Selecting a financial planner can be a daunting task. A quality financial planner can help you make the right decisions while you’re employed, prepare you for the transition to retirement, and be a steady resource for sound financial advice once you leave federal service. Finding a financial planner who can do all of these roles can be tough, especially with the current proliferation of scams and Ponzi schemes. Here are a few useful tips to help you find the right financial planner.
Know Your Risks
It is important to be cautious when seeking advice about your money. It sounds cliché, but if it feels “too good to be true,” most likely it is. Be wary of words and phrases like “special fund,” “high yield and little to no risk.” Most importantly, follow your instincts. If someone seems suspicious or is too pushy, walk away.
Do Your Research
Researching your financial planner is important and there are many websites dedicated to offering assistance. The FINRA site allows you to look up Broker Dealers or Registered Investment Advisors. You can also go to the Secretary of State and Insurance Commissioner sites for your state and make sure that the planner is licensed, has passed the required examinations, and is up-to-date on continuing-education classes. Additionally, the Security and Exchange Commission website can be used to check registration, employment history, and consumer complaints. Also, ask what kind of licenses and certifications the person has and make sure the advisor is certified to sell specific products. Examples of licenses include the Series 7, Series 65, and state insurance licenses.
Familiarize yourself with the different certifications financial advisors can obtain. Research your planner’s designation to ensure its validity and gain an understanding of the requirements to acquire and maintain. Some common designations are: Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Financial Consultant (CFC), Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) for CPAs who have completed additional experience and educational requirements, and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).
Ask around. See if your coworkers, friends, or family members work with a planner and, if so, what is their opinion of the advisor? Good references mean a great deal; many firms gather new business by references alone. Make sure when asking around that the individual is experienced in the areas of financial planning that are applicable to you. Be sure to use your best judgment and select someone with whom you can feel comfortable and connect personally.