The D.C. Metro chapter of the International Financial Planners Association has a free referral service (524-5819) with the names of 280 accountants, attorneys, bankers, brokers, insurance and real estate agents and others who offer financial planning services. These range from investments to estate tax programs.

Most planners are strongest in, and therefore tend to concentrate on, their own discipline, supplementing their work with help from colleagues in other fields when necessary. But some planners specialize in comprehensive programs designed to map one's financial future. A number of the IAFP members bear the designation Certified Financial Planner. A CFP has passed special examinations in a wide variety of subjects, including insurance, taxes, investments and corporate and individual retirement plans.

Compensation may be in the form of fees, commissions or both. Only a handful of financial planners charge a flat fee. A comprehensive plan typically costs between $2,000 and $10,000, depending on its complexity. But some banks and other organizations offer much cheaper, simpler computerized plans with the client's financial statistics fed into a standard form.

A planner who works on a combination basis may charge, say, $700 for the plan and take the rest of his compensation in commissions. The majority of financial planners still work on commission only, depending entirely on the sale of products for their compensation. This, of course, can influence their recommendations. Also, some planners will design a program on a one-shot basis, whereas others will expect the client to update it annually and/or generate a certain amount of commission business.

To make financial planning on this scale worthwhile, an individual should have a minimum annual income of at least $20,000 to $30,000; a couple, $30,000 to $40,000 and/or accumulated assets of $10,000, not including a principal residence. These are general guidelines; some financial planners have higher minimum requirements. Those who sell tax shelters require their clients to be in the 50 percent tax bracket: $41,500 taxable income for singles and $60,000 for couples filing jointly in 1982.

Not all financial planners are members of IAFP. Family lawyers and bank trust departments are also good sources.

An initial phone call should suffice to determine whether planner and client are suited for each other. Besides vital financial statistics, the client should be prepared to confide his or her goals, problems and philosophy. Is a comprehensive plan desired, or is the person particularly concerned with providing for a handicapped child after the parents' death, for example? Does the person have a retirement income figure in mind, and is he or she prepared to take risks to meet it? Is the immediate question one of how to invest an inheritance or is there a more general objective of reducing taxes?

For those who do not have the financial or psychological resources required for such an exercise, there are alternatives. For example, Arlington Fairfax Savings and Loan (532-1146) has a free Personal Resource Planning Program open to the public. It is geared to answering simple, preliminary questions about personal finances. For more complicated matters, the S&L will refer the customer to a CFP, a broker or an attorney, as needed.

Free financial seminars sponsored by corporations and financial institutions have become increasingly popular. Some, such as those given by brokerage firms, are aimed at informing wealthy investors about various tax shelters. Others, such as those sponsored by the Pentagon Federal Credit Union (844-4000), concentrate on the basics of Individual Retirement Accounts and All Savers certificates. There is usually a question period and occasionally listeners get a chance to consult the speaker about their own problems.

Financial planning can also be geared to certain age groups. The National Council on Aging has developed an extensive pre-retirement program for corporate and union use. It includes seven hours of financial planning in the form of group sessions and homework assignments. The American Association of Retired Persons is developing materials for financial planning programs that local groups can organize on their own. One such program, for example, will deal with the credit and estate planning problems of older women. The manuals are expected to be ready next year.