Choosing the Right Financial Planner for Your Needs 11/17/07
Stewart H. Welch III, CFP, AEP
Founder, The Welch Group, LLC
Choosing the Right Financial Planner for Your Needs
"Choosing the Right Financial Planner for Your Needs"
In last week’s column I reviewed the six steps in the financial planning process. It is important to understand the process you will go through before you hire a financial planner. Financial planning can be helpful for everyone, regardless of your income or your experience handling money. Deciding on which planner to hire is a key decision, akin to finding a physician or attorney. Since you don’t want to make this decision more than once, you should make your choice very carefully. Here are the criteria I recommend you use:
· Credentials. Your search should begin with advisors who are Certified Financial Planner™ certificants. To become a Certified Financial Planner™ (CFPâ) certificant, the advisor must pass a rigorous national exam, complete 3 years of ‘relevant’ experience, agree to abide by a strict code of ethics and maintain 30 hours of continuing education over rolling two-year periods.
· Experience. I strongly recommend that you choose a CFPâ who has a minimum of 5 years experience in the financial planning field. Ten years or more is even better. There is an old saying, "There is no substitute for experience," and in the world of personal finance, this is a very true statement.
· Compensation. There is no ‘right or wrong’ method of compensation but you must know how your financial planner is being paid so that you can review his or her recommendations in the proper perspective.
Fee-only. A fee-only financial planner receives fees directly from the client and never receives commissions from the sale of products. Under a recent ruling by the CFPâ Board of Standards, the governing body for all Certified Financial Planner™ certificants, a CFPâ certificant describing his or her services as fee-only is prohibited from receiving commissions in any client relationship at any time.
Commission only. Here the financial planner does not charge a fee for the planning work, but rather receives commissions from the sale of products recommended as a result of the planning work.
Fee plus commission. Many financial planners charge a fee for developing your financial plan, then receive commissions if you buy products that they recommend.
· Chemistry. Ideally, when you choose a professional advisor, you will be selecting someone with whom you will work with for the rest of your life. However, it is not unusual to find a competent advisor that for some reason you do not “click” with. Call it a difference of personality. Most professional advisors will meet with you initially without charge. This first meeting is used to determine the scope of the work to be performed and how the planner is compensated along with an estimate of the dollar amounts of that compensation. You should also use this first meeting as an opportunity to determine if the advisor is someone you feel you would be happy working with long-term.
Recently, the CFP Board of Standards, Inc. passed a new rule that states in part, “When the certificant provides financial planning or material elements of the financial planning process, the certificant owes to the client the duty of care of a fiduciary”. This means that the CFPâ certificant must place your interests ahead of his or her own interests.
To find a CFPâ certificant near you, go to www.fpanet.org or call 800 322-4237.