Ask Ellen: Your questions answered

What you need to know before seeing a financial professional.

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A financial consultant at Fidelity, Ellen O'Connell, CFP®, recently answered one of your money questions.

I've been thinking I should meet with a financial professional, but I'm not sure what to expect or how to prepare. Can you tell me what I should expect in the first meeting?

Often people put off meeting with a financial professional because they don't know what it's all about. Some people tell me they are concerned it will take a lot of time; others are worried about financial mistakes they may have made along the way. And still others feel like they haven't saved enough yet to have a conversation. I get it—financial planning can seem daunting and complicated. And with so many things to juggle every day, it can take a back seat to other priorities.

Whether you are just getting your finances organized, are mid-career and building your savings and investments, or transitioning into retirement, having a plan in place can help you feel less stressed about money and more in control of your future.

Let's talk more about the introductory meeting. My first meeting with someone is typically about an hour. It's a get-to-know-you conversation, for both of us. Also, if you are planning with a partner or spouse, I like to include that person in our initial meeting so I can understand the whole picture. I want to find out what's important to you and who's important to you so that we can start to design a plan together to help meet those needs. Some of the key questions we'll cover include:

  • What are your goals and vision for the future?
  • What concerns do you have about money?
  • What's worked for you? Where do you think you could benefit from some additional help?

To me, this first part of a meeting is critical. The best way a financial professional can help you navigate what can sometimes be a challenging landscape of financial products is by getting to know you. I also like to make sure you understand my role as well as more about me, both professionally and personally. It's important to know who you are working with and how that relationship would work ongoing. I try to create an approachable atmosphere where a client feels comfortable discussing their unique situation and knows that they can ask me anything.

If time allows in that first meeting, we would also begin to look at how you are currently invested. I can look at the statements of all of your accounts—no matter which financial institution you use—and work those into your overall plan using tools that can model different "what if" scenarios so you can get a sense of different approaches.

At the end of the day, you want anyone you work with to make you feel confident that they understand you, what's important to you, and who's important to you. It's about developing a plan for living well today and building for the kind of future you have in mind.

About Ellen

Ellen O'Connell is a financial consultant at Fidelity's Investor Center on Congress Street in Boston. Throughout her 28 years with Fidelity, Ellen has helped clients develop financial plans to achieve their individual goals and improve their financial wellbeing. Most recently, Ellen worked on the Women Investors squad, focusing on empowering women to become more engaged with their finances.

Ellen holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER®.

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