How to Vet a Financial Adviser

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Be sure to interview a few options and check into their backgrounds before hiring someone.


Interview a few advisers before you settle on one. Having conversations with the advisers will also give you a feel for how your personalities mesh. Ask questions, and check out their credentials and disciplinary history, too.

The Interview

Make sure you understand the basics. What are the adviser's certifications, and what services does she offer? Is she a fiduciary? Find out more about her specialties. Does she focus on areas where you need help (say, estate planning and retirement-account withdrawal strategies), and does she work with other clients like you? What's her overall philosophy on financial planning and investing? Also ask how many years she has been in practice.

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Dig into the numbers, too. What is the adviser's minimum investable asset requirement? How will he charge you–as a percentage of assets under management, by the hour, or some other model? Get an estimate of how much you'll pay for advisory services, and ask about fees on underlying investment holdings if he manages your portfolio. Find out whether the adviser is paid commissions–and if so, on what types of products.

Background Check

At www.letsmakeaplan.org, you can verify a planner's certification as a CFP (click on "Verify a CFP Professional's Status"). You'll also see any information on the planner's disciplinary history with the CFP Board and on bankruptcy filings in the past 10 years.

To vet a registered investment adviser, visit the database at www.investor.gov. You can search an individual's name and click on "Detailed Report" to see information on qualifications, employment history, disciplinary actions by regulators, criminal convictions and other details. You can also search a firm's name to view its Form ADV and Part 2 brochures, which have information on the types of business the firm conducts, its clientele, disciplinary actions, fee schedules, conflicts of interest and other items.

The Investor.gov database also lists whether an adviser or firm is registered as a broker. For more on a broker, visit https://brokercheck.finra.org, where you can search an individual's or firm's name to get such details as years of experience, licensing, exams passed and regulatory actions.

See Also: Do You Need a Financial Adviser?