Some initial questions to ask a prospective financial planner as recommended by the International Association for Financial Planning and other industry experts:

1.) What is the planner's experience? How long has he been in the field, and what did he do before?

2.) Can the planner provide references? Do they all come from the same background, income group or age level? Planners often work primarily with one type of group. Do you fit in?

3.) What are the planner's areas of expertise? Ideally, he/she should be a generalist, but also be in frequent consultation with professionals in specialty investing fields.

4.) Does the planner work directly with clients, or farm out the work to an associate? If the answer is an associate, ask to meet him or her, too.

5.) How does the planner select investments? With what research methods? What is his track record?

6.) Is the planner fee-only, fee and commission, or commission-only? Is there an extra charge for periodic review?

Above all, says E.F. Hutton's Richard Perkins: "You should make an assessment if the person is trying to sell you a service or a product. If it's a product -- and I don't care what the product is -- thank them very nicely and leave."

For more information about financial planning: International Association for Financial Planning, 2 Concourse Pkwy., Suite 800, Atlanta, Ga. 30328, (404) 395-1605. Institute of Certified Financial Planners, 2 Denver Highlands, 10065 E. Harvard Ave., Suite 320, Denver, Colo. 80231-5942, (303) 751-7600.