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How to Get the Most Out of Your Financial Adviser

Aside from managing your money, what services, access should you expect?

2. "How many other clients do you have that fit my profile?"

You want an adviser who is accustomed to dealing with clients like you.

3. What specifically will you do for me?"

You want to know if the person will make investment recommendations, manage money on your behalf, create a financial plan for you, or perhaps suggest money-savings ideas you can implement.

4. How do you prefer to communicate?

"You definitely need to ask this question, or at least say: 'I prefer telephone calls, face-to-face communication or emails and here's what I expect,'" says Diahann Lassus, a certified financial planner and the president and co-founder of Lassus Wherley, a fee-only wealth management firm headquartered in New Providence, N.J., with a branch office in Bonita Springs, Fla.

"If your expectations are at a level that an adviser can't do, you should move on — or you may have to adjust your expectations," Lassus adds.

Don't Be Afraid to Talk About Fees and Costs

Mark Cortazzo, CFP and founder of MACRO Consulting Group in Parsippany, N.J., says that unfortunately there's not a lot of disclosure about fees in the money management business.

"It's surprising to me that with all the money being managed, there is no place to get side-by-side comparison pricing on what various firms charge to do asset management," Cortazzo says. "I don't even know how a consumer has a way of gauging whether they are on the high end or low end."

If you want to know about the cost of your mutual funds, you can look up the average expense ratio with firms like Morningstar. But nothing like that service currently exists among money managers. (BrightScope, which rates retirement plans, recently launched a new, free way for consumers to research and select financial advisers. While the company doesn't yet disclose fee arrangements for advisers, BrightScope says that information will be forthcoming soon).

That's why Cortazzo recently began a program called FlatFeePortfolios.com, which offers a uniform pricing structure of $199 a month to all clients — regardless of whether your retirement assets are $250,000 or $2 million.

Next: Find out who gets "face-to-face" service. >>

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