When you consider seeking help from a financial planner, whether deciding to buy a new home, planning for retirement or your children’s education, or simply not having the time or expertise to organize your finances, there are several key questions to consider. Many questions may seem obvious, but you may be surprised how few people ever ask the questions.

Would you go see a doctor without asking if they are board certified for the care you need?  Would you engage an attorney without knowing their hourly rate and whether they have been admitted to the state bar?  The questions below have been prepared to help you choose the financial planner who is right for you.

  1. What experience do you have?
    Find out how long the planner has been in practice and the number and types of companies with which he or she has been associated. Ask the planner to describe their work experience and how it relates to the current financial planning practice. Choose a planner who has a minimum of ten years’ experience counseling individuals and businesses on their financial needs.
  2. What are your qualifications?
    The term “financial planner” is used by many financial professionals. Ask the planner what qualifies them to offer financial planning advice and whether they hold a financial planning certification such as the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certificant or CFP® marks.
  3. What services do you offer?
    The services financial planners offer depend on a number of factors including their credentials, licenses and areas of expertise. Financial planners cannot sell insurance or securities products such as mutual funds or stocks without the proper licenses, or give investment advice in most states unless registered with state or federal authorities.
  4. What is your approach to financial planning?
    Ask about the type of clients and financial situations the planner typically works with. Some planners prefer to develop one plan by bringing together all of your financial goals. Others provide advice on specific areas as you may need it. Ask the planner if they require you to have a certain net worth before working with you and if they will *implement financial recommendations or refer you to others. *Clients are free to implement financial plans with whomever he/she chooses.
  5. Will you be the only person working with me?
    The financial planner may work with you alone or be assisted by others. You may want to meet everyone who will be working with you. If the planner works with professionals outside their own practice, get a list of their names to check backgrounds.
  6. How will I pay for your services?
    As part of your financial planning agreement, the financial planner should clearly tell you in writing how they will be paid for the services to be provided. Planners can be paid in several ways including fees, commissions or a combination of these methods.
  7. How much do you typically charge?
    While the amount you pay the planner will depend on your particular needs, the planner should be able to provide you with an estimate of possible costs based on the work to be performed.
  8. Could anyone besides me benefit from your recommendations?
    Ask the planner if they have business relationships or partnerships that could affect professional judgment while working with you. For example, financial planners who sell insurance policies, securities or mutual funds, have a business relationship with the companies that provide these financial products. The planner may also have other business relationships or partnerships that should be disclosed to you, especially if they are employees of a particular company.
  9. Have you ever been publicly disciplined for any unlawful or unethical actions in your professional career?
    Several government and professional regulatory organizations, such as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), your state insurance and securities departments, and the CFP Board keep records on the disciplinary history of financial planners and advisers. Ask which organizations the planner is regulated by and contact those groups for disciplinary information.
  10. Can I have it in writing?
    Ask the planner for a written agreement detailing the services that will be provided. Keep this document in your files for future reference.

In summary, it may help to know that, depending on the answers you receive to your questions, much of the information is also available online and can be verified by each of the regulatory agencies.  It is not always the case, but many times your current trusted advisors, such as an attorney, CPA, or trust officer, may also be a good source of information when selecting a financial planner.

Jeff specializes in small business and estate planning.*  Information in this article is based on a brochure provided by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. For a free copy of this brochure, contact the CFP Board at 888-CFP-MARK or www.CFP.net. Founded in 1985, the CFP Board is a nonprofit certifying organization that owns the CFP certification marks and benefits the public by fostering professional standards in personal financial planning.

*Estate planning is in conjunction with your estate planning attorney, tax attorney and/or CPA.

Jeff Turner is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory, and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC., Member SIPC, 12 Cadillac Drive., Suite 440, Brentwood, TN  37027, (615) 309-6300.  CRN201711-197609

Continuum Planning Partners Post Author
Jeff Turner, CFP®, CLU, ChFC, AEP®

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