(BPT)—We live in a busy world full of demands on our time and attention—everything from keeping up with our families and careers to making sure we are taking care of ourselves and answering our cellphones by the third ring.
To meet all of life's challenges, sometimes you need to take a step back, sometimes you need to take charge, and other times it makes sense to delegate tasks to someone else - often times a professional such as a contractor, attorney or financial advisor. But for most people, turning things over to someone else shouldn't mean tuning out completely—especially when it comes to something as important as your financial future. When it comes to money and investing, most people feel more confident keeping one hand on the wheel to help ensure their best interests are being served.
But how do you know if you're doing that now or not? Here are three questions every person who invests should ask to determine how involved they are with their investments and if they're getting the level of engagement they want from their current investment professional:
1. Does my broker encourage me to be actively involved in my investment strategy?
Ninety-seven percent of Americans who are highly engaged in various activities in their lives say they want to be involved in the decisions that their broker is making, according to a Schwab study of engaged Americans conducted in May 2013. Does your broker make this easy for you to do? Sitting down and having a conversation with your broker to discuss the level of involvement you want is the first step. You should determine how and when you'd like to be contacted so your broker can keep you up-to-date on major developments in your financial situation. Make sure you feel empowered to ask questions and your broker's answers make sense, you are comfortable giving feedback, and your broker encourages you to check in as frequently as you want - on your terms.
2. What are my broker's recommendations based on?
Do you ask for the rationale behind the recommendations your broker is making for your money? Not only do you deserve an explanation, but you need to understand how your broker's recommendations are suitable for your unique goals, risk tolerance, time horizon and ongoing changes in your personal and financial situation—as opposed to being the same cookie cutter ideas everyone else receives. It's also a good idea to make sure you understand how your broker is compensated for the advice you receive and the products being recommended.
3. Do I understand the progress I am making toward my goals?
Schwab's study of engaged Americans from May 2013 found that 56 percent of those surveyed have a customized financial plan, which is an important first step to taking ownership over your financial future. But do you understand the progress you are making in that plan? It's important to have simple and transparent benchmarks and measures, so make sure your broker offers the tools you both need to track progress against your goals.
If you weren't able to answer these questions on your own, it may be time to ask your broker. Communication is key to any good working relationship and your broker is no exception. It's worth the time and effort to make sure you are on a path toward a successful financial future.