How to Find a Financial Advisor

I know what you’re thinking. How to find a financial advisor – what the heck does that have to do with productivity? It goes a little something like this…

If you’re worried about your money or whether or not you’ll be able to retire when you want to –and live the lifestyle that you want – that means your brain isn’t fully focused on your tasks at hand, which means you’re not operating at full mental capacity, which means you are not as productive as you could be.

If you find the right person to help you manage and invest your money, you’ll have fewer worries. When you have fewer worries, you’ll be more productive! Shazam!

If you don’t already have a financial advisor who you know, love and trust, here are some questions to consider as you begin your search:

  1. Do you want someone who will partner with you or would you prefer that your advisor do everything for you?
  • Do you want someone who will explain your options or someone who will make specific recommendations or both?
  • Do you want someone who is an aggressive risk taker or someone more conservative?
  • Do you want to pay based on commission to manage your portfolio or a consulting fee for monthly, quarterly or yearly consultations?
  • Is a credentialed financial advisor important to you?
  • Do you want an advisor who is out on his or her own or one who is part of a national company or investment house or is this a non-factor?

Once you’ve thought about what you want from your financial advisor (other than “guarantee my financial stability for the rest of my life”), then you can begin the hunt. Where can you look?

Ask for recommendations.

Take a look around at your friends, family and business colleagues. Who is not up to their ears in debt? Who is financially secure? Who has their retirement plan mapped out? Ask these folks if they can recommend their financial advisor to you.

Search online.

This can easily lead to overwhelm, so you might want to narrow down your search to what you’ve decided about what you want in a financial advisor.

One website that I found helpful was FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority). This website lists certifications and their requirements. We live in a world where anyone can create a certification, so it’s helpful to know which credentials require actual knowledge and which are just pay-to-play.

From my research on the FINRA site, it appears that these are the most rigorous “top 3”:

CFP – Certified Financial Planner

PFS – Personal Finance Specialist

CFA – Chartered Financial Analyst

From my research on various websites, I learned a few questions to ask before entering into a relationship with a financial advisor:

  1. What type of fees do you charge and how much are the fees?

Fee Only: advice

Fee-Based: advice + commission

Commission-Based: straight commission

  • Is the planner “married” to particular funds, or can s/he play the field depending on what’s best for your interests?
  • When an advisor makes recommendations, ask: “Are you personally invested in this fund?” If a fund is so awesome, why aren’t they invested in it?

Whether you choose to manage your own money or have someone else to do it, here are two books that will help you:

Retire Inspired: It’s Not an Age, It’s a Financial Number by Chris Hogan – This book is super basic, but it will give you a foundation. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know until you know.

The Couple’s Retirement Puzzle: 10 Must-Have Conversations for Creating an Amazing New Life Together by Roberta Taylor and Dorian Mintzer – If you are planning on retiring with a spouse or partner, you can prevent a lot of arguments (which is time saving!) if you read this book together and discuss your answers.

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