For someone meeting for an initial financial consultation, it may feel like there are lots of topics to cover. However, a financial advisor will want to boil things down to four basic areas. Let's look at how you can prepare to cover each one.
Current Spending and Saving
When financial consultants need to simplify things for their clients, the first move is to break it all down into inflows and outflows. What are you spending, and what are you saving?
You should be prepared to give at least ballpark answers on both fronts. If possible, try to dig up all of your account summaries and major bills. Likewise, document what you're regularly paying for every week, even if it's something seemingly small, such as your morning coffee.
Life is full of risks, and it's hard to predict which emergencies are going to hit. Maybe you'll experience a half-year period of unemployment, or perhaps it will be an unexpected medical bill not covered by your insurance. You don't want to be caught without enough money to tough out these periods. Otherwise, you might dig into your savings and undermine all of the good work of your financial advisor.
If you don't have a rainy day fund, develop one now. Also, be prepared to contribute to and expand it, even if that means making cutbacks elsewhere.
Financial consultants are used to serving as retirement plan advisors, too. It's important for clients to outline their retirement goals. Do you want to be able to travel internationally, for example? Will you want to have a winter home and a summer one?
It's also wise to think about how long the longest-lived folks in your family tend to survive. You want to be sure you're going to have enough money to pay for your desired standard of living for at least that long.
Income Streams and Investments
Ideally, you should have money coming from more than employment. Even if your job is presently your entire source of income, you should think about investments in things like real estate, stocks, annuities, and bonds that can develop into separate income streams. With a diversified set of income streams, you can be more confident that your finances will survive economic shocks well into late-life.
You'll also want to talk about risk. Specifically, how comfortable are you with risk? Higher-risk investments often pay better returns, but they may not be ideal if you're close to retirement or can't afford a major loss.