Deciding that you need a financial adviser is easy. The hard part is finding the right one who meets the needs of your temperament, pocketbook and portfolio. While there is no one right way to find a financial adviser, there are lots of wrong ways. Here are the 10 most important steps:
● Ask friends. Just as you rely on friends or relatives to find the best doctor or dentist, they can help you find a reliable financial adviser, too. Also ask work colleagues or friends at your church, temple or yoga club. Don’t just seek out names in the phone book or online.
● Interview several. Don’t speak with only one financial adviser; interview at least three. It’s your life savings at stake.
● Request credentials. At a minimum, your adviser should be a certified financial planner, which means he or she has completed financial planning coursework at the university level and passed a 10-hour exam that covers 90 topics that range from group medical insurance to derivatives.
● Ask how you will pay. If it’s fee-based — typically 1 percent — it’s a good bet the adviser will look out for you. Commission-based advisors may be motivated to buy and sell more.
● Meet in person. You can learn a lot from a person’s body language, so it’s vital to meet a potential adviser in person.
● Ask tough questions. It’s critical to ask candidates hard questions — such as, how do they invest their own money? The way the adviser responds will tell you a lot about them.
● Make your goals clear. Make your investment goals crystal clear and make sure you are comfortable with how the adviser plans to help you reach those goals.
● Agree on how to measure results. You and your adviser must agree on the best method for measuring quarterly performance. A common benchmark is the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index.
● Request regular communication. You should meet annually with your financial adviser but also communicate by email or phone at least quarterly.
● Check them out. Double-check with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (sec.gov) or with the Certified Financial Planner Board’s website (cfp.net) to see whether your potential adviser is registered or certified. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s website (finra.org) lists complaints against brokers. Request from a potential adviser the names of several current clients who can provide recommendations.