3 Questions to Ask Your Prospective Financial Planner
Whether you enjoy managing your own finances or not, most of us, at some point, would benefit from hiring someone with more training and experience. But with so many prospective advisors vying for our attention, sorting through the choices and finding the right financial planner can be a challenge.
Below are crucial questions to ask a prospective planner before hiring him or her.
What do you charge or how do you get paid?
Planners charge clients using a variety of methods: fee-only, fee-based or commissioned.
Planners who work on a fee-only plan earn a living by simply giving out advice – they charge for their time. They don’t make money by selling financial products like life insurance or mutual funds.
Fee-based financial planners earn from both; providing financial advice and commissions on products.
Whereas some planners derive their income mostly from the products they sell.
Many see the fee-only route as a positive in their planner. They feel comfortable in the fact that the planner is more likely to be interested in setting up the best financial plan for them, rather than in selling them a specific product.
If your prospective planner earns his or her living by selling or recommending a product, ask how his/her fee structure breaks down. This will help you determine if the advice serves your interests or your prospective planner’s.
Others bill by the hour or get a percentage of your asset (typically 1-2 %). The potential pitfall of this billing structure is that it can sometimes lead to the advisor encouraging investing over all other options (i.e. paying off debt).
Are you a fiduciary?
This is a strong yet often ignored question to ask a prospective planner. “Fiduciary” is an important keyword that may be missing from your financial dictionary. Simply put, someone who has a “fiduciary duty” will work in your best interests and must put them ahead of their own interests at all times.
Not all financial planners have a fiduciary requirement so it’s best to ask directly. If you get a “yes,” then it’s a good sign. Make sure to prepare an agreement in writing.
How much relevant experience do you have?
Basic credentials like a college or graduate school diploma are all good. A competent financial planner, however, has to prove his or her expertise and deep understanding of retirement, tax planning, and other specialized subjects.
Can he or she advise on the best way to fund your daughter’s college education? It doesn’t matter if your needs are simple, your planner has to offer a workable financial plan that aligns with your priorities in life.
A Certified Financial Planner (CFP) must take a core curriculum in Financial Planning, pass a comprehensive exam, and continue to take classes every year to maintain his/her good standing with the CFP board.
In addition, they are required to act as a fiduciary – working on your behalf at all times. Although you can find good financial planners in all models, if you are looking for a planner, a good place to start might be with a fee-only CFP?
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