By Robyn A. Friedman
Looking for a financial adviser to help manage your money? That’s no easy task. Financial advisers today often come with a confusing litany of letters after their names: CFP, CFA, CPA, CIMA, CRPC. How do you make the right choice?
“To select a financial planner you can trust, it’s important to do your homework,” says Jeff Johnson, AARP’s Florida state director. “Remember, you invested thousands of hours earning and saving the money you will be giving this person. Spending a few hours researching a financial adviser is well worth it.”
Johnson suggests that investors protect themselves by checking sites like fraudwatchnetwork.org and researching the background of a potential adviser on finra.org.
More tips for selecting an adviser:
Confirm how they charge. Many advisers charge a percentage based on the assets under management, while others charge commissions. “The problem with commissions is that they create conflicts of interest and provide a powerful incentive for an adviser to steer you toward one type of investment over another,” says Mari Adam, a certified financial planner in Boca Raton. Decide what’s best for you.
Look for a comprehensive adviser. Rather than selecting someone to solve one specific concern, find someone who can address all issues confronting individuals: investments, taxes, accounting, estate planning, insurance, retirement and philanthropic considerations, which are often inter-related, suggests Anthony D. Criscuolo, a certified financial planner with Palisades Hudson Financial Group in Fort Lauderdale.
Be wary of advisers who work for big brokerage firms. While they may have many excellent advisers, they will often recommend products and funds that lead to higher revenue for the firm. “They are not truly independent, so their loyalty is divided,” Criscuolo says.
Make sure you will matter to your adviser. “After you find someone with credentials, go meet them to see if they are a right fit for you,” says Robert E. DeForest, a private wealth adviser with Castronuovo DeForest Partners in Palm Beach. “You want to deal with an adviser who doesn’t have a ton of clients so that they know each person inside and out.”
Trust, comfort level and a long-term relationship are key. Good financial planning is a process that takes place over time as your needs evolve. The best advisers educate their clients — and work to establish a long-term relationship so they can anticipate their clients’ needs.