good stead when you meet face to face.

Look for an advisor you can trust

Then you’re ready to meet your candidates for the job of your advisor. Remember, you’re looking for the best fit with your goals, values and personality.

“Find someone with whom you’re comfortable,” suggests Sun Life Financial advisor Brent McKay2, a long-time veteran of the financial services industry. “Trust is a big issue. It has to be someone you can trust, someone with whom you can build rapport.”

Choosing a financial advisor can be an important step in the road to financial security. Once you have found the right person, you’ll be ready to set off on your journey.

1 Brian Burlacoff,* M.Acc., MBA, CFP®, CLU,® CHS. Burlacoff Financial Services Inc., Sun Life Financial advisor

2 Brent McKay,* CFP.® McKay Insurance & Financial Services Inc., Sun Life Financial advisor

* Mutual funds offered by Sun Life Financial Investment Services (Canada) Inc.

Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada is a member of the Sun Life Financial group of companies.