1. What experience do you
Find out how long the planner has been in practice and the number and types of
companies and individuals with which she or he has been associated. Ask the planner
to briefly describe her work experience and how it relates to her current practice.
Choose a financial planner who has successful experience counseling individuals
on their financial needs.
2. What are your qualifications?
The term "financial planner" is used by many financial professionals.
Ask the planner what qualifies him to offer financial planning advice and whether
he is recognized as a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional or CFP ® practitioner,
a Certified Public Accountant/ Personal Financial Specialist (CPA/PFS), or
a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC). Look for a planner who has proven
experience in financial planning topics such as insurance, tax planning, investments,
estate planning or retirement planning. Determine what steps the planner takes
to stay current with changes and developments in the financial planning field.
If the planner holds a financial planning designation or certification, check
on his background with CFP Board or other relevant professional organizations.
3. What services do you offer?
The services a financial planner offers depend on a number of factors including
credentials, licenses and areas of expertise. Generally, financial planners
cannot sell insurance or securities products such as mutual funds or stocks
without the proper licenses, or give investment advice unless registered
with state or Federal authorities. Some planners offer financial planning
advice on a range of topics but do not sell financial products. Others may
provide advice only in specific areas such as estate planning or on tax matters.
Make sure that you know what your "planner" can and should do
for you, legally as well as morally.
4. What is your approach to financial planning?
Ask the financial planner about the type of clients and financial situations
with which she typically likes to work. Some planners prefer to develop one
plan by bringing together all of your financial goals. Others provide advice
on specific areas, as needed. Make sure the planner's viewpoint on investing
is not too cautious or overly aggressive for you. Some planners require you
to have a certain net worth before offering services. Find out if the planner
will carry out the financial recommendations developed for you or refer you
to others who will do so.
5. Will you be the only person working
The financial planner may work with you himself. He may suggest that others
in the office provide assistance. You may want to meet everyone who will be
working with you. If the planner works with professionals outside of his own
practice, such as attorneys, insurance agents or tax specialists, to develop
or carry out financial planning recommendations; then get a list of their names
to check on their backgrounds.
6. How will I pay for your services?
As part of your financial planning agreement, the financial planner should
clearly tell you, in writing, how she will be paid for the services to be
Planners can be paid in several ways:
- A salary paid by the company for which the planner
works. The planner's employer receives payment
from you or others, either in fees or commissions,
in order to pay the planner's salary.
- Fees based on an hourly rate, a flat rate, or
on a percentage of your assets and/or income.
- Commissions paid by a third party from the products
sold to you to carry out the financial planning
recommendations. Commissions are usually a percentage
of the amount you invest in a product.
- A combination of fees and commissions whereby
fees are charged for the amount of work done to
develop financial planning recommendations and
commissions are received from any products sold.
In addition, some planners may offset some portion
of the fees you pay if they receive commissions
for carrying out their recommendations.
7. How much do you typically charge?
While the amount you pay the planner will depend on your particular needs,
the financial planner should be able to provide you with an estimate of possible
costs based on the work to be performed. Such costs should include the planner's
hourly rates or flat fees or the percentage he would receive as commission
on products you may purchase as part of the financial planning recommendations.
8. Could anyone besides me benefit from
Some business relationships or partnerships that a planner has could affect
her professional judgment while working with you, inhibiting the planner from
acting in your best interest. Ask the planner to provide you
with a description of her conflicts of interest in writing. For example, financial
planners who sell insurance policies, securities or mutual funds have a business
relationship with the companies that provide these financial products. The
planner may also have relationships or partnerships that should be disclosed
to you, such as business she receives for referring you to an insurance agent,
accountant or attorney for implementation of planning suggestions.
9. Have you ever been publicly disciplined
for any unlawful or unethical actions in your professional
Several government and professional regulatory organizations, such as the National
Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), your state insurance and securities
departments, and CFP Board keep records on the disciplinary history of financial
planners and advisers. Ask what organizations the planner is regulated by and
contact these groups to conduct a background check. All financial planners
who have registered as investment advisers with the Securities and Exchange
Commission or state securities agencies, or who are associated with a company
that is registered as an investment adviser, must be able to provide you with
a disclosure form called Form ADV Part II or the state equivalent of that form.
It is your money that is at risk and there is no reason why an honest agent
would be unwilling to share an honest history.
10. Can I have it in writing?
Ask the planner to provide you with a written agreement that details the services
that will be provided. Keep this document in your files for future reference.
Keeping one's attorney informed about financial decisions can be important,
if for no other reason than to make sure survivors and heirs have easy access
to all pertinent estate information.
11. Do I like and trust the individual
who wants to serve as my financial planner?
12. Will the planner score
well against the Bracher Center's Eight Attributes©?
1. CHARACTER: consistency between word and deed.
Do the leaders of your organization exhibit congruence between what they say
and what they do, as well as what they say about what they did? Do leaders
exhibit the right behavior?
2. HONESTY: truthful communication.
Do you have confidence that your leaders would never engage in or sanction
3. OPENNESS: operational transparency.
Is appropriate information about your organization readily available?
4. AUTHORITY: employee encouragement.
Are you able to correct a customer problem? Do you have confidence that your
actions will be supported?
5. PARTNERSHIP: honor obligations.
Does your company pride itself on timely fulfillment of all commitments?
6. PERFORMANCE: accountability throughout the organization.
When individuals, including senior executives, under-perform repeatedly, are
they given due process and then, if necessary, replaced?
7. CHARITY: generous community stewardship.
Does your organization reach out to those in need?
8. GRACIOUSNESS: respect and discipline.
Does your organization demonstrate care and concern for all stakeholders?
Rev. July 25, 2003; original February, 2003.
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