A wise investor gathers information about a financial professional before signing on the dotted line.
Taking the time to find good, qualified candidates and to determine their skills, training, and expertise will help you hire only those who have the appropriate financial experience to manage your assets.
The four factors to consider when choosing a financial planner or advisor are: cost – both when your portfolio is making or losing money; the size of the financial firm – small or large; the personality of the professional you will be working with; and what professional credentials are important to you (Hauer, 2016).
Fee-Only Versus Fee-Paid
Financial advisors who are fiduciaries are paid on either a fee-only basis or by a combination of fees and commissions. Fee-only can be paid by the hour, on a monthly retainer, or based on gains the client’s investments make under the financial advisor’s management (Cleaver, 2014).
Financial professionals who work on a fee-paid basis receive commissions.
The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Board of Standards suggests you ask these questions when interviewing candidates to be your financial planner or advisor (CFP 2014):
- What experience do you have?
- What are your qualifications?
- What services do you offer?
- What types of clients do you typically work with?
- How are you paid for your services: fees, commissions, or a combination?
- How much do you typically charge?
- Have you ever been publicly disciplined for any unlawful or unethical actions in your professional career?
Remember, you are in the driver’s seat. Ask your questions unapologetically. As a consumer, it is your right to do due diligence and assure yourself that those representing themselves as financial services professionals have the qualifications, skills, expertise and abilities to meet your needs.
Additional questions to ask when interviewing candidates include:
- How long have you been in practice?
- How do you keep up on changes and new laws and regulations in your profession?
- Which professional organizations are you a member of?
- Which professional code of ethics do you follow?
- Have you/your employees had background checks?
- Is there a fee for the initial consultation?
- Which additional fees are involved with your services or the products?
- How many older clients do you have?
- If you delegate or outsource work to others, what are their credentials and experience?
Here are some guidelines, tips and resources for finding qualified financial professionals:
- Use the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)’s BrokerCheck to search by the name of an individual or firm to view employment history, licenses, filed disputes, and dispute resolutions: www.brokercheck.finra.org.
- Go to the consumer area of the CFP Board of Standards and Financial Planning Association websites to find a financial advisor.
- Use the FINRA Securities Helpline for Seniors. Call 844-57-HELPS (844-574-3577) Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Eastern Time. www.finra.org/investors/finra-securities-helpline-seniors.
- Ask other trusted professionals such as attorneys and CPAs, who often work with financial professionals, for referrals.
- Obtain references; look for people or businesses that have used the professional’s services multiple times and have a history with the person or business.
“Financial Planning Resources,” Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP 2014).
Cleaver, Joanne (February 2014). “A Guide to Financial Advisor Fee Structures,” U.S. News & World Report: Investing.
“Investment Advisors,” Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) (2016).
Hauer, Kathryn (January 2016). “Many Types of Advisors Call Themselves Financial Advisors,” Nasdaq.
Society of Certified Senior Advisors, Working with Older Adults: A Professional’s Guide to Contemporary Issues of Aging (2015).
The Working with Older Adults course offered by the Society of Certified Senior Advisors gives professionals a practical, comprehensive understanding of health, social and financial issues that are important to many older adults, including ethical issues specific to aging. For more information, or to enroll in a class, click here.