You’re ready to get organized, grow your money and get a jumpstart on big goals like retirement and paying down debt — so you finally take the plunge and book an appointment with a financial advisor.

Except now you’re in a bit of a panic, because you’re not sure what you’re supposed to bring to the table (other than yourself, of course). And we don’t blame you — sifting through financial paperwork is not fun (for most of us, at least).

But it’s important to have the right information with you, because the more transparent you are, the better your advisor can help you make progress on your goals and see the big picture.

We asked Bill Taylor, vice president, financial planning and sales support for Northwestern Mutual, to outline what to have in hand for your first meeting with a financial advisor.

Q. WHAT ARE THE BASICS YOU SHOULD BRING WITH YOU?

A. First, bring your significant other if you have one, because you both need to be involved. And bring pen and paper, because you want to take notes and really be open-minded about the process. Then as far as the actual paperwork to bring, I’d suggest:

  • A budget, if you have one
  • Pay stubs
  • Statements/details about any investments
  • Any insurance policies you have
  • An employer benefits statement
  • Tax returns for the past two or three years
  • Statements/details on any debt you owe (mortgages, credit cards, student loans, business loans, personal loans, etc.)
  • Information on any trust funds you may be a beneficiary to

Your financial advisor wants to get a sense of your assets and liabilities so they can assess your situation. And if you’ve ever had a financial plan in the past, bring that so your advisor can understand what you’ve been working with.

Q. WHAT IF YOU DON’T HAVE A BUDGET?

A. A financial advisor will want a decent idea of how you’ve spent your money in the past, so even having an informal budget you just wrote by hand can help. If you don’t have that, bring your credit card or debit card statements, because then he or she will be able to see trends in your spending or know, for example, if you’re eating out all the time.

Q. WHAT DO CLIENTS MOST OFTEN OVERLOOK IN THAT FIRST MEETING?

A. One of the things people don’t necessarily forget about, but are often reluctant to talk about, is their credit card debt. They are better with student loan debt because they view it as an investment, but they are usually embarrassed by the amount of credit card debt they have. Sometimes they just don’t want their spouse to know how much debt they have or even how much they make — that happens more often than you’d think. That’s why it’s important to have everyone at the table.

And many people don’t usually think about bringing their benefits statement, but it helps an advisor see what your total compensation really includes — things like incentive pay or stock options, for example. It’s also helpful to see if someone’s getting disability or life insurance through an employer. That’s one of the first things I send to my own financial advisor every year. I click on my benefits statement, PDF it and send it to him.

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