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The idea of choosing someone who you don’t know to trust with your personal finances can feel overwhelming. Don’t let the fear of choosing the wrong financial planner keep you from finding one at all.
A skilled planner can be the key to maintaining financial peace of mind leading up to and during your retirement years. While choosing a financial planner will be a decision that requires time and several meetings, consider the following to find someone who is right for you and your financial situation.
Family and friends are your best resources
As with many of the best discoveries in life, whether good restaurants or finding another trusted service professional, family and friends are great place to start your search for a financial planner.
Do you know anyone who’s retired, or perhaps someone who plans to retire soon? If someone can’t point you in the right direction, ask if they have a close friend or colleague who has retired recently and may be willing to share the name of their financial planner.
Other professionals you already trust may be able to help
Do you have an attorney or CPA? Some CPAs have a dual certification as a financial planner and public accountant. Or, ask your attorney or CPA for a referral. You could also ask friends and family if their CPA or attorney could recommend someone.
Professional associations have tools to point you in the right direction
If you don’t know anyone who can offer the services of their trusted financial planner, then try the National Association of Professional Financial Advisors. Their site contains a “find an advisor” feature so you can search for a financial planner by name or location. In addition, you can further specify the search among specialty areas of need such as “Retirement Plan Investment Advice” or “Retirement Planning and Distribution Rules,” among others. NAPFA members have to abide by a fiduciary oath to serve your best interests at all times.
The Financial Planning Association is another place to look if you are searching for a financial planner. Like NAPFA, members of the FPA pledge to a Code of Ethics. The “find a planner feature” on the FPA website allows clients to choose a planner based on major life-changing criteria including retirement. If this process is particularly nerve-wracking for you, you can select an option to have FPA contact advisors who meet your criteria reach out to you.
You’ve likely seen the “CFP” acronym listed after a financial planner’s name. A CFP is a Certified Financial Planner, and is considered by many to be the standard in the industry for professional certification. The requirements for becoming a Certified Financial Planner include at least three years of work experience in the financial industry, completing a CFP education program and passing a two-day certification exam. Like the other organizations mentioned above, you can also find a professional CFP on the organization’s website.
Meet financial planners at retirement seminars
Your local credit union or community center likely has classes that discuss preparing for retirement. Many of these presentations are led by local financial planners. Attend a one of these seminars to see financial planners in action firsthand. You’ll not only gain some valuable advice while conducting your search, but also might meet your ideal financial planner.
Regardless of where you find your financial planner, keep these tips mind:
- Always meet in person first. Never agree to select a financial planner over the phone without meeting them first. Any financial planner should be comfortable scheduling a meeting or two to go over their process. If they seem irritated at the prospect of meeting or try to rush you into signing a contract right away, consider looking elsewhere. Interview at least three financial planners before making your decision.
- Choose someone who you like and feel comfortable with. No matter how smart or well-mannered they are, choose someone you feel you can trust. While you don’t want to rely solely on your gut instincts for choosing a financial planner, definitely don’t go against them.
- Do your homework. Before meeting a financial planner, do your own research. Check out their website and prepare a list of questions about their services. Also search websites like the Better Business Bureau and do an Internet search of their name or firm’s name to see if anything suspicious comes up. If so, don’t be afraid to ask about it as you interview them.
- Choose the right fit for you. When doing your homework, it may become apparent that your friend’s financial planner is not the right fit for you. Everyone has different financial goals and a unique financial situation. Choose the best financial planner for your situation. Do they have experience working with people of your income level, or with similar goals? Can they provide specific examples?
Choosing a financial planner is an important decision, but it can be a simple process with a little planning and foresight. Why not take the first step today? Call a few friends to ask for a financial planner referral.
Do you have a financial planner? Where did you find your planner? How and why did you select them instead of someone else?
Russ is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst and fee-only financial advisor based in Atlanta, GA, and has provided personal financial advice to individuals and families for 20 years. His focus is on serving women, especially widows and divorcees. You can learn more about Russ and the work he does by visiting WealthcareForWomen.com. Find him also on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.