How to Find the Right Financial Adviser

Looking for reliable financial advice in this uncertain economy? Lots of people are. You might want one to jump-start your retirement savings or to make sure what you already have invested survives these turbulent times.

But there’s a lot to consider in your search, especially if this is someone you want to work with long-term.

For starters, you’ll want to know their qualifications and what they charge. You should also look into whether they’re a fiduciary, meaning they’re legally required to act in your financial interest, or whether they work on commission.

Here are three things to ask a potential financial adviser:

1. What services do you offer?

If you’re going to hire a pro, you probably want one who takes a holistic approach — someone who will:

  • Consider your investment portfolio and how to balance it given your risk tolerance and timeline.
  • Understand your tax situation and make moves to reduce your taxes.
  • Help with retirement planning, including setting long-term goals and benchmarks.
  • Consider long-term care and estate planning.

Most Americans don’t use a financial adviser, in part because they assume they’re just something rich people need and can afford. But many offer a variety of services and can work on hourly rates just like lawyers and accountants. Which brings us to the next question …

2. How are you compensated?

Most advisers make money from commissions. That doesn’t mean they’re dishonest, of course, but you have to weigh their advice from that perspective: They get paid more to sell you certain stuff.

That means they have an incentive to know well the things that make them money, and may spend less time learning about options that don’t.

One way to avoid this situation, or worse ones, is to look for a fiduciary adviser. That means they’re legally required to act in your best interest, not theirs. The standard they’re held to is “suitability,” which means they must only suggest investments that make sense for someone with your goals, means and risk tolerance. It’s the difference between “can” and “should.”

Another way to eliminate conflicts of interest is to look for advisers who are fee-only — that is, advisers who charge either an hourly rate (in which case you don’t have to make any long-term commitments) or an annual fee based on the amount they’ll manage. Fee-only advisers are more likely to be fiduciaries as well.

3. What experience do you have?

Obviously someone who’s been doing this for 20 years is better than somebody fresh out of college. But education is a good place to start: Do they have a degree in finance?

Do they have any credentials, like Certified Financial Planner (CFP)? You can and should vet those credentials using things like the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards’ “Verify a CFP Professional” tool and FINRA’s BrokerCheck, which will also help you spot complaints and regulatory actions taken against them.

Note that titles like financial analyst, financial adviser, financial consultant, financial planner, investment consultant and wealth manager are not credentials. None of these requires demonstration of specialized skill or education; they’re just labels anybody can slap on their door.

Are they members of any professional organizations, such as the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors?

How to pick an adviser

You’ll want to talk to several before you make a decision; that’s how you’ll find the one who really stands out.

One source might be referrals from friends or co-workers, who may have similar financial circumstances. You should also check out a free referral service like SmartAsset or Wealthramp.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
2-Minute Money Strategy: How Should I Invest My Retirement Savings?
2-Minute Money Strategy: How Should I Invest My Retirement Savings?

If retirement is on the horizon, you can’t afford to take too much risk, but you also need to make as much as possible. Here are your options.

7 Deadly Health Mistakes People Make After Age 50
7 Deadly Health Mistakes People Make After Age 50

Simply avoiding these actions, or lack thereof, can improve the odds of a longer, more healthful life.

7 Mistakes Guaranteed to Ruin Your Retirement
7 Mistakes Guaranteed to Ruin Your Retirement

Make even one of these money mistakes, and you’ll probably end up eating ramen noodles in your golden years.

9 Free Things That Used to Cost Us Money
9 Free Things That Used to Cost Us Money

Not everything is getting more expensive.

9 Affordable Ways to Make Your Home Look Expensive
9 Affordable Ways to Make Your Home Look Expensive

These products from Amazon add elegance to your home without the expense.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

Why Cloth Masks May Increase Your Coronavirus Risk
Why Cloth Masks May Increase Your Coronavirus Risk

A new study finds that wearing a cloth mask can backfire if you don’t clean it properly.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous
11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020
The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020

Based on dozens of metrics tied to affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

This Is the Cheapest Place to Buy a Used Car
This Is the Cheapest Place to Buy a Used Car

Looking for a good deal on a set of wheels? This should be your first stop.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value
7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value

You can add value to your home without hiring a contractor to do expensive renovations.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees
5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.