The Right Stuff

When it comes to selecting an advisor, options. Here's how to make the best choice.

any disciplinary action. The CFP’s Board of Standards (800-237-6275) can tell you whether its licensees are in good standing. Finally, there are agencies nationwide-most of them called Corporate Securities Commissions-that provide information on registered financial advisors. For referrals to state securities commissioners, call the SEC at 800-732-0330 or the North American Securities Administrators Association at 888-846-2722.

By this time, you’re pretty much armed with all the information you need. OK, now what do you do after you’ve met and investigated several prospective planners? Who gets the final nod?

“Assuming you’ve screened appropriately for factors like background and experience, you should select a planner based on a personality match,” says the ICFP’s Buie. Why? The financial planner-client relationship is one of the most personal and sensitive business relationships you will ever enter into. Some people find it as personal as picking a physician. And if things work out, you’ll probably end up keeping the advisor over the long haul.

Therefore, you need to pick the planner who makes you feel most comfortable and with whom you can be completely open and honest about your financial life, Buie explains.

Grady agrees. “It may sound corny, but the chemistry really has to be there,” he says, adding that after meeting a potential planner, “You’ve got to walk away from that meeting feeling like your advisor is seriously going to be working in your best interest.”

Here’s a list of agencies to help you separate the pros from the charlatans
Want to make sure your financial planner is up to snuff? Well, there are a number of organizations that you can consult to help you make that determination. Through the following outfits, you can find certified financial planners and licensed investment advisors and their track records:

Securities and
Exchange Commission
This government agency is designed to protect investors and the public in stock, bond and mutual fund transactions. More than 7,500 investment advisors managing $25 million or more are registered with the SEC. You can contact the organization to request information on an industry professional or firm as well as to lodge a complaint against a registered investment advisor.
The International Association for
Financial Planning
IAFP includes financial planners among its members and develops conferences and programs to explore how such professionals can better serve their clients. It also hosts Website forums to inform the public about the role financial planning plays in managing investor risk.

North American
Securities Administrators Association
The organization’s state commissioners help regulate the securities industry with the SEC. Consumers can contact NASAA to obtain phone numbers of state securities commissioners who monitor the records of securities-licensed financial planners.
The Institute of Certified Financial Planners
The ICFP is a professional organization with more than 14,000 members who hold CFP licenses or are seeking that designation. Contact the Institute to receive the names of three certified practitioners or free brochures about financial planning.

The National Associati
of Personal Financial Advisors
NAPFA boasts the largest professional association of fee-based planners in the U.S. By calling NAPFA or visiting its Website, you

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