10 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Financial Planner

How can you choose an honest financial advisor, someone you know you can trust to help you meet your goals? Before you begin working with someone, these questions will help you make sure that they are qualified and that your best interest will unquestionably be top priority.

1. What experience do you have?

  • How long have you been in practice?
  • How many and what types of companies have you been associated with?
  • Describe your work experience and how it prepared you for your current practice?

Choose a financial planner who has experience counseling individuals and business owners on their financial needs

2. What are your qualifications?

Careful! The term “financial planner” is used by many financial professionals who aren’t necessarily qualified to advise you.

  • What qualifies you to offer financial planning advice?
  • Are you a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER? or CFP?, a Certified Public Accountant-Personal Financial Specialist (CPA-PFS), or a Chartered Financial
    Consultant (ChFC)? Check their background with the CFP Board or other relevant professional organizations.
  • What do you do to stay current with changes in the economy and in the financial planning field?

Look for a planner who has proven experience in financial planning topics such as insurance,
tax planning, investments, estate planning or retirement planning.

3. What services do you offer?

The services a financial planner offers depend on a number of factors including their credentials, licenses and areas of expertise. Generally, financial planners cannot sell insurance or securities products such as mutual funds or stocks without the proper licenses, or give investment advice unless registered with state or Federal authorities. Some planners offer financial planning advice on a range of topics but do not sell financial products. Others may provide advice only in specific areas such as estate planning or on tax matters.

4. What is your approach to financial planning?

  • What types of clients and financial situations do you like to work with?
  • What is your view on investing? Is it cautious or aggressive? How will I know if your view is consistent with mine?
  • Do you require a certain net worth to work with clients?
  • Will you carry out the recommendations you make or will you refer me to someone else for that?

5. Will you be the only person working with me?

  • Who else will be involved in creating and implementing my financial plan?

If others are involved, you may want to meet them. If the planner works with professionals outside his own practice, such as attorneys, insurance agents or tax specialists, get their names and check their backgrounds.

6. How will I pay for your services?

Get it in writing! Your agreement with the planner should state how they will be paid.

  • Are you or your employer paid a commission on the products you sell me?

Brokers for products may tend to recommend products they benefit from personally rather than what is best for you.

7. How much do you typically charge?

Get an estimate of possible costs based on the work to be performed, whether it’s a flat rate, hourly rate or percentage.

8. Could anyone besides me benefit from your recommendations?

If a planner has a business relationships or partnerships that could affect their professional judgment while working with you, they may not truly be acting in your best interest. Ask the planner for a description of their conflicts of interest in writing.

9. Have you ever been publicly disciplined for any unlawful or unethical actions in your professional career?

Regulation: Government and professional regulatory organizations, such as FINRA, your state insurance and securities departments, and CFP Board keep records on the disciplinary history of financial planners and advisors. Ask what organizations the planner is regulated by and contact these groups to conduct a background check. You can check out a broker yourself online using the FINRA BrokerCheck Search.

Disclosure Form: All financial planners who have registered as investment advisers with the Securities and Exchange Commission or state securities agencies, or who are associated with a company that is registered as an investment advisor, must be able to provide you with a disclosure form called Form ADV Part II or the state equivalent of that form.

10. Can I have it in writing?

Ask for a written agreement that details the services that will be provided, and keep it for future reference.