5 Crucial Questions to Ask Before Hiring A Financial Advisor

Whether you’re just starting to save or have hit mid-retirement, hiring a financial advisor is a wise choice. But, where do you begin? Do all advisors provide the same levels of expertise and services?

Not exactly.

Several factors set financial advisors apart from one another. If you’ve spent time looking for financial help or are reading this article before you begin your search, you may already be overwhelmed by the options.

Numerous advisors will pine for your business, but this process is about you. The key to finding the right advisor is knowing which ones will keep your best interests in mind.

To help you determine who’s right for you, we’ve put together five crucial questions to ask.

1. How are you paid?

The answer to this question should be straightforward and clear. Your financial advisor is the person you will trust with your assets and look to for sound advice, so it’s important that he or she is as transparent as possible about their process.

Financial advisors are usually paid in one of three ways:

  • Commission—They receive commission on your investment choices. Their pay is based on the products they sell or certain funds they suggest.
  • Fee-Only—They don’t sell products or accept commissions. They are paid by the hour, a fixed annual retainer, or a percentage of your investment assets.
  • Fee-Based—They mix commission and fee-only. They are paid by commission or by charging clients, whichever they choose, or both.

2. Are you a fiduciary?

A financial advisor acting in a fiduciary capacity is under legal obligation to act solely in the best interests of their clients. Choosing an advisor who follows the fiduciary standard through the financial planning process ensures that he or she will be taking care of you and making unbiased recommendations. Your financial goals should always come first. 

3. What are your credentials?

As you research, you’ll likely see various credentials listed after financial advisors’ names, but the heart of a teacher is arguably one of the most important credentials to look for when choosing an advisor.  At Southwestern Investment Group, all of our advisers possess the heart of a teacher. We long to empower you and educate you to make informed choices. Your investment adviser shouldn’t just rely on blind trust, but instead will work to bring you into the process. Over time, our goal is to help each client understand their investments. Any investment you select has positives and negatives.  Part of having the heart of a teacher is to make you aware of both sides of the investment and to give you the resources to make a good decision.

4. Does the advisor do holistic planning or simply focus on selling a product?

At Southwestern Investment Group, we are not going to focus on “the product of the month.” We believe that picking the correct product that works for you is the easy part.  The hard part is the planning. We believe that every good plan should keep an eye on taxes, estate planning, investment planning, insurance planning, and retirement planning. We believe all these parts of your plan should work together and be addressed at every meeting. Too many times, advisers get in a hurry to sell a product instead of first determining how all the pieces of your plan fit together.

5. What is your process like?

Hiring a financial advisor looks different firm to firm. Asking about an advisor’s process will give you insight into whether their approach works with what you had in mind.

Here is a brief look at Southwestern Investment Group’s process:

  • Understand—We ensure that we have a full knowledge of your current financial situation, personal goals, investment experience, and risk tolerance.
  • Design—We begin the process of designing your customized wealth management plan, including our recommendations for your overall comprehensive financial planning and investment management.
  • Implement—Once we have reached a mutual agreement on the recommendations, we will begin the process of executing your plan.
  • Review—We will review your progress toward achieving your financial goals.

Know when it’s time to ask for help. A financial advisor can help you get on track and stay there, no matter your goals.

Southwestern Investment Group is made up of certified teams that have your best interests in mind. We operate as advisors who follow the fiduciary standard throughout your financial planning process, are transparent about our process, and will always put you first.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.


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Jeffrey T. Dobyns


President, SageSpring | Financial Advisor, RJFS 

Jeffrey T. Dobyns

President, SageSpring | Financial Advisor, RJFS

Beyond crunching numbers and investment strategies, at SageSpring, we’re about building relationships. When you encounter Founder & President of SageSpring, Jeff Dobyns, it’s easy to understand why this is at the very heart of who we are as a firm. You won’t find stuffy formalities with Jeff; instead, you can expect to find him sharing a warm smile, communicating a compelling vision, or patiently untangling life’s complex challenges with clients. He believes in truly getting to know clients, understanding their aspirations and priorities, and navigating their financial plans with a tailored, comprehensive approach. Our team members have often been caught taking notes on Jeff’s effortless relationship skills from a distance, and we admire them for striving to learn from one of the best. 

Jeff’s financial expertise and wisdom are the perfect match to his innate people skills. Jeff holds the prestigious CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM certification, Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU®), and Chartered Financial Consultant (ChLU®) designations, and has held executive positions with financial planning firms for more than two decades. 

His dedication extends beyond the office to the boardroom and the local community, where Jeff is passionate about giving back. He serves as Chairman of the Board of Men of Valor, a prison ministry and mentoring program. Jeff also serves on the board of Send Musicians to Prison, which shares hope, healing and restoration with the imprisoned through musicians & artists. Jeff actively supports other initiatives in the community by sitting on the board of The Signatry of Middle Tennessee and the Halftime Institute of Nashville. 

Witnessing his four children, Gracyn, Hunter, Tanner, and Logan, excel on the field is almost just as rewarding, if not more, than celebrating the victories of seeing his clients overcome obstacles and build wealth. Spending weekends boating on the lake, hiking mountain trails, and fishing with his family are the moments Jeff cherishes most. It’s this grounded perspective that reveals the true meaning of wealth for Jeff: not just numbers on a page, but the freedom to create experiences that enrich your life and the lives of those you love. When you choose the Dobyns McMillin Wealth Team, you choose more than financial expertise. You choose a partner who champions your dreams, celebrates your victories, and walks besides you on the path to achieving your unique goals.

**Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER TM, CFP® (with plaque design) and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.