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Traits to Look for in a Planner


Years of experience Number of actual years giving investment advice, not number of years in finance. Fifteen years in banking of which four is actually client facing, and giving investment advice is a big difference.

Credentials Most common are Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC). There are numerous other designations. Research designations before making a decision.

References Typically two or three are adequate. This is your time to ask questions about experiences, highlights and low-lights. Best traits? Worst traits?, etc.

Interview You should meet with a planner as many times as you are comfortable with before making a decision. Take notes and ask clarifying questions. Bring a trusted family member with you if need be.

Pricing Should be in writing, and broken down into the following:

• Planning fees: What the planner will charge to construct your financial plan. Hourly, flat fee, another arrangement? You want this in writing.

• Advisory fees: What the planner will charge to give you ongoing advice. Can be based on how much money you invest, an hourly rate, or a flat fee. You want this in writing.

• Management fees: What it will cost to maintain the portfolio. This can be a flat fee or based on commissions. You want this in writing.

• Expense ratio of the portfolio: What do the underlying investments cost? Typically a flat fee. Remember: You are always paying for something. Nothing is free.

Career history: How many firms has the person worked for? Does the person have any complaints against them? What states are they registered to conduct business in? What licensing do they have? You can find out all of this at finra.org/brokercheck.

Honest and concise answers to questions: How does the person you are meeting with respond to questions? Does he or she: answer them in a clear and concise manner and respect your time? Or does he or she talk down to you or use complex terms without explaining the meaning?

Your wealth, regardless of amount, is important. Don’t let anyone rush you into making financial decisions.

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