If you’re looking to build and maximize your wealth through financial planning, you may have started to think about finding a financial planner. That’s a great idea – but choosing the right financial planner can be challenging.
That’s because not all financial planners are created equal. There can be vast discrepancies in knowledge, experience, client care, and ethics. So how can you find the one that’s right for you?
Read on to find out everything you need to consider as you choose your financial planner regardless of whether you live in Andover, Massachusetts; Bedford, New Hampshire; or beyond.
Your Financial Planner Should Have a Proven Track Record of Success
Entrusting your financial well-being to the wrong hands can have severe, long-term consequences.
One way to gauge whether a financial planner actually has the experience they claim is to research them on the SEC or FINRA websites. Both have pages that outline how long the advisor has been in business, the total value of the assets they’re managing, as well as how many clients those assets are spread across.
All of this information can provide insight into whether the advisor is qualified to be handling your money and advising your financial life.
Look for Someone Who Is Willing to Listen
Another important quality to look for in a financial planner is finding one who truly listens to you. This is critical because your financial goals and situation are unique – you need someone who will listen to your needs and desires in the financial planning process, not generate a cookie cutter plan that they distribute to all clients without consideration of circumstances.
Whether you’re looking to pay off debt, save for retirement, buy a second home, or a combination of these or other financial goals, you want someone who will take your needs and goals into account when creating a plan. One-size-fits-all advice doesn’t work here, because your financial life is not like anyone else’s.
Find a Financial Planner Who Will Have Honest and Informative Conversations
If you’re looking for a financial planner, you might have some complex or conflicting financial goals and could benefit from a professional who can help to sort them out. A good financial planner should be willing to explain difficult financial concepts so you have a deep understanding of what you’re getting into with any investments or plans.
And if hard conversations need to be had about your priorities or setting realistic goals, you want to work with a person who will tell it to you like it is. Financial planning can be a complicated and emotional process – you need an open, honest guide along the way.
Find a Fiduciary
There are no federal laws that regulate who can call themselves a financial advisor. That means you need to be careful to look for someone who has your best interests at heart.
The best way to do this is to find a financial advisor who is bound by fiduciary duty – meaning they’re legally required to work in your financial best interest. Surprising as it may seem, that’s not required of all financial planners and advisors. Finding a fiduciary means you know you’re getting advice that they believe is good for you, not just good for your planner.
Work with a Certified Professional
Working with a fiduciary doesn’t guarantee that you are working with someone you can trust. So look for a financial planner who is certified by the CFP® Board.
A CFP® professional is a credentialed financial professional who is required to meet strict performance and ethical standards. They must meet requirements for their education, pass a rigorous exam, accumulate thousands of hours of experience, and are sworn to a high standard of conduct. Working with a CFP® means that you know you’re getting advice from a highly educated source who has been vetted by a board of fellow professionals. Hiring a CFP® can take the guesswork out of much of the financial planning process and give you peace of mind.
It is also a good idea to look for a financial planning firm that has at least one CPA (Certified Public Accountant) on staff. CPA are well versed in current tax codes and consequently can be an invaluable resource in the financial planning process. Taxes permeate all financial decisions. Taxes are a part of all planning from estate planning to retirement and investment planning and everything in between. After all, building a tax strategy into your financial plan can mean saving thousands when tax season rolls around.
Know How the Financial Planner Is Paid
Adam Smith said it best: there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
As such, you need to fully understand how your financial planner will be paid, because they can earn their income in several different ways. Knowing which kind can help you assess whether the financial advisor will be a good match for your needs.
Don’t be afraid to ask any potential financial planners about their compensation model, as it can be difficult to determine at first glance. If they’re not forthcoming with information about how they are compensated, find another financial planner.
Fee-Only Financial Advisors
As the name suggests, fee-only financial advisors earn money only from the fees you pay them for their services. They may earn an hourly rate, a percentage of the assets they manage for you, or a flat rate, but all of their income comes from their clients. Fee-only advisors are almost always fiduciaries and it’s in their best interest to make sure your financial plan works well for you.
Fee-Based Financial Advisors
Fee-based advisors earn some of their income from client fees. But unlike fee-only advisors, a percentage of their revenue comes from selling products they get a commission on, like brokerage firm products, insurance products, or mutual funds. This can sometimes set up a conflict of interest, as the advisor will charge you for advice while making money off the products you’re steered towards buying.
Confusingly, these advisors can advertise themselves as fiduciaries, yet only act as a fiduciary when performing some of their services. For example, if the advisor is giving you cash flow advice, then they are wearing their advisor hat, and consequently are held to the fiduciary standard; however, if they begin to use their broker-dealer license and sell you a stock, then they aren’t wearing their fiduciary hat, and consequently needn’t act as a fiduciary.
Finding the Right Financial Planner for You
Partnering with a financial planner can help you reach your financial goals faster and have confidence in your financial future. This can allow you to relax and enjoy today because you know you have a plan. That’s why choosing the right planner is vital – you want to make sure you choose someone who will listen to your goals, act only in your best interests, and be open about the products they recommend.
Bartley Financial is built around a client-first ethos. At our firm, we are as committed to exhibiting high levels of professionalism, as we are to building relationships with clients built on trust and mutual respect. That’s why we only offer a transparent, fee-only compensation structure, so that our clients never need to be concerned about a conflict of interest.
Bartley Financial has an experienced team of CPAs and CFPs® that help clients manage their investment portfolios, plan for retirement, strategize taxes, or execute any other initiatives in pursuit of optimum financial health and minimal financial stress.
Reach out to us today to begin a relationship with a team of knowledgeable, trustworthy professionals who get results for their clients.