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Selecting a Financial Planner

Written by Amit Shah®October 01, 20233 min read

Choosing a financial planner is one of the most important decisions you can make for your financial future. With a plethora of options out there, how can you sift through the noise and select the best fit for your needs? Here’s a simple three-step checklist to guide you through the selection process:

1. Verify Credentials and Experience • Certifications: There are several credentials financial planners can obtain, but among the most reputable is the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation. This certification assures that the planner has undergone rigorous training and adheres to high ethical standards. • Specializations: Some planners may have specializations, such as retirement planning, estate planning, or tax strategies. Identify what you need most and seek out those who excel in those areas. • Years in Business: While new planners might be equipped with the latest industry knowledge, those with several years under their belt often bring invaluable real-world experience to the table.

2. Understand Their Approach and Services • Fiduciary Duty: It's crucial to determine if the planner operates as a fiduciary, meaning they have an obligation to act in your best interests. This ensures their recommendations are aligned with your goals, not their commissions. • Investment Philosophy: Are they aggressive or conservative? Do they believe in active management or a passive approach? Make sure their philosophy aligns with your comfort level and financial goals. • Range of Services: Beyond just investment advice, does the planner offer comprehensive financial planning services like estate planning, tax advice, or insurance considerations?

3. Evaluate the Fee Structure • Fee-Only vs. Fee-Based: A fee-only advisor charges clients directly for their services, whereas a fee-based advisor might also receive commissions from the products they recommend. Understand which model your potential planner uses and how that might affect their recommendations. • Clarity on Costs: Ensure the planner provides a clear breakdown of fees. This might include hourly rates, flat fees, or a percentage of assets under management. • Additional Costs: Some investments come with their own set of fees. Ask about expense ratios, transaction fees, and any other costs associated with the recommended investments.

In conclusion, selecting a financial planner is a nuanced decision that goes beyond just finding someone with financial knowledge. It's about finding a partner who understands your goals, acts in your best interest, and can guide you towards a prosperous financial future. Armed with this three-step checklist, you're well on your way to making an informed choice. Happy planning!

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