Originally published 10/12/2009 at FPA's 'All Things Financial Planning Blog'
You’ve reached your breaking point. You need financial help and have committed to finding a financial planner to overcome nagging financial questions and concerns, or perhaps develop a comprehensive financial plan.
Whatever brought you to the decision to seek professional help, you’ve made an important first step in choosing to move forward.
Now the only question is, where do you begin?
The financial advice business at first can be confusing and unfamiliar to those who work in other fields. Doing a little homework prior to selecting a financial planner can maximize your success in finding a relationship that works for whatever sort of help you need.
There are many ways to search for a financial planner. Referrals from friends and family members are a place to start. Be aware that a relationship that works for others won’t necessarily be a fit for your needs, so don’t stop with referrals alone.
The Internet has made searching for qualified financial planners efficient and simple with tools for people in your shoes. One such tool is the Financial Planning Association’s PlannerSearch®, which allows you to search for Financial Planning Association members who are CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals.
Take the time to review other information on the Internet to make your face time interviewing a financial planner more efficient. On PlannerSearch, review biographies of planners. Visit their Web sites to find out more about their firm structure and philosophy. Search a few selected planners on the Web for validation of their experience and expertise.
Prepare to interview several financial planners by developing and writing down questions that are important for you to remember to ask.
A great place to start is with questions developed for interviewing planners, such as this one from the Financial Planning Association: Questions to Ask.
Highlight several questions with the most meaning to you, and from then form more specific questions you will want to have answered before engaging a planner. Consider your expectations of the relationship. What is it you are looking for? Comprehensive planning? A second set of eyes on your portfolio or protection planning?
Remember — this is a job interview, and you are the employer hiring a CFO for your family ‘business.’ Your objective should be to learn if this candidate fits the criteria you have for your CFO.
Your needs must also match the services and specialties of a financial planner. Make sure they are asking questions about your goals and needs, and, more importantly, listening and taking notes.
During the interview take note not only of the answers a planner gives, but their demeanor and character traits.
Depending on your needs, you may need a financial planner with the skills of:
- An educator to help you understand your choices,
- A filter to help you sift through the sea of financial information,
- A designer of a holistic plan that incorporates all aspects of your financial life,
- An expert with experience in a specialized area,
- Or a coach to motivate you to implement financial changes.
You also should discuss how the relationship will work. Will you work with a team of planners, or a solo practitioner? What does the planner see as their objectives, and what is the process they use to meet those ends?
Finally, trust your instincts. Make sure you feel comfortable communicating your questions and thoughts, and you have a good rapport with the person you choose.