Questions to Ask a Financial Planner
When choosing any financial planner, you’ll ideally want to interview and evaluate several candidates to ensure you’ll be working with someone who is right for you.
Here is a list of questions to help you choose the right financial planner:
What experience do you have?
Ask for a brief description of the financial planner’s work experience and how it relates to their current practice. CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals must have a minimum of three years experience in the financial planning process.
What are your qualifications?
Ask about the financial planner’s credentials your planner holds, and learn how he/she stays up to date with current changes and developments in the financial planning field.
CFP® professionals expand their knowledge and stay up-to-date through mandatory continuing education courses. If the planner holds a financial planning designation or certification, you can check his background with the relevant professional organizations. To search for CFP® professionals visit CFP.net or call 866-626-5115.
What financial planning services do you offer?
Financial planners offer different services, depending 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 proper licenses, or give investment advice unless registered with state or Federal authorities.
What is your approach to financial planning?
Make sure the planner’s investing philosophy isn’t too cautious or overly aggressive for you. Learn how the planner will carry out the financial recommendations or refer you to others to implement his recommendations.
What types of clients do you typically work with?
Some financial planners prefer to work with clients whose assets fall within a particular range, so it’s important to make sure the planner is a good fit for your individual financial situation. Keep in mind that some planners require you to have a certain net worth before offering services.
When you search for a CFP® professional on the CFP.net site, you can specify your investable asset range to find a financial planner whose services best match your needs.
Will you be the only financial planner working with me?
Some financial planners work with their clients directly, and others have a team of people who help out. You may want to meet everyone you’ll be working with. If the planner works with professionals outside his own practice (such as attorneys, insurance agents or tax specialists), get a list of their names to check on their backgrounds.
How will I pay for your financial planning services?
As part of your agreement, financial planners should clearly state in writing how they will be paid for the services to be provided.
Planners can be paid in several ways:
- Commission: financial planner is paid by a third party, such as an agent or a broker, based on products or services sold to you to carry out the financial planning recommendations. Commission is usually calculated as a percentage of the amount you invest in a product.
- Fee-only: client fees are the only source of revenue from which the financial planner is compensated. Fee-only can include fixed, flat, hourly, percentage or performance-based fees.
- Commission and Fee: financial planner receives both commissions and fees based on products or services sold to you.
How much do you typically charge?
Although what you pay the financial planner will depend on your particular needs, the planner should be able to provide you with an estimate of possible costs based on the work to be performed. Costs should include the planner’s hourly rates or flat fees or the percentage of commission received on products you may purchase as part of the financial planning recommendations.
Could anyone besides me benefit from your recommendations?
Some business relationships or partnerships a planner has could affect his professional judgment, preventing the planner from acting in your best interest. Ask the planner to provide you with a description of his 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. CFP® professionals agree to abide by a strict code of professional conduct and have an ethical obligation to put your needs above their own.
Have you ever been publicly disciplined for any unlawful or unethical actions in your professional career?
Several government and professional regulatory organizations, such as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), your state insurance and securities departments and CFP Board, keep records on the disciplinary history of financial planners and advisers. If a CFP® professional violates any of CFP Board’s standards, he is subject to disciplinary action up to permanent revocation of certification. Ask which organizations the planner is regulated by and contact these groups to conduct a background check. Can I have it in writing?
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