Selecting a Financial Professional

Let’s get practical! You have a nagging feeling you need some professional assistance, but how do you discern the appropriate advisor for you? While the scope of this article will focus on evaluating a financial Professional, the same due diligence should be applied to anyone included in your trusted circle of influence, including tax professionals and/or estate planning attorneys. Several fundamentals should be at the core of every professional relationship you consider. These include:

Character

A reputation of personal and professional integrity

Competency

Mastery of technical skills with appropriate education

Experience

A level of wisdom and good judgment that comes from years of working in the industry

Worldview

A compatible framework of ideas, beliefs, and core values integrated into the decision-making process

Once you’ve narrowed the field with these considerations, what questions should you ask? Even when a financial planner comes highly recommended, much can be learned by taking the time to interview several candidates to make sure you’ll be working with someone who is truly right for you. These ten questions are a great starting point:

What experience do you have?

Inquire about years in the industry, specialized fields, and the types of companies they have been associated with. Ask for a description of work experience and how it relates to their practice.

What are your qualifications?

Ask about licenses and other financial credentials they hold; also inquire about education and recognized designations. Find out how they stay current with changes and developments in the financial planning field.

What services do you offer?

The term financial planner can be used by professionals across many disciplines. It is important to understand the scope of services for which the professional is appropriately licensed before making a decision to work with them.

What is your approach to planning?

Make sure the advisor’s philosophy is neither too cautious nor overly aggressive for you. Like-mindedness is also an important factor. Having an advisor who shares your worldview can go a long way in supporting a successful and synergistic relationship.

What level of clients do you typically work with?

Some advisors may have a minimum net worth or level of investable assets before they will offer services to you. Ask them about their “ideal client” profile and what makes them unique or stand out from others in the industry.

Who will be working with me?

Some advisors work with their clients directly and others take more of a team approach. Ask to meet the team members to ensure you are comfortable with the people serving you.

How will I pay for these services?

Planners are generally paid through fees, commissions or a combination of both. Compensation methods are the source of much debate. Consider how the method of compensation might affect the advice you receive, the way you work with the advisor, and potential conflicts of interest that may be inherent in the compensation method proposed.

How much do you typically charge?

Although what you pay for services will depend on your particular needs, the planner should be able to provide you with an estimate of costs based on the work to be performed. It may be hourly rates, flat fees, or percentage of commission received on products purchased. A single transaction, for example, will be very different from a comprehensive planning arrangement. Ask for a written agreement that outlines the scope of services provided and expected fees or compensation.

Could anyone besides me benefit from your recommendations?

The purpose of this question is to help you evaluate potential conflicts of interest. Some planners have business relationships that might impact their professional judgment preventing them from acting in your best interest.

Have you ever been publicly disciplined for any unlawful or unethical action in your professional career?

Several governments and professional regulatory organizations, such as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) Board, and your state insurance and securities departments keep records on the disciplinary history of financial professionals. Ask which organizations the planner is regulated by and contact these groups to conduct a background check.

Talk with us about your portfolio or financial plan here: Talk with an advisor

More Reading: Raising Money Smart Children

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