Three simple steps to find your financial planner

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Finding the right financial planner for you is often like looking for a needle in a haystack. There are thousands of financial planners out there, which can make it difficult to find the right person for you.

More often than not, you’ll find planners with a wide range of experiences, but they rarely get the aha! moment from someone whose expertise precisely matches your story and unique financial goals. Consider finding a financial planner rather than hiring a personal chief financial officer (CFO). He is someone who is able to look at your finances holistically and help you with budgeting, taxes, estate planning, investments and more. Following these three simple steps to finding a financial planner will help you make the most informed decision in hiring the right planner for you.

Step 1: Understand your why

Before you begin your search for a financial planner, it’s important to understand why you’re looking for one. You may be wondering, “How can I worry less about a comfortable retirement?” Or, your question may be a bit more complex: “Is my current financial plan really right for me?”

No matter how simple or complex the question, a financial planner can help you find answers about saving, investing, organizing cash flow, paying off debt, saving for college, retirement plans and other important financial decisions. They can also help you set and work on specific goals and feel more confident and financially prepared for the long term.

• Long-term well-being: The reason you first seek to understand your why is found in a study published in The Journal of Consumer Research. Perceived financial well-being plays an important role in overall well-being. The study found that financial security is as important as health, job satisfaction and relationship stability combined.

By evaluating why a financial planner can help you, you get a little closer. The good financial planner is someone who knows what he is doing while understanding you. Just like your doctor, your planner needs to know exactly what to do based on your history.

• A holistic perspective: Even if you’ve been able to manage your finances on your own, a financial planner can provide you with fresh perspective. Just as bestselling author Lori Gottlieb talks about in Maybe you should talk to someonewe often need an unbiased perspective to help us truly understand where our decision making is faltering.

A financial planner can help you avoid the same inefficient financial patterns by keeping you disciplined in your strategies. They can also offer advice in times of uncertainty, while remaining impartial and keeping you accountable to your long-term financial goals.

The first thing you need to do to narrow down your options is to start with the basics. Think about how you manage your money now and how you would like it to be managed in the future. Understand your specific situation and the type of advice you need.

Step 2: Consider credentials and compensation

Because you want the best financial advice, you need to seek out the right credentials. These include Certified Financial Planners (CFP) and Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA), which means they have passed exams on the specifics of personal finance and investing, respectively. Although certifications vary, these counselors (ideally) adhere to an ethics policy and consistently meet continuing education requirements to keep themselves in top shape to serve you. Due to the nature of these credentials, they come with thousands of hours of financial planning experience.

Also find out how they are paid. Are they commission or non-commission advisors? The former will likely be incentivized to move towards specific services or products that they benefit from, and the latter operate by charging fees for the services offered. Paid advisors vary in cost.

If you’re looking for someone who will have your best interests at heart, consider a planner who is a fiduciary. This means that they are committed to acting in the best interests of their customers.

Step 3: Ask questions

Once you’ve narrowed down the options, ask questions. Think of the first call with your potential financial planner as a “first date.” Do they listen to your concerns or do they speak to the minute? These can be indicators of your relationship, so keep an eye out for red flags.

You will also want to ask about their experience. Dig a little deeper and find out about their company philosophy and financial planning services. Ask about the customers they serve. You want someone who has made progress with clients in situations similar to yours. Is their approach aligned with yours?

Double check step 2 by asking if they are associated with a broker. Are they paid to recommend products/services?

Tip: Verify the information the financial planner gave you by checking their file and credentials. Look for them on membership organizations they belong to, such as the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.

Don’t be shy when interviewing your potential planner. Focus on evaluating whether the answers provided match your why.

Find a financial planner

There is a common misconception that a household CFO is only for the wealthy. People think it’s expensive and unnecessary, but there are great financial planners out there for everyone. They can be beneficial regardless of your income and will help you plan for the future and prepare for major life milestones, such as paying for your education, buying a house, getting married, changing jobs or taking your retirement. Choosing the right financial planner can be overwhelming, but often, if done correctly, is very rewarding not only for your financial security, but also for your overall well-being.

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