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It’s Saturday night and you’ve decided to stay home, watch a travel documentary on Netflix and order a pizza. You’re reminded of the best pizza you ever had during a beach vacation last year hundreds of miles away. But naturally, you’ll settle for your favorite pizza place nearby that will do just fine for tonight.
What does ordering pizza have to do with hiring a financial advisor?
For most people, their financial advisor happens to also be just a few miles from their house, but unlike ordering a pizza, the best financial advisor for you might be hundreds of miles away AND easily accessible.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to the rapidly growing trend of hiring a “virtual” financial advisor who can help you build a personalized plan to reach your money goals based on who you are, no matter where you live.
What is a Virtual Financial Advisor?
A virtual financial advisor offers financial planning services to their clients primarily or entirely online and by phone.
This means no matter where you or your financial advisor choose to live, you’re always just a Zoom call away from a face-to-face meeting.
Slide Show: What is a Virtual Financial Advisor
The Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Financial Advisor
Virtual financial advisors have been gaining steadily in popularity for a number of years and a multitude of reasons.
One of the first reasons people began working with virtual financial advisors was to gain time back in their day by not having to get in the car and sit in traffic to meet with their financial advisor when a phone call or Zoom meeting works just as well.
For people who travel frequently or anticipate moving to another part of the country (or living overseas), working with a virtual financial advisor also ensures no disruption to your relationship no matter where life takes you.
Perhaps the most significant development accelerating the trend towards virtual financial advice is the ability for financial advisors to specialize in serving a niche that simply wouldn’t be practical if limited to working with clients in their hometown.
For example, many advisors now specialize in working only with clients in a particular occupation (e.g. doctors, small business owners, technology workers, educators), with particular family needs (e.g. special needs children, college funding), or life priorities and values (e.g. retiring early, religion), among many other niches served.
What this means for you, is an opportunity to hire a financial advisor who truly understands your individual needs based on their education, experience and commitment to helping people just like you.
What to Expect when Working with A Virtual Financial Advisor
We asked financial advisors to help us understand what it’s like working working with them from across the country and to share examples based on their own experiences.
The Technology Connecting Clients Across the US to Their Advisor in Kentucky
Daniel Czulno is a Certified Financial Planner who lives in Lexington, Kentucky. While his independent advisory firm Joule Financial is small, the technology and tools they use with clients allows them to offer virtual advising services to clients in more than 30 states. For example:
- Fully online financial planning and document vault which allows for collaborative planning whether clients are local or across the country.
- Streamlined booking of Zoom or phone call appointments via Calendly, including the ability to book a virtual financial plan presentation with multiple members of the Joule Financial team.
- Interactive Zoom calls with clients and prospects who tune in for educational webinars with Q&A.
“With the above solutions in place, we’ve been able to expand our local client base to include clients across the country who’ve never stepped foot in our office and who we’re able to service completely virtually,” Czulno said.
A Widow in Illinois Found Her Ideal Financial Advisor in Pennsylvania
Stephanie McCullough is the founder of Sofia Financial, a financial planning firm based in Berwyn, Pennsylvania that specializes in helping divorced, widowed and single women in their 50s and up.
Stephanie has many clients she’s never met in person, and others like this one she’s only met once, with all subsequent financial planning services offered virtually:
“About three years ago, a friend connected me with her sister-in-law who lives in Illinois. We met in person when she came here to visit, but since then our interactions have all been long-distance. She had worked with 3 other advisors since the death of her husband 10 years prior and hadn’t been happy with any of them. We work wonderfully together, and happily the distance is not a barrier.”
Snowbirds Keeping Warm While Working with Their Financial Advisor in Minnesota
Dan Murphy is a financial planner with Greater Good Financial based in Minnesota. But in the 13 years Dan has been in the business, most of his clients have lived on the West Coast.
Dan ranks comfort and convenience among the top reasons he hears from clients who enjoy working with him remotely.
“The convenience of virtual financial planning means you can make an appointment whenever or wherever you are. This also puts you in a comfortable location for yourself instead of a stuffy office which can be intimidating for some,” Dan said.
“Specifically I have a handful of clients who are snowbirds or clients who retire and move to a warmer location. Being virtual allows them to retain the same advisor no matter where they are living.”
Dual Career Couples from Hawaii to Florida Turn to the Nation’s Capital for Financial Advice
Ami Shah is a wealth advisor with Hemington Wealth Management based in Washington, D.C. Specializing in serving dual career couples, she’s able to better serve her busy clients no matter where they live.
“In the past couple months, I’ve taken on clients from Hawaii to Florida – distance is no longer an issue,” Ami said.
“These clients have hectic lives – running businesses, juggling two careers, taking care of new babies. An in-office visit would probably have been off the table for them. But we can now get together in the early morning, late night, and weekend times that work for them, and have the chance to meet their little ones too, which automatically builds much more trust. Screens don’t have to be a barrier, but instead a portal into a more intimate part of their lives.”
Preparing to Hire A Virtual Financial Advisor
Whether you plan to hire a financial advisor who lives nearby or a virtual financial advisor hundreds of miles away, it’s important to interview a handful of advisors to learn how they work with clients and ensure you feel comfortable speaking with them.
Many of the questions you might ask a virtual financial advisor are the same questions you would ask when interviewing an advisor to work with in-person. These include:
- Do you work with clients whose circumstances are similar to mine?
- What services do you offer? (e.g. financial planning, investment advice, etc.)
- How do you charge for your services?
- What is your experience and background as a financial advisor?
- What certifications do you hold?
Questions you might ask a virtual advisor specifically include:
- How long have you been working as a virtual financial advisor?
- What do your clients enjoy most about working with you virtually?
- How often will we meet?
- What technology and tools will we use to meet? (e.g. Zoom, etc.)
- Can you describe a typical meeting?
- How often should I expect to hear from you beyond our meetings?
- How do you ensure confidentiality of information shared between us?
Whether you choose to work with an advisor in-person or virtually, your objective should be the same in deciding who you hire. You’re looking for a trustworthy financial professional who has the professional training and background to help you achieve your financial goals.
Are You Ready to Hire a Virtual Financial Advisor?
With many virtual financial advisors today specializing in helping clients with specific occupations, family needs or life priorities, you’re more likely to find your ideal financial advisor by expanding your options to advisors nationwide.
Of course, you’re still able to meet in-person when you’re in the same area. And you may find the best financial advisor for you does live nearby and offers flexibility to meet online when you prefer.
But in the new world ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic combined with the technology and tools that let us meet online from wherever we are, it’s time to rethink how you find the ideal financial advisor for your individual needs (or time for a checkup to ensure your current financial advisor is still best for you).
Frequently Asked Questions
The Wealthtender Guide to Virtual Financial Advisors features a diverse mix of financial advisors on Wealthtender who offer their services online and by phone. You’ll discover financial advisors with a broad range of education, experience and specializations to help you find your perfect match.
We encourage you to interview multiple financial advisors to ensure both you and the advisor you decide to hire a good fit for each other. Most financial advisors offer an initial introductory meeting for this purpose, and may even require it before getting started.
About the Author
Brian is CEO and founder of Wealthtender. He and his wife live in Texas, enjoying the diversity of Houston and the vibrancy of Austin.
With over 25 years in the financial services industry, Brian is applying his experience and passion at Wealthtender to help more people enjoy life with less money stress.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to encourage any lifestyle changes without careful consideration and consultation with a qualified professional. This article is for reference purposes only, is generic in nature, is not intended as individual advice and is not financial or legal advice.