Have money and other assets you want to grow, set aside, protect or pass on to others?
Have goals you want to achieve, financial or otherwise?
Want a comprehensive, professionally rendered picture of your finances, including assets, liabilities, income, investments and more to make well-informed life decisions for yourself and your family?
Want to turn that comprehensive picture into a solid, step-by-step plan for accomplishing your goals?
If you answered “yes” to at least one of these questions, chances are you’ll benefit from working with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® professional — who is specially trained to help you get where you want to go in life based on a big-picture assessment of your finances.
Given the important — and potentially long-term — role a financial planner may play in your financial present and future, it’s vital to find one whom you trust will meet your specific needs and look out for your best interests over the long haul.
“You want to find a person who’s good at what they do, but you also want to find out if you click with that person — that you’re comfortable with them and have a good rapport,” says Janice Cackowski, CFP®, with Chapman and Chapman in Cleveland, Ohio.
Finding a financial professional who fits the bill starts by asking friends, family, work colleagues, etc., for a referral.
Then it’s a matter of asking the right questions. Here are some to consider posing during a fact-finding/get-to-know-one-another conversation, held preferably at the advisor’s office, to give you a feel for his/her work environment, staff, etc.:
About their training/qualifications/licenses/professional designations…
☐ What’s your educational background, including advanced degrees?
☐ Please describe your experience and background as a financial professional.
☐ Do you hold insurance license(s)? If so, to offer which insurance products?
☐ Do you hold securities license(s)? If so, to offer which types of securities?
☐ Which professional designation(s) do you hold relative to your work as a financial advisor?
☐ Do you hold any other potentially relevant degrees, certifications or designations, such as a CPA, JD, MBA, etc.?
☐ Are you a member of any professional organizations?
About their area(s) of expertise and specialization…
What’s their level of expertise in:
☐ Holistic financial planning (encompassing many of the issues below)
☐ Retirement/retirement income planning
☐ Tax planning
☐ Insurance planning (life insurance, long term care insurance, etc.)
☐ Investments/money or wealth management
☐ Education planning
☐ Estate planning/wealth transfer/trusts/family offices
☐ Same-sex couples
☐ Debt management
☐ Charitable giving/philanthropy
☐ Business planning
About their practice and preferred type(s) of client…
☐ How many clients do they currently manage?
☐ What’s the profile of a typical client?
☐ What type(s) of client are they most comfortable working with and why?
☐ Do they only accept clients who meet certain asset requirements (such as minimum net worth or income level)?
☐ What services does your practice provide to clients?
☐ What’s the make-up of your firm in terms of financial professionals and support staff?
☐ Who services my account if you are incapacitated or you retire?
About their overall planning approach with clients…
☐ Why should I hire you? What makes you different/unique?
☐ What fiduciary responsibilities are you required to fulfill for your clients?
☐ If I hire you, what can I expect? What does the client-advisor relationship typically involve, in terms of process, frequency and method(s) of contact, etc.?
☐ How often do they meet face-to-face with clients?
☐ What are the most effective channels for clients to approach the advisor with inquiries, questions and requests (phone, email, text, Skype, etc.)?
☐ What’s your approach to developing a financial plan?
☐ How frequently will my financial plan be updated?
☐ Will you be the only planner with whom I work, or will I work with an associate?
About how they are compensated and how they charge clients…
☐ Do you earn compensation for selling certain products? In other words, are you financially incented, or limited, to recommend/sell certain products/instruments? If so, which ones?
☐ Do you earn commissions to sell certain products? If so, on which products and how much is the commission?
☐ Do you charge flat fees for services, and if so, what are those fees?
☐ Do you charge based on assets under management? If so, how do you calculate that charge?
About access and approach to other experts/partners/resources…
☐ To what extent do you look to other professional advisors, such as estate attorneys, divorce attorneys, CPAs, etc., to help clients when the situation warrants?
☐ Are you willing to work as part of an advisory team with other advisors with whom I have relationships?
About their personal background and activities outside work…
☐ What community and/or volunteer activities do you take part in?
☐ What are you interests/hobbies outside work?
This column is provided by the Financial Planning Association® (FPA®), the leadership and advocacy organization connecting those who provide, support and benefit from professional financial planning.
Photo Credit: peggyfarnworth (Flickr)