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

somehow meet. The question was, just what were they, and what steps would they have to take?

In talking to friends and mulling over their future, the Jacksons concluded that they needed help from someone who could juggle their finances and dreams, someone who could make order of a world crammed with stocks, mutual funds, bonds, insurance, mortgages and refinancings. It’s not that they felt they couldn’t understand it all: Scott, after all, is an electrical engineer by training, someone who has no fear of calculators, equations and coefficients. Dawns no slouch when it comes to finance, either. For seven years, she was in charge of contracts for the Navy, a job that demanded that she pour over every figure and spec mentioned in bids for nuclear submarines, ammunition, barracks and uniforms. Even when she left the Navy to work in sales and marketing for BET in Washington, D.C., she stayed on top of the couple’s finances.

What they could boast in brainpower, they lacked in time and patience. “We felt we could understand everything, but we just needed someone to stand back, look it all over and make suggestions in plain English,” says Dawn. “I’m putting in eight-to 12-hour days at work,” says Scott, who helps develop computer networks for the Defense Department, “and when I finally get home, whatever time I’ve got left goes to the kids.”

Which brings up a very important point to bear in mind when dealing with a financial planner: they’re working for you, not on you.

The Jacksons found that out the hard way; unfortunately. On a referral from friends, they called a gentlemen, perhaps 45 to 50 years of age. He couldn’t visit them at home, but instead suggested that they drop by his office in the posh D.C. suburb of Tysons Corner. They did, and found themselves confronted by an imposing figure in a suit, a man who had but two words to solve all their problems: life insurance. “He wouldn’t tell us why
, and he said there was no need to explain,” Dawn recalls with a frown. “Scott and I left the office, looked at each other and wondered why we ever paid him a call.”

The Jacksons nevertheless made a second visit around tax time. “He filled out our returns, and had us receiving so much money back, I was skeptical,” Dawn remembers. “And then he capped it all off by telling us that after we got our refund, we’d have enough to get the insurance he was trying to sell us–that was a turnoff.”

Come prepared to speak about your goals and have a planner illustrate just what he or she has in mind for you.

No matter how much of an expert your financial planner is, his or her relationship with you boils down to a simple question: what can he or she do for you? “You’re hiring someone for the long haul,” says Percy Bolton, a certified financial planner in Los Angeles and the former vice president of the Institute of

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