5 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Financial Advisor
A critical first step in choosing a financial advisor is to check their qualifications. Check for securities registrations and investment advisor certifications that allow for comprehensive advice with a variety of investment products. For example, a Series 6 registration allows for the limited sell of mutual funds and variable annuities but not individual stocks, bonds, or private placements.Go to the public U.S. Government website www.sec.gov/investor for investor education on what securities exams are required of the different types of financial advisors.
In addition to securities registrations, there are many other designations, but the most significant credential to look for is the CFP®, Certified Financial Planner designation. A CFP® has passed a rigorous board exam administered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards about the specifics of personal finance. CFP’s must also commit to continuing education on financial matters and ethics classes to maintain their designation.
Financial advisors can be paid in several ways: through fees, commissions or a combination of both. Your financial advisor should make it clear how they will be compensated for the services they provide, whether they charge a percentage of assets under management (fee for advice), or whether they make commissions from selling a specific product. Not only should you know how much the services will cost, but it can help determine whether they have an incentive to sell certain products.
There is no one perfect investment. If there were, everyone would be in that investment!Make sure you are working with a financial advisor who has access to a variety of investments and services that can help you meet your goals. Some advisors are merely investment advisors and only provide advice on investments, while others do comprehensive investment planning around retirement, insurance, estate and tax planning. Go with someone whose offering best suits your needs.
Check for a balanced approach where investment solutions are matched to reasonable financial goals, time horizons, and acceptable levels of risk. Time-honored principles of diversification and thorough asset allocation do not guarantee future results but historically have shown to be an excellent start. Beware of market beating brags. If you have an initial meeting with an advisor and you hear predictions of market beating performance, get up and walk away. No one can safely make such guarantees.
The CFP® Board, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the state insurance and securities departments each keep records on the disciplinary history of financial advisors. Ask which organizations they are regulated by and contact these groups to conduct a background check.This can be viewed at the public website http://brokercheck.finra.org.