It Takes Planning to Choose the Right Financial Planner

By Michelle Singletary
Thursday, May 19, 2005

I'm sure I don't have to tell you that the financial road we all have to travel these days is bumpy and full of potholes. There's just so much to deal with.

For those of us who need help with our money, it may be worth paying to have a financial adviser pave the way for a headache-free ride.

But where should you begin your search?

I hate to tell you this, but anybody can play a planner.

"Financial planners" are not regulated by uniform state or federal laws. Thus their qualifications and business practices vary considerably.

And to complicate matters, the industry has a number of credentials, and each professional organization says its badge is best.

But is it best to hire a certified financial planner (CFP)? Is a chartered financial consultant (ChFC) good enough? Can you be well served by a personal financial specialist (PFS), certified investment management analyst (CIMA) or chartered financial analyst (CFA)?

See what I mean? Picking a financial planning professional is tough, especially since you won't really know how good the person is until after you've made or lost money.

To take some of the guesswork out of choosing a financial adviser, Jack Waymire, author of "Who's Watching Your Money? The 17 Paladin Principles for Selecting a Financial Advisor," has created an online service, the Paladin Registry ( ).

Waymire hopes the service will do for the financial planning industry what Morningstar has done for mutual funds. That is, his goal is to establish a well-known rating service for planners.

"I hear investors say, 'I don't even know the right questions to ask, and even if I did, I don't know a good answer from a bad one,' " Waymire said.

Well, Waymire asks the questions, lots of them. Planners who want to be selected for the registry have to answer more than 140, he said.

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