I get asked this question fairly often by people who need a financial adviser they can trust, but who don’t know how to begin to find one – or even what to look for.
For SUM180 members, of course, we have made the answer very simple. When our members consult one of our financial advisers, they know she is a CFP (Certified Financial Planner) or the equivalent, with a strong tax background, who was hand-picked by us from the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners, known for having the highest professional standards in the country.
But if you are not a SUM180 member (yet), how do you find a great financial adviser?
The financial services industry is totally word of mouth, so ask for recommendations from people you trust – people who have some experience and credibility in this area. This might be your tennis partner or a colleague at work. You can also start with the financial planner affiliated with your bank. Your church is another resource. Ministers often refer church members to planners when they need financial guidance.
After you get a referral, then what?
- It’s a good idea to check a financial planner’s professional background at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (Finra) or the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.
- I’m a strong proponent of fee-only advisers. Because they operate under a fiduciary duty, by law they must have their clients’ best interests at heart. Choose a fee-only adviser and you won’t have to worry about conflict of interest, because they don’t accept fees or compensation based on product sales. Many also carry professional designations that hold them to strict codes of professional and ethical conduct. Here is a short video in which I explain why I recommend fee-only advisers:
- Once you’re satisfied with his or her credentials and experience, you’ll also want to consider your comfort level with the individual. This is critical. You want someone who listens, who makes you feel respected and heard.
- You may also want to choose someone who is “like you” – who has had similar life experiences. For example, if you are looking for a financial planner because you are going through a divorce, you may be more comfortable choosing someone who has been through a divorce and understands the issues on a personal level.