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One of my friends at work recently was in the market for a financial planner. He and his spouse spent a lot of time researching and selecting the right planner for them.

Tips on Finding a Great Financial Planner

If done right, the process is more than selecting a name out of the yellow pages. The following tips should help you select the right professional for you.

  1. Get Referrals. Ask anyone and everyone you know who they use for financial planning services. Find out what they like about the person to understand what the referrer values because it may be different from you.
  2. Interview. Meet with each professional you’re considering. My friend met with five financial planners. One planner lost the job by focusing on himself versus the potential clients. Although this can be done over the phone, in-person meetings are worth the extra time and effort for such an important business relationship.
  3. Ask Questions. Not only do you want to know about the planner’s experience, training and certifications but ask about payment. Is payment via fees, commissions or both? Will the planner be making money from selling you products? I prefer to work with fee only planners so I know they’re not recommending products (insurance, funds)  just for profit. Find out how often the adviser would communicate with you and update your plan.
  4. Be Prepared. Be ready to share information with the prospective planner. At a minimum you’ll need to know your net worth, financial obligations and goals. If you want to know what they can do for you, they have to understand the starting point and the desired finish line.
  5. Check References. Don’t hesitate to get references from the planners you’re considering. Talk to present and past clients if possible to understand what they like and dislike about the services provided. Ultimately, you will have to weigh all the information and make selection or restart the process. Don’t forget to include those intangibles in your selection once you’ve made sure essential criteria are met. Do you trust this person planning your financial future and want to work with him/her? If yes, then you have found a match.

Thoughts on Finding the Right Financial Planner

Do you have any tips for finding the right financial planner?

Photo Credit: William Hook

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6 comments comments closed

  1. Kay Lynn – Do you think there is a certain asset amount one should have before seeking a financial planner? I’m thinking of one, but I’m not sure. thx, Sam

    • I don’t think people should wait until they have a predetermined asset amount to seek help with financial planning.

      I think it’s valuable when you’re trying to make big financial decisions (such as when can I retire) or figure out how to attain certain financial goals. If you don’t have one by the time you have a million dollar in assets, than it’s time most likely.

  2. Definitely agreed that finding referrals for financial planners is the most effective way of finding ones that are experienced and give great advice. That being said, you have to make sure that they cater to your needs – for instance, some PF planners specialize in senior citizens, something you may not need if you’re a 20-something looking to buy your first place. Just my two cents!

  3. To find a financial planner who best suits your needs, I agree that doing your homework and asking the right questions are key! Here are some good ones to start with:

    1. How long have you been in business?

    2. What is your background and training?

    3. Do you work with clients in my income bracket?

    4. How are you compensated?

    5. Will you assess my financial picture and lay out a comprehensive plan?

    6. Do you provide a monthly, quarterly or annual review of my investments?

    7. Do you provide a one-time financial tune-up or a long-term relationship?

    8. If you are a “fee-based” advisor (who charges commissions based on the financial products you sell to me), what are the account fees, management fees, front-end fees on investment purchases, etc?

    9. If you are a “fee only” advisor (who doesn’t charge commissions, but is paid directly for your services), what is the hourly rate, set fee per consultation or percentage of my total assets that you charge?

    10. What type of continuing education or designations are you currently working on?

    Beyond talking to friends and family, I would also recommend researching the advisor online to see if they have any past disciplinary record (on http://www.finra.org, click on the ‘Investor’ link) and also check current and former client reviews (on sites like http://www.yelp.com). It can be a bit of a process to find the perfect advisor, but it’s definitely worth all the research in the end!