NORMAN — Dear Savvy Senior, Can you give me some tips on how to choose a good financial planner or advisor? My wife and I are five or six years away from retiring and could use some professional help to get us on track.
— Seeking Advice
With all the different financial advisers and services available today, choosing a trusted professional that can meet your needs can be a bit confusing. Here are some suggestions that can help.
Where to look: A good place to start your search is by asking friends or relatives for recommendations. If you don’t know anyone who can give you a referral and you’re looking for broad-based financial advice, hire a Certified Financial Planner, or CFP, who are considered the “gold standard” in the industry.
To get the CFP credential, they must have a college degree and be educated in a wide range of personal finance subjects, pass a two-day exam, have at least three years experience, meet continuing-education requirements and abide by a code of ethics.
CFPs are taught to look at the big-picture view of your finances, talking you through your goals, as well as advising you on the details of your financial life.
You’re also probably better off hiring a CFP that’s a fee-only planner, verses one who earns a commission by selling you financial products. Fee-only planners charge only for their services — for example you might pay $150 to $300 an hour for a financial tune-up, a flat fee per project or an asset-based fee.
To find a fee-only planner in your area, use the Financial Planning Association (fpanet.org) or the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (napfa.org), which has online directories. Or try the Garrett Planning Network (garrettplanningnetwork.com), which is a network of fee-only advisers.