How to Find a Good Financial Planner
Can you recommend some tips on finding and choosing a good financial planner? My wife and I are both in our late fifties and would like to get some professional advice to help us better prepare for our retirement years.
With all the different financial planners, advisors and services available today, finding and choosing a trusted professional who can help you meet your financial goals can be confusing. Here are a few suggestions to consider.
Where to Look
A good place to start your search is by asking friends or relatives for recommendations. If you do not know anyone who can give you a referral, and you are looking for broad-based financial advice, hire a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), the "gold standard" in the industry. CFPs must act as fiduciaries, putting their clients' best interests above their own.
To get the CFP credential, the advisor must have a college degree and be educated in a wide range of personal finance subjects, pass a rigorous certification exam, have three years professional experience, meet continuing-education requirements and abide by a code of ethics. CFPs are taught to look at the big picture view of your finances, talking you through your goals and advising you on the details of your financial life.
You may be better off hiring a CFP who is a fee-only planner, versus one who earns a commission by selling financial products. Fee-only planners charge only for their services – for example you might pay $150 to $350 an hour for a financial tune-up, a flat fee per project or an asset-based fee. To find a fee-only planner in your area, use the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, which carefully vets all members and offers an online directory.
If your needs are more specific, some other financial professionals to consider include a Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) who is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission or a state securities regulator to manage investment portfolios; a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), who specializes in insurance and estate planning; and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), who can help with tax planning.
Do your homework if a planner has other financial advising titles, designations and certifications. Many of these other designations may require no more than a few courses at a seminar or online. To research the different certifications or designations visit FINRA.org/investors - click on "Tools & Calculators," then on "Professional Designations."
How to Choose
After you find a few candidates in your area, call them up and schedule an appointment to meet and interview them. Find out about their experience, expertise and the types of services they provide; whether they are a fiduciary; how they charge and how much; what their investment philosophy is; and how they will handle your ongoing questions or financial needs. Look for someone whose clients are in situations similar to your own and who is available as often as you need them.
It is also wise to do a background check on your potential advisor. At LetsMakeaPlan.org, you can verify a planner's certification as a CFP (click on "Verify CFP Professional Status"). You can also see any information on the planner's disciplinary history with the CFP Board and on any bankruptcy filings in the past 10 years.
To vet an RIA, go to Investor.gov where you can search an individual's name. Click on "Detailed Report" to see information on qualifications, employment history, disciplinary actions, criminal convictions and more.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.
Published August 23, 2019