Before you hire a financial planner …

Published 10:50 pm Saturday, September 22, 2012

By Mark McGahee

You may have decided the time has come to work with a financial planner. Perhaps you have a specific financial goal or need that you want help with, or maybe you would rather not devote the time and effort, or you think you don’t have the expertise to organize your finances.

How do you choose a financial planner who is competent, trustworthy and has your best interest at heart? Following are questions you should ask to help you select the planner who’s right for you.

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What experience do you have?

Ask the planner to describe his or her work experience, including the type of work done, and how it relates to his or her current planning practice. A planner should have a minimum of three years experience.

What are your qualifications?

What has the planner done to be qualified to address your circumstances and needs? Look for planners who hold certifications such as the Certified Financial Planner Chartered Financial Consultant.

What services do you offer?

In order to provide products and services such as life, disability, long-term care insurance, annuities, stocks, bonds and mutual funds, a planner must hold specific insurance licenses and/or securities licenses.

What is your approach to financial planning?

Find out what types of clients the planner prefers to work with (young/mature, middle income/high net worth). Also, some planners may want to bring together all of your financial goals, while others may provide advice only in specific areas such as investments, or life insurance.

Will you be the only person working with me?

The planner may work alone, or may work with a team. Some have a team of specialists that focus on different areas such as retirement planning, estate planning, tax planning and protection planning. Some planners work with professionals outside of their practice, such as attorneys or CPAs.

How much do you charge, and how will I pay for your services?

Establish up front how the planner will be paid. Some charge by the hour, some charge a flat fee, some are paid commissions on the products you purchase from them, some are paid a percentage of the investments they manage for you, and some are paid by a combination of these methods.

Could anyone besides me benefit from your recommendations?

Ask the planner to disclose his or her business relationships with other individuals or companies that could affect professional judgment. An insurance company represented by the planner may provide an extra incentive to the planner for selling its products.

Have you ever been publically disciplined for unlawful or unethical practices?

You can use FINRA BrokerCheck at to find out if a securities broker has been disciplined by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Also, the CFP Board keeps records on the disciplinary history of financial planners.

Can I have it in writing?

Ask the planner to give you a written agreement that spells out the details of services that will be provided.

Take the time and make the effort to complete your homework before you hire a financial planner.

Mark U. McGahee is a financial planner and specializes in investment and protection planning. Email him at