How to Choose a Financial Planner

So, you’ve decided you need some assistance meeting your financial goals? Great. A financial planner can be an immense help setting up budgets and devising a broad plan for your saving and investing. But opening your private financial details, spending habits, and aspirations to a professional is a deeply personal choice. Having the right questions for a planner is critical. Here are six questions to ask financial planners before you decide to work with one:

What experience and qualifications do you have?
Find out how long the planner has been in practice and their overall career history. Ask the planner to briefly describe her work experience and how it relates to her current practice. Ask the planner whether he or she is recognized as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), a Certified Public Accountant-Personal Financial Specialist (CPA-PFS), or a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC).

Have you ever been publicly disciplined for any unlawful or unethical actions in your professional career? Several government and professional regulatory organizations, such as FINRA (formerly NASD), state insurance and securities departments, and CFP Board keep records on the disciplinary history of financial planners and advisors. Ask what organizations the planner is regulated by and contact these groups to conduct a background check.

What services do you offer? Generally, financial planners can’t sell insurance or securities products such as mutual funds or stocks without the proper licenses. They can’t give investment advice unless registered with state or federal authorities.

How will I pay for your services and how much do you typically charge? The planner should tell you–in writing–how she’ll be paid for her services. Even without a clear sense of your particular needs, the financial planner should be able to offer an estimate of costs.