How And When To Hire A Financial Planner

BOSTON (CBS) – Money always ranks up there when it comes to making resolutions. And most people could use some help managing their money.

It usually takes a life event to push an individual into hiring a financial planner. That life event could be a new job, marriage, buying a house, a birth, a divorce, a death, an inheritance or winning the lottery.

Something pushes you into thinking about and taking action regarding your finances. And then you realize you need help!

I have bias here; I think you should be talking to a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). A CFP to be licensed must have passed a comprehensive exam that covers the key aspects of financial planning. They must have experience in the financial planning field prior to receiving the right to use the CFP designation after their name even if they have passed the exam.

So where do you find a planner? Begin by asking your friends, family, and the people you work with if they use a financial advisor. If you are already using other professional advisors such as a tax preparer ask who they would recommend. You want to find a planner that will understand your particular situation.

There are some associations that also provide names of planners. The Financial Planning Association (FPA) is by far the largest group of planners.

Then you have Garrett Planning Network. The planners charge by the hour but will help with a single issue.

The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) is a group of fee only planners.

Then you can look to the mutual fund companies for advice also. Vanguard, Schwab and T Rowe Price may charge a fee for their advice. At Fidelity it’s free. You can talk to a rep at one of their investment centers or chat on the phone. You can use their website for an interactive program but my personal bias is talking to a real person.

One more thing:  Talk to a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). They have continuing education requirements of 30 hours that must be met every two years and they must sign a code of ethics. Now will this guarantee you the very best person in the world? Not necessarily! But you will at least have somewhat equalized the playing field in your search.

Gather up a list of planners and interview at least three. Most planners (most professionals for that matter) will not charge for an informational interview. This is an interview, so don’t go in expecting to get free financial advice here. This is an opportunity to see if there is a fit between you and the planner.

The advisor will be doing the same thing you will be doing. During this interview, you will have the opportunity to ask questions about the planner and their firm. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions, remember it’s your money.

What kind of questions should you be asking? You want to know about a planner’s background, experience and the services that they offer. Many planners will provide you with a brochure outlining their services if you call and request it before the interview.

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