Happy 2021 everyone - I sincerely hope you're staying healthy and happy. We've all been through a lot. In early 2020, governments around the world took drastic steps to slow the spread of COVID-19. We saw a major shift in how we work, how we interact with each other and generally how we go about our day-to-day lives. While working virtually with a financial planner is nothing new, the relevance of virtual meetings and planning has increased substantially during the pandemic. Despite a lot of us (myself included) being "Zoomed Out", let's look at this a little closer.
Money is one of the most important and most personal aspects of your life, meaning you probably feel more comfortable trusting someone you can get to know personally. That's human nature. That said, with the technology currently available, along with the ongoing need to keep social distancing, this is the perfect time to think about whether working with a local advisor is really necessary. Instead of basing this decision too heavily on physical location, it may be more prudent to consider other factors, such as years of experience, areas of expertise, designations and certifications, and more. Virtual meetings have been on the table for a very long time, but now it's just more..."normal"? It's no secret that Integrity Financial Group has clients nationwide, coast to coast, even though we are based in Orlando, FL.
As you consider whether or not to work with someone in your area or beyond, ask yourself a few questions:
1) Am I Comfortable With Technology?
For people of all age groups, it really just comes down to comfort level, and tech-savvy. Virtual financial advisors will want to meet with you face-to-face using video chat, whether through Zoom, Skype, Facetime or other video conferencing tools, so it's important for you to be comfortable using a computer or a mobile device, like a smartphone or tablet. They’ll probably want to share their screen with you, go over important documents, and even have you sign paperwork virtually. Also, you’ll likely be able to view your portfolio and other financial information online, which means you don't have to meet virtually face-to-face if you have basic questions.
Your advisor should work with you to try to make your experience as comfortable as they can by providing instructions on how to use their tools. They will also likely answer any questions you may have to help ease your concerns. However, if you’re still uncomfortable with a technology-heavy relationship with your financial planner, working with someone local may be better.
2) What Kinds of Services Do I Need?
The type of services you’re looking for from a financial advisor will play an important role in determining the type of relationship you’re looking to build. If you’d prefer to be fairly hands-off, or if you have a demanding schedule, working together virtually may be an advantage compared to meeting in-person during office hours. On the other hand, if you want to work together closely with your advisor, or be able to drop by their office to ask a question or check-in from time to time, you may be more comfortable with an advisor who is within driving distance.
3) Do I Need an Advisor With Specific Expertise?
Another important consideration is the financial planner's experience and credentials. This can be a big one, and in my opinion should be talked about more. If you’re in need of someone with a specific area of expertise, such as handling student loan debt for health care professionals, you might not be able to find an advisor in your local area. In that case, it may be worth looking for someone who can provide the expertise you’re looking for virtually.
In a world that’s gone virtual, being local is a choice you may prefer, but it's not a necessity when looking for a financial planner. The technology is now available to build a well-developed relationship virtually, and it’s being used by thousands of advisors, brokers and agents around the world. What's important is determining what you’re comfortable doing when it comes to your money and finding an advisor who will be compatible and capable of helping you reach your goals.