How to Choose a Financial Planner

Quick Look

  • Before you start your search, define your objectives and the areas of expertise you want your advisor to specialize in.
  • Interview multiple candidates, understand their professional credentials and fee structure but also evaluate if they’re a good personality fit for your needs.
  • Conduct due diligence to ensure the advisor has no complaints against them and has valid credentials.
  • Start the process of finding a professional soon, but don’t rush the decision.


Why Work with a Professional?

If you’ve reached the stage of financial Independence or Abundance, there’s a good chance you’re already working with a financial planner. But if not, it’s certainly worth considering now. In all likelihood, your financial life is more complex and the assets you’re looking to protect are more substantial than they’ve ever been. Finding a trusted advisor – or even a team of professionals – who can help you manage your wealth shouldn’t be overlooked.

In this article, we’ll outline the steps to take to ensure you find the right fit for your needs.

Step 1: Define Your Objectives

Start by defining your objectives. This will ensure you only interview candidates that are a good fit for your needs. While many financial planners have a wide range of expertise, they’re still likely to specialize in certain areas. Consider if your focus be:

  • Preserving wealth
  • Optimizing tax strategies
  • Exploring new investment opportunities
  • Planning for future generations

You may find it helpful to rank your objectives from most to least important. Ranking your objectives doesn’t mean there’s a huge gap between the most and least important items. But it will ensure your interviews cover the topics that are of the highest priority.

Step 2: Understand the Range of Services and Fee Structure

Wealth management and financial planning can encompass a wide range of services. Look at the list below and consider which services interest you and how they align with your objectives.

  • Investment Management – manage investments on your behalf based on your risk tolerance and goals
  • Estate Planning – determine how your assets will be managed and distributed after death
  • Tax Optimization – minimize your tax burden so you can maximize your financial resources based on your values
  • Philanthropic Strategies – understand and set up vehicles to maximize the impact of your charitable giving

It’s also important to understand the planners’ fee structure. Some financial professionals will charge by the hour, a flat project-based fee, or use a retainer structure. Others will charge based on a percentage of the assets they manage for you. (If you don’t use investment management, this shouldn’t apply.) Most professionals will offer a free session or a chance to interview them. Take time at this meeting to understand how they are compensated and let them give you an example of what that looks like.

Step 3: Find Fiduciaries

A fiduciary means that the financial professional acting on your behalf is obligated to act in your best financial interest. Not all financial advisors are fiduciaries, and even among those that are, they may not be a fiduciary in every capacity that they operate. For example, it’s possible for a professional to be a fiduciary for tax planning purposes, but when it comes to making investment decisions on your behalf, they may receive compensation if you purchase certain investment products. This represents a conflict of interest and may result in you purchasing investment products that aren’t suitable for you.

You can generally avoid this by finding an professional who works on a fee-only basis. A good place to conduct a search is the XY Planning Network and NAPFA (National Association of Personal Financial Advisors). Both these organizations only allow credentialed and fee-only advisors to be listed.

Whomever you interview, always ask, “Do you act as a fiduciary in all capacities?” It’s also a good idea to ask them to put this in writing if you decide to work with them.

Step 4: Conduct Your Interviews

You should interview multiple candidates, we recommend at least three. Remember, your financial planner is someone you may work with for decades. It’s much more important to make a good decision than a quick decision.

When you call, email or conduct in person interviews, it’s important to assess each candidate’s communication style, responsiveness, and willingness to understand your unique needs. Look for an advisor who demonstrates active listening, empathy, and the ability to explain complex concepts in a clear and understandable manner. At a minimum, make sure you come out of the interviews understanding the advisor’s:

  • Years of experience
  • Areas of expertise
  • Official credentials (e.g. Certified Financial Planner etc., consider the governing bodies that regulate those credentials – e.g. FINRA, SEC etc.)
  • Fee structure

Finally, make sure you have had enough time to explain your goals and the specifics of your situation.

Step 5: Conduct Due Diligence

After your interviews, it’s important to do a few pieces of due diligence. Even if the person was recommended by a trusted friend or works for a bank or other well-known institution, you should confirm a potential advisor’s qualifications, certifications and professional reputation.

FINRA, (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) is a government-authorized not-for-profit organization that oversees U.S. broker-dealers. They should be a go to source for verifying credentials. They also have an incredibly helpful list of financial professional designations.

When it comes to Certified Financial Planners (CFPs) specifically, you can check designations and find other helpful resources at

Don’t Wait

Don’t rush to find the right financial advisor. But don’t put the decision off either. By following the guidelines above and conducting a reasonable amount of due diligence, you’re sure to find a planner that meets your needs. Remember that a strong advisor-client relationship based on trust, expertise and open communication is the foundation for achieving your financial goals, even if you have already achieved financial prosperity.

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