11 Secrets You Need to Tell Your Financial Adviser

By Tim Lemke on 28 March 2017 0 comments

So you've made an appointment to sit down with a financial adviser and formulate a plan for your future. Are you prepared to talk about your full money situation? In order to truly help you, your financial adviser needs to look at the big picture. That means there can be no major money secrets.

Financial advisers will often begin each session by asking a lot of questions that may seem personal. But they'd be negligent if they didn't. In fact, it's their fiduciary duty to learn as much about you as they can in order to advise you properly.

Here's a list of secrets you'll need to share with your financial planner if you want the best advice.

1. All of your debt

When you're being crushed under a mountain of debt, you may not want to talk about it. But a financial adviser is perhaps the best person to discuss it with. Your adviser can't craft a sound financial plan for you if they're unaware that a good chunk of your income is going to pay off debt. If you let them know about your full debt situation, however, they may be able to assist you in climbing out of the hole and onto the path toward financial freedom.

2. Any job loss

It's not always easy to admit you are out of work. But a financial adviser can't help you properly if you don't provide a full picture of your income situation. If you're out of work now, let your adviser know. If you were out of work for a long stretch in the past, let them know that as well. Financial advisers can also help you navigate what to do when your income has been cut, as well as advise you on what to do with old 401(k) accounts and pension money. (See also: If You're Lucky Enough to Receive a Pension, Here Are 6 Things You Need to Do)

3. Family members you support

Do you pay child support? Do you regularly send money to your brother up in Buffalo? Do you have an elderly parent living with you? Your financial adviser will want to know about any money you spend to support other people, even if it's only occasionally or informally. These are expenses that have an impact on your overall financial picture, and are not the kinds of costs that you can easily eliminate.

4. Sizable gifts

You're fortunate enough to be given $25,000 from your generous Uncle Steve, but you feel like it's really not something you want people to know about. After all, who might come knocking on your door now that you have this extra cash on hand? That's understandable, but it's important to tell your financial adviser, because they can offer advice on what to do with the new funds. An unexpected influx of cash, even if it's just a one-time gift, can have a ripple effect on your overall saving strategy.

5. Tax troubles

Have you been diligent about paying your taxes? If not, this is something you'll want to tell your adviser. This goes for late taxes, tax liens on properties, and past audits. The longer you wait to take care of tax problems, the more you may end up paying in penalties and fees. Your financial adviser can help you clean up your tax issues, and will be in a better position to help you plan your future.

6. The status of your marriage

If you're meeting with an adviser, it helps to let them know if you're about to get married, or if your marriage is about to end. Marriage and divorce have all kinds of financial implications on everything from income to taxes to planning for retirement.

7. Your vices

Gambling. Alcoholism. A shopping addiction. We all have our bad habits, but it's important to be aware of those vices that impact your finances. Are you at risk of incurring debt due to a major gambling binge? Is alcohol preventing you from landing steady work? Your financial adviser can't accurately assess your finances if they don't know the situation.

According to Doug Amis, a CFP with Cardinal Retirement Planning in Cary, NC, even casual marijuana use is something clients should disclose to planners, because many life insurance companies still test for it.

8. Anything that your kids need to know

Hans Scheil, CEO and owner of Cardinal Retirement Planning, says that his most challenging clients are those who have kept important information from family members. This secrecy can create difficulty in later years, when facing important estate decisions.

"What happens with people now is that they develop dementia, or some sort of chronic illness, and they end up needing care," Scheil said. "This is when all of the family scandals come out."

Scheil says it's important to anticipate what your children and grandchildren may need to know about your estate to avoid strife down the road.

9. Charitable giving

It may seem odd to think of this as something you'd hide, but financial advisers say they've met with clients who have quietly been giving to a cause that their spouse or other loved ones might not agree with. Your donations to charity may not seem like anyone's business, but they can impact your overall savings if you give a substantial amount. A financial adviser can also walk you through getting tax deductions for your charitable donations.

10. Your own lack of financial knowledge

Are you the type who doesn't know an IRA from an IPA? Are you mystified by mutual funds and baffled by bonds? It's OK, your financial adviser is not there to judge you and will likely be more annoyed by any attempt to bluff your way through a meeting. Financial advisers can help you understand the ins and outs of investing and estate planning, so it's useless to pretend to know more than you do.

11. All of your side hustles

When your financial adviser asks you about your income, they want to hear about everything. Not just your day job, but your side work giving piano lessons, your freelance writing, your pottery sales, and even your gambling winnings. You may be hiding this income because you don't want to pay taxes. But your adviser needs to know about this extra income, or else any financial plan they create will be flawed. Moreover, your financial adviser can often give you advice on how to turn a quiet side hustle into a legitimate, profitable business.

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