How to Choose a Financial Planner
You may be considering a financial planner for a number of reasons; buying a new home, planning for retirement, saving for your child’s education or building wealth and security for the future. Whatever your needs, creating a comprehensive integrated estate plan with the help of a financial planner is a good first step toward your goals.
Because this is ideally a long-term relationship, you will want to select a competent, qualified professional with whom you feel comfortable: one whose business style suits your personal and financial planning needs. It makes strategic sense to interview and evaluate several planners before making this important commitment.
10 QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN CHOOSING A FINANCIAL PLANNER
Ask how long the planner has been in practice. Find out what types of companies and how many companies she has previously worked for or associated with. Request a brief description of her work experience and ask how it relates to her current practice. Look for a financial planner who has experience with individuals similar to yourself: people who share your profile and demographic. Be aware that some planners require a minimum net worth before offering services.
The term “financial planner” is used by many financial professionals. Ask the planner what qualifies him to offer financial planning advice. You need to know whether he is recognized as a professional CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® or a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNING® practitioner. Look for a planner who has proven experience with a wide range of financial planning topics including insurance, tax planning, investment strategies, estate planning and retirement planning. Find out 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 his background with the CFP® Board or other relevant professional organizations.
Generally, financial planners cannot sell insurance or securities (like mutual funds or stocks) without proper licensing. They must be regulated by the Provincial authorities in order to sell these products.
The range of services a certified financial planner can offer depends on a number of factors; including credentials, licenses and areas of expertise. Some planners offer financial planning advice, but do not sell financial products. Others may provide advice only in specific areas, such as estate planning or tax matters.
Ask the financial planner about the type of client or financial situation she typically likes to work with. Some planners prefer to develop an overall lifespan plan that encompasses all your financial goals. Others provide advice on specific areas as needed.
Make sure the planner’s viewpoint on investing is neither overly cautious nor overly aggressive. A competent planner will take time to determine your tolerance for risk and thoroughly describe the returns and risks associated with every investment product presented.
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.
A financial planner may work with you exclusively, or have others in the office assist her. Ask whether the planner will personally carry out the financial recommendations developed for you, or if she intends to delegate or refer your portfolio to others. You may want an individual meeting with every professional who will work with your portfolio. If a planner works with professionals outside her own practice to develop or carry out recommendations (like lawyers, insurance agents or tax specialists), get a list of their names and check their backgrounds.
As part of your financial planning agreement, the financial planner should tell you clearly and in writing, how she will be paid for the services provided. Planners can be paid in several ways:
- Fees: determined as an hourly rate, a flat rate or a percentage of your assets and/or income.
- Commissions: paid to the planner by third party sellers of the products you choose to fulfill your planner’s recommendations. Commissions are usually a percentage of the amount you invest in a product.
- A combination of fees and commissions, in which fees are charged for the development of the financial plan and commissions are received from the financial products sold. Some planners may offset a portion of the fee if they receive commissions for carrying out their recommendations.
- By salary: the planner is paid by the company he works for. The planner’s employer pays him a salary derived from the fees and commissions that you and others are charged by the company.
While the amount you pay your financial planner will depend on your particular needs, the planner should be able to provide you with an estimate of costs based on the work to be performed. Such costs should include the planner’s hourly rates or flat fees, or the percentage she would receive as commission on products you might purchase on her recommendation.
A financial planner may have business relationships or partnerships that could affect her professional judgment while working with you. These ‘behind the scenes’ relationships could potentially inhibit that planner from acting in your best interest.
Ask each financial planner to provide you with a description of his conflicts of interest in writing. Financial planners who sell insurance policies, securities or mutual funds, or those who have business relationships with companies that provide these products, may or may not be able to give independent advice. The planner may also have relationships or partnerships that should be disclosed to you, including referral business or remuneration arrangements with insurance agents, accountants or lawyers.
The CFP® Board, your Provincial Insurance and Securities Regulators, and several government and professional regulatory organizations keep records on the disciplinary history of financial planners and advisers. Ask what organizations regulate the planners you interview. Contact these groups to conduct a background check.
Ask the planner to provide you with a written agreement that details the services to be provided. Keep this document in your files for future reference.
For more information or questions about choosing your professional financial planner, contact Laura at 604-385-1164 or send email at firstname.lastname@example.org