Start by getting recommendations from family, friends and coworkers. Ask them who they trust with their financial needs – and why.
Look to other sources for recommendations, including:
- Your bank, attorney or tax planner
- Internet listings for financial services, with customer reviews
- Brokerage firms
Interview the candidates
Plan to talk to several candidates to find the one who’s right for you. You’ll have lots of questions and so will they. You can expect an investment professional to ask questions regarding your:
- Current investments
- Financial goals
- Insurance needs, such as long-term disability
- Retirement and long-term health care plans
- Level of investment risk
Be sure to ask for references from others they work with, such as accountants, attorneys or insurance agents. Also ask for a contract that lists the services they’ll provide and what you'll pay for them.
Check their credentials
Certification doesn't guarantee competence, but professional licenses do take time and effort to achieve. Some of the most common professional designations include:
- CFP, Certified Financial Planner. Someone who is trained in insurance, investments, taxes, retirement planning, estate planning and the financial planning process.
- CFA, Chartered Financial Analyst. Someone who specializes in portfolio management and investment analysis.
- ChFC, Chartered Financial Consultant. Someone trained to effectively apply a comprehensive financial planning process to meet their clients’ needs.
- CIMA, Certified Investment Management Analyst. Someone with training to select investments, manage risk and measure portfolio return
- CPA, Certified Public Accountant. An accountant who has met further education, statutory and licensing requirements.
- CLU, Charted Life Underwriter. Someone knowledgeable about life insurance for individuals, business owners and professionals. This includes income replacement, estate planning and wealth transfer.
Call the professional associations your candidates mention and find out if their membership is in good standing and whether there are any complaints against them. Also check their backgrounds on the FINRA website.
Ask how they’re compensated
Some investment professionals are paid a commission. They earn money when you buy a product or service from them.
Others charge a fee. They’re paid for the time they spend with you, not the products they sell. Some charge a flat fee for a certain service, such as $300 to create a retirement plan. Others are paid based on the amount of money they manage. For instance, an investment professional who manages $50,000 of your money may charge you 2% per year, or $1,000. That fee could be paid in either a lump sum or spread out over several payments.
Some investment professionals charge a fee plus commission. First they charge a fee to meet with you. Then they’re paid a commission if you buy the products they recommend.
Build a relationship
Once you've found a qualified professional that suits your needs, you can start taking steps to plan for your financial future.
Your investment professional will work with you to develop a clear picture of your current financial situation and help you work toward your financial goals. By building a relationship with them over time, you’ll also be able to request annual checkups so they’ll know when your needs change.
If you’re still looking for more suggestions on where to begin your search, you can start with Nationwide. Find an investment professional today.