Ask for names from friends or business associates who may have used a financial planner. Attorneys, accountants, insurance agents, bankers and other financial specialists also can be good sources because planners often work with them to carry out a client's plan.
Basic Information to Gather
- Financial planning and other financial designations a planner holds
- Educational background and work experience
- Licenses to sell certain financial products, such as life insurance or securities
- Services the planner provides
- The planner's basic approach to financial planning
- Areas of specialization
- Types of clients the planner serves, and any minimum net worth or income requirements
- Professional affiliations, including membership in the Financial Planning Association
- How the planner prepares a plan
- How the planner might address your particular needs
- Whether the planner or others will implement recommendations from the plan
- Business relationships the planner has that might present a conflict of interest
- How the planner is paid for services and typical charges
Request a written disclosure document from the planner. This will either be what's called a Form ADV or an equivalent brochure. This should answer many of your questions. You may then want to follow up with a personal interview, which many planners will do for free.
A face-to-face interview should give you a personal sense about the planner. Does the person seem forthright in their answers? Do you have a sense of trust and rapport? Is the person focused on your needs, not selling products?
Check with the SEC, appropriate state agencies, your local Better Business Bureau and CFP Board at 888.CFP.MARK (237.6275) to determine if complaints have been filed against the planner you are considering.