Seeking an Investment Advisor

The Jacksons knew they needed help with their wealth-building strategy--here's how they finally found the right financial planner

Talk about a change of heart. Not so long ago, Dawn and Scott Jackson wondered what good could ever come of seeking help with their finances: it was a waste of time. In fact, the Jacksons felt that a financial planner would only bully, patronize and even lead them astray. Rather than deal with the hassle, it was better to lump their savings in a bank account paying 2.75%.

Today, the Jacksons of Bowie, Maryland, puzzle over just how they managed without someone to guide the way. Better yet, the couple can look back at a bull market and know that they took advantage of an opportunity to build wealth and stability.

So what exactly made the difference?

In each instance, the Jacksons say their understanding or confusion, their satisfaction or bewilderment, hinged on two experiences. Four years ago, they sat down with a financial planner, and in the course of a few weeks became so alienated that they swore they’d never do it again.

In less than a year, they met with another planner, Albert Peltier, and were converted. But that’s jumping ahead of the story a bit.

BE met with the Jacksons and Peltier to trace how they established a trusting relationship. With recent surveys showing African Americans woefully under-invested and even a bit intimidated by the stock market, we wanted to see just how working with a financial planner can be rewarding. We also wanted to get a sense of what you can do–and should avoid–once you decide to hire a financial planner. Along the way, we’ll detour to help you better understand how financial planning works as a business, but more importantly as a tool, for you and your family.

WHATS IT ALL ABOUT?
If there’s a profession that’s hard to get a handle on, it’s financial planning. Start with the myriad of job titles. There are stockbrokers, financial planners and financial advisors all vying to leap hands-first into your wallet.

Then, there’s certification. Lawyers have to pass the bar to practice; doctors must be certified by the American Medical Association and state regulators. But until a few years ago, there were no set degrees, no standard affiliations for financial planners. Today the closest thing to a seal of approval is the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation, held by over 33,000 advisors nationwide. Issued by the CFP Board of Standards (888-237-6275) in Denver, the CFP designation requires that planners pass rigorous testing and follow up on changes in the industry by attending seminars. Still, that’s not the only professional group or affiliation around: there are others, each with its own roster of professionals. The International Association for Financial Planning (IAFP, 800-945-4237), and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA, 847-537-7722) are two groups that can also supply you with names of members in your area.

If you still want some sort of assurance that the person you’re entrusting with your riches isn’t a fluke, we don’t blame you. One way to get a better sense of a prospective planner’s background is to thoroughly

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