5 questions you must ask…
Friday, May 25, 2012

…your financial adviser, your mother, your doctor, and your mentor

Your financial adviser

1. ‘How do you invest your own money?’

This person will be responsible for advising you on what to do with your money, so it’s wise to find out what they do with theirs. Your priorities might be different and might require different investment strategies, but you’ll feel more confident if you know they have a solid financial plan of their own — and that they put their money where their mouth is.

2. ‘How will this make me money?’

Yes, you know that your investment will (hopefully!) earn you money, but how? And when? They won’t be able to guarantee anything (and don’t trust anyone who does!), but they need to give more than just a vague response.

3. ‘What are your fees?’

Whether it’s an hourly rate, a salary paid by the company they work for, or commission earned on products (such as life insurance) sold to you, find out how the person responsible for your money makes their own. Commission is the one to look out for: if your adviser earns more money from a specific product, you can bet that’s the one they’ll be trying to convince you is best for you (whether it is or not!).

4. ‘What’s the best financial decision you’ve ever made for yourself?’

The answer — whether it’s settling their bond or buying platinum — will give an insight into their methodology and standards that can’t be gained through their sales pitch alone.

5. ‘Can I have that in writing?’

This should be standard, but make sure you get everything down on paper so that you don’t get into a “he said, she said” situation if things go south.

Your mom


1. ‘How long did it take you to fall pregnant?’

If your mom struggled to conceive, you might be at a stronger risk of similar difficulties — especially if her problem was to do with ovulation or endometriosis, two factors with strong genetic links. Discovered a family history of fertility issues? Head to your doctor if you aren’t pregnant within six months of trying to conceive.

2. ‘How healthy was your mom?’

Even if your grandmother is still alive, you were probably too young to remember her brush with depression, or how she changed her diet after her doctor flagged a diabetes risk. Many diseases have a strong link on the maternal side (including osteoporosis, heart disease and some cancers), and knowing your gran’s medical history can prompt you to make lifestyle changes long before any symptoms appear.

3. ‘Do you have a will?’

This one goes for your dad as well. Death and money are probably two of the hardest conversations to have with your parents, but knowing the answers while they’re still alive means less admin when you are grieving. And in this conversation, touch on a few other questions including “Where are your important documents?” and “Do you want to be buried or cremated?” Then share a stiff drink (or a soothing cup of tea)!

4. ‘What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?’

This opens the door to a conversation that could help you if and when you deal with something similar — whether it’s about becoming a mother, getting a divorce, struggling to assert herself at work or surviving a bad childhood — without the baggage that comes with asking, “What’s your biggest regret?”

5. ‘What can I do for you now?’

Whether the answer is “teach me how to download music” or “stop dropping your kids off every Saturday night”, giving your mom the chance to tell you exactly what she needs from you at this point in your relationship will trump any Mother’s Day gift.

Your doctor

1. ‘Is this really necessary?’

While your doctor might want to cover his or her back by doing every test under the sun, give them pause for thought by asking them to explain why a test they’re prescribing is necessary, and how it’ll help you.

2. ‘What does this medicine do?’

You go to the doctor for a cough (or rash, or stomach bug) and you walk out with prescription to treat the problem — but how often do you know how or why it’ll work? So ask. (While you’re at it, make sure you can read the script. If you can’t, chances are neither can the pharmacist: in the US, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies suggested that up to 61% of medication errors are the result of illegible handwriting.)

3. ‘Am I at a healthy weight?’

If you’re concerned about your weight, ask your doctor. You’ll get the answer you need to hear, without the drama that comes from hearing it from your mother, sister or partner!

4. ‘Do you offer a discount?’

You’ve got nothing to lose by asking for a discount or alternative payment plan. Take this advice from a colleague: “I was straightforward; I said I couldn’t afford the rate he charged, and asked whether we could work out a payment plan. Turns out he could.”

5. ‘Who would you send your mother to see?’

If your doctor is referring you to another specialist, ask them to send you to the person they’d trust with the health of their mother (and not the colleague who is conveniently in the same hospital).

Your mentor (or the person whose job you want one day)

1. ‘What was your breakthrough moment?’

Whether it was taking a job that didn’t pay as much but offered a great working environment, or signing up for a pricey but worthwhile course — find out the moment when things started working out 
for them.

2. ‘What was your biggest stumbling block?’

When they’re at the height of their success, it’s difficult to imagine that your mentor ever struggled with poor decisions, missed opportunities or difficult choices. But chances are they did, and asking them about these will reassure you about your path and give you a new perspective about small failures.

3. ‘Who should I take to lunch?’

By asking the names of five people you should get in touch with, you’ll not only have a wider network of contacts but also an idea of who (and what qualities) your mentor values and respects.

4. ‘What’s the one thing 
I could be doing differently?’

Chances are that if you ask them for a list of things you’re doing wrong, they’ll shy away from answering that minefield of a question. So just ask for one thing they think you can do differently — they won’t feel so bad about giving you an honest answer.

5. ‘How do you find inspiration?’

Ask for specifics — is it a particular TED lecture ( they watch over and over, or a person who never fails to get them motivated? Find out what and who inspires them to break the monotony of everyday business.

Gallo Images

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