Money 4 Life: How we chose our Financial Advisor

Choosing the right financial advisor (FA) is one of the most important decisions we have made in our journey to financial freedom. We’ve been presented to by many different financial advisors from different investment companies, and they all did so well, so if it were only a matter of competence, we had a buffet of them.

But my husband and I realized that we were not only looking for someone to call when we need to cash in our investments, but that we were choosing someone who will partner with us in working towards the goals we have set for ourselves.

We’d be working and collaborating with this person for years and years to come. It’s not enough that we like that person. We have to be able to trust that person enough to reveal certain areas in our finances we wouldn’t disclose to just anybody else.

choosing-financial-advisor
Is your financial advisor a perfect match? Like salt is to pepper?

Perhaps many would assume that we chose our FA, Che Gernandizo, because she had been a friend for several years. The number of years we’ve known her contributed to our decision, but not in the way you think (I’ll get to that later).

You have to know that all the other FA’s who presented to us were our friends, too, so it’s really not just about being “friends” with Che that made us decide to sign her up.

Let me give you 4 factors that helped us decide on Che to be our FA.

Please note that these points were also enumerated by finance expert Aya Laraya at the third session of the Money 4 Life Workshop that I’ve been attending monthly.

(READ: Money 4 Life, The Poverty Mentality)

1. Competence

Let’s get right to the obvious: Your FA needs to be legit.

Scams are common nowadays, so having a license to do what they do is one of your assurances that you are not being duped out of your hard-earned money.

Being certified is also an indication that your FA has gone through and completed her training, and had passed her required examinations for her to be rewarded her license.

When Che was just starting out with Sun Life, we were already friends, so I was aware that she was undergoing trainings. But since licenses and certifications were discussed by Aya, I teased Che to show me her certifications as proof, haha!

certified-financial-advisor
Rising up to my dare and showing me her certification. If you want to see a clearer photo of it, let me know, I’ll show you a copy.

Che has been a Licensed Insurance Agent since 2014. Her license was issued by the License Commission. She is also a Certified Investment Solicitor since October of last year, her certification was issued by the SEC.

Prior to starting our investment through her, she already had two years to put her training into practice.

Che collaborates with us and gives us sound investment advice, just like yesterday afternoon when I talked to her about our plans to make a loan for a house we’re buying, and finding a product that would serve as our loan fund in case we would need it in 15 years.

Her advice? “Know your numbers (Translation: Go to Pag-Ibig and find out how much our loan will be) then get back to me, so we can discuss the right investment product to meet your goal.”

(READ: Should we buy a house now?)

Oh just so you know, she’s also a UP graduate and a Cum Laude at that, and had worked at the top food and beverage manufacturing company in the country. The woman has a good head on those shoulders and is more than capable of thinking on her feet!

2. Compatibility

I have to admit that this was the biggest reason why we went for Che instead of the other FA’s we know.

Of course we considered multi-awarded FA’s and those who had been in the field much longer than Che, however, it was extremely important to us to have an FA who is in the same plane as we are. Someone who has a good grasp of our lifestyle and why it is so.

We wanted someone who has personally experienced what it’s like to raise a family on our budget. And that this someone should also have an understanding of the values that we uphold as a family because our decisions are looped to these values.

The glove fits Che perfectly.

I mentioned earlier that knowing her for this long was indeed a factor – but it was only because we had the opportunity to observe her lifestyle and get to know what she values and prioritises as a person, as well.

If you don’t know any FA as I do Che, that’s alright. I suggest that you meet with a potential FA a couple of times to weigh things. You don’t have to sign up with the FA’s you meet right away anyway.

If the partnership doesn’t feel right, then don’t sign up with that FA and find yourself another one. You can always do a background check and verify with the investment company they’re affiliated with, to measure the trustworthiness and reliability of that person you’re considering to be your FA.

It’s okay to take your time and it’s okay to ask questions — the right ones will lead you to the right partnership.

That's me happily strolling towards my family after I finished depositing in our Mutual Fund. Che can do this for me but since I live closer, I opted to do it myself. She guided me through photos and instructions she sent me online.
That’s me happily strolling towards my family after I finished depositing in our Mutual Fund. Che can do this for me but since I live closer, I opted to do it myself. She guided me through photos and instructions she sent me online.

3. Cost

One of the advantages of having friends training under Sun Life is that I was made aware that each investment product requires a specific training and certification.

For instance, not all FA’s can offer Mutual Funds, only those who are certified for it.

The other FA’s who presented to us offered what I have no doubt are great investment products, but being newbies on investments, not to mention, our budget and our circumstances, we weren’t ready to shell out money and invest in anything else other than Mutual Funds that time, and Che had the right training and certification for it.

(Read: Choosing insurance policies at 40)

4. Accessibility

Would you like to meet?” Che asked.

“No. Not unless you have another important business to attend to here,”
I answered.

“This is important to you,” she said. “I’m your Financial Advisor. If you need me, I will come,” she said.

I dismissed it. “It’s not that important,” I said. “We can discuss this over Skype or maybe Google Hangouts?”

We met over Facebook video chat the next day, haha!

Don’t you just love technology? I love technology. Communication has become easier because of technology.

Che lives in the South where I grew up and lived for most of my life. It is a couple of big rides from where we live now. But since Che goes to a Sun Life office within our area, she includes me in her schedule when she comes here which works just fine for me.

And since I also visit the South to see my parents often, meeting her there for coffee is also possible.

Aya Laraya pointed out at the last Money 4 Life session that ideally, you go for an FA who lives around your area. That way, it wouldn’t be difficult to arrange a meeting.

But he also said, it all still depends on what you feel is right for you.  Che and I can work out the distance, so accessibility is not exactly a problem with us. Like I said, we utilise technology. See?

financial-advisor-chat
Technology’s good. It’s convenient for me, too, not to have to leave the house to meet up all the time.

For the record, Che comes when I need her to come, and she comes even if I was her only purpose for coming here. There’s no questioning her commitment to her clients.

But we also chat on Facebook and she emails me updates that she thinks I need to know, like the latest GDP or SLAMCI reports.

At times, we exchange text messages or I just call her (or she calls me), like when I deposited in our MF recently using a Sun Life prosperity card I received recently, and had some questions about the form I was filling out.

investing-sunlife
Investing on a future trip with our kiddos!

Getting in touch with Che, especially when it has something to do Sun Life, has never been difficult.

It’s a job interview!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, Aya Laraya said. It’s a job interview!

You need to have a clear picture of who these FA’s are as professionals, and somehow have an idea of their principles in life, to know whether or not they are a good fit for you.

And if you need to know, ask them how they will be compensated. It’s a well-known fact that most FA’s earn only through commissions, but if you want to get into the nitty gritty of the process, go ask, it’s perfectly okay.

Tell the FA you’re meeting with what you’re looking for and what your goals are as these FA’s also have certain specialisations, and will refer you to someone else if what you’re looking for is not one of theirs.

Che’s my friend, sure that helps, but her role in our financial journey is a crucial one — we’re talking about our family’s financial future, ours and our children’s, so she needs to be more than just a friend, she needs to have the right credentials and skills set for it.

At the same time, we need someone who can somehow see through our lenses. It’s less stressful that way.

Update: Che no longer handles Variable Life Insurance and has decided to focus on Mutual Funds. I’m currently signed up under Clariz Umali of Sun Life Mt. Athos for my VUL account. If you would like to hook up with a Financial Advisor, I can hook you up with her so you can discuss your financial possibilities. 

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36 Comments

  1. Agree on all of this. I have a friend who offered me a different investment plan. But I still opted for our current sunlife FA. Why? Kasi mas dama ko na mas naiintindihan nya yung mga stuff na sinasabi nya. Which is very important for me.

    1. Oo diba? Aya Laraya really encourages us to dig deeper and ask questions. Like if we don’t understand the inflation rates and all that. He also said to ask our FA’s how that affects our investment.

      On the other hand, Aya works with Sun Life. So he’s also raising the bar on FA’s. Cream of the crop ba. They need to know what they’re doing because Sun Life is educating the market on what to expect and what they need to know and ask. They need to really know what they’re talking about.

  2. This is very informative especially to those who would like to start looking for their FA. I just hope I read something similar to this when I started my investment with Sunlife but nevertheless I am happy with my FA now though she is so busy now and decided to rest being a FA. What I like about Sunlife is they don’t neglect their clients when FA is out of the picture. They make sure that someone will still look after you.

    1. Ah yes, I’m made aware of that. 🙂 According to my FA, if ever she decides to leave Sun Life, her supervisor will automatically take over your account. However, you are also allowed to find your replacement FA.

  3. I know someone who works in Sunlife too, he offered me VUL several years ago but that time I was not interested yet. But now I’m learning more on your series, so may mga training din pala FA. I agree with Accessibility because I also live in South and tamad ko bumiyahe para lang makipagmeet. 🙂

    1. Yes. In fact, Aya encouraged us to ask FA’s for their license and what their licenses are for specifically when they offer us investment products because they need to be certified for each one.

  4. I got a plan with Sun Life years ago because a friend encouraged me to get one. It’s small but better than nothing haha. That time I don’t know if it’s worth it. I just signed up because my friend did haha. Kailangan din pala maintindihan. Good to learn from you. 🙂

    1. Yes! I encourage you to meet with your FA and start asking questions. While you’re still young, you can make this investment of yours worth it. 🙂

  5. My sister is financial advisor of sunlife since 2014 din and I am her first customer now I have two investment one for me and for my son. Our fa must be trustworthy talaga and we must invest in reliable and reputable company

  6. So I had made a wise decision in choosing SunLife then! Your post gives me more information about the insurance. And now, convinced na ako. Cheers to a #brighterlife 😀

  7. This post was very informative and detailed. I dont have plans yet of acquiring another insurance plan or investment anytime as i have been to previous investments years back, and we’ve earned it already through maturity.. They are several and i think we have enough of it for the family and kids. but sunlife seems to be promising.. Thank u for the heads and the fa recommendation..

  8. With the points you enumerated, I feel confiedent with my chosen FA. More than friendship, reliability, competence and honesty was what led me to sign up with her!

  9. I have talked to a friend who’s also from Sunlife before though we didn’t push through. I’m hearing a lot of good things about Sunlife, I’m wanting to have a talk with the friend again! Thanks for a very informative post 🙂

  10. It really is important to have an FA that you feel is the right one for you so you can discuss with him/her open mindedly in regards to your finances. Our family also have a Mutual Fund with Sunlife, and I can say it is one of the better decisions in our lives.

  11. I agree. Choosing our FA is crucial. She should not only be knowledgeable of the product but also knows our needs. Sometimes FAs distates the plan for us. But when she knows us personally, at least she knows our capacity and help us with the appropriate plan. It is also a big plus that she is readily available should we need her.

  12. This is great advice! I actually gave my number to a Sunlife agent a couple of weeks ago but I’ll still try to do the “interview” if ever she calls.

    1. Yes, do that. It’s better that you establish your trust on your FA first. The more comfortable you are with her, the more productive your discussions will be regarding the steps you’re taking towards your financial goals.

  13. These are very valid points. Your FA will to have work hand in hand with you with your investment so it’s just right that he/she is legit and competent. I’ve been meaning to contact a FA friend as well but now I think I might need to reevaluate 🙂

  14. I was approached by two Sun Life FAs who are also friends of mine. Yun lang, my husband and I got turned off because their approach was rather morbid. As in, they talked about us suddenly dying. Ang nega! We are still in search of an FA or I’ll just go train with SunLife. Haha!

    1. Aya Laraya said in the workshop that it’s a personal thing, so each person’s goal is different from another.

      For instance, I don’t mind being talked to about suddenly dying because I’ve been faced with that — my brother suddenly died at 47 years old two years ago and he left behind his 14 year old daughter, a 12 year old son and a 2 year old baby.

      In a sense, it contributed to our sense of urgency to prepare our kids’ future.

      On the other hand, I so dislike FA’s that insinuate that I just don’t want to spend more or that I don’t understand the importance of investing and preparing for the future.

  15. FAs really plays a big role and it is also impt to have someone who will care for your need and what you can afford especially for invesments. It is a blessing to have a friend who will be there for you when you need her.

  16. I do agree with compatibility as one of the criteria. It has to be someone you can easily talk with and share with. It’s good that you have been friends with Che even before you got her as FA. Parang that also helps. 🙂

    1. Yes it helped. But you have to balance compatibility with credibility as well. She had to know what she was doing for us to trust her with our hard-earned money. 🙂

  17. Hubby and I are planning to start investing and this is something we really need since we are clueless about choosing the right FA for us. I will let hubby read this post so he can be informed as well. Thanks for sharing!

  18. I super agree with you that finding your FA shouldn’t just base on friendship. It has to be the total package. It’s very important that you choose the right person to deal with your financial plans. I’m happy that you found yours.

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