Just as in dating, the first financial adviser isn’t always “the one” — when looking for a professional, begin by talking to a few.
Retirement Tip of the Week: Do your homework before working with a financial adviser, and make sure you both feel as though you’re each a good fit for the other. Take advantage of search engines specifically designed to find advisers.
Advisers can easily become one of the most important professional relationships a person has. “Selecting the right financial planner is a very important decision,” said James Lee, a certified financial planner and president of the Financial Planning Association. “Ideally, it is a long-term relationship and that relationship is built on trust and confidence.”
Know the type of adviser you’ll be working with first. Not all financial advisers are the same. Advisers fall under multiple designations and, as a result, have different specialties, experiences and rules to follow.
See: How to choose a financial adviser: Here are the 6 biggest factors to consider
One of the most popular and well-known designations in the financial planning industry is the Certified Financial Planner, awarded by the CFP Board. These advisers are required to act as fiduciaries, meaning clients’ best interests supersede their own. Registered Investment Advisers (or RIAs) are also fiduciaries, legally bound to these standards because they are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission or their states.
Advisers may also hold certifications in specific arenas, such as retirement, divorce or investments. Many advisory firms may have relationships with Certified Public Accountants and attorneys who specialize in taxes and estate planning.
There are also “broker-dealers,” who are investment professionals with a focus on buying and selling assets. These professionals must abide by suitability rules, meaning they must make recommendations that are “suitable” for their clients, according to Finra, a self-regulating industry organization. The distinction may come down to cost: some recommendations are suitable, but could provide more of a profit to the adviser recommending it than others, thus not necessarily in the “best interest” of the client who could benefit from a less-expensive recommendation.
Beyond that, however, advisers should also be someone clients feel comfortable talking to about money and related matters. Discussing money, and the sensitive topics that surround it, can be difficult. The right adviser can help communicate about these tough decisions. “They listen to your individual needs and goals and communicate and collaborate with you in a way that is easy to understand,” Lee said.
For some clients, personality will be an important factor. For others, it could be having a similar background with money, such as through a culture or profession. Clients should feel comfortable talking about money, which they may only feel if they think their advisers understand why they save, invest or spend a certain way.
Also see: Why we need more financial advisers of color
So prospective clients should look around first. Lee suggests interviewing three planners before choosing.
Searching the web for local advisers is one way to go about finding an adviser, but certainly not the only one. The Financial Planning Association has a search tool called PlannerSearch, where prospective clients can find CFPs. The federal government offers the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure tool, which allows users to check advisers’ backgrounds. XY Planning Network, a member organization for planners searching Gen X and Y, also offers a search tool, including a dropdown for adviser specialties, such as faith focus, gender focus, professions or interests and hobbies.