Many people choose a personal financial advisor based on a referral or recommendation from a friend, colleague, or respected professional like a lawyer or CPA. That’s a start, but not enough. And for sure it’s not the only viable way to seek a skilled, trustworthy advisor.
First, here are four essential items you must know before selecting an advisor:
- License. Don’t do business with an unlicensed person. Your advisor should have a Series 7 or Series 65 license or both.
- Experience. Seek an advisor who has worked with a variety of clients through one or more market cycles, such as the 2008 financial crisis, the tech bubble bursting in 2000-2002, and the October 1987 market crash.
- Compliance record. Avoid advisors who’ve filed for personal bankruptcy or have a pattern of customer complaints. Chronic regulatory and legal problems are critical red flags.
- Credentials. The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Certified Financial Planner (CFP) credentials are the most sought after and respected in the Wealth Management business. Choose a CFA or CFP professional or better yet, an advisor who is both.
Next, here’s where to verify information and research financial advisors:
- FINRA Broker Check
- SEC Investment Adviser Disclosure
- CFP Board’s “Let’s Make a Plan” Website
- CFA Institute Member Directory
Two of the best online brokers in the business that work with independent advisors and their clients are Charles Schwab, and Interactive Brokers (IB). Both Schwab and IB provide a search directory of authorized, independent advisors.
- Don’t take investment advice from an insurance agent unless that agent is also Series 7 or Series 65 licensed.
- An advisor compensated by way of commissions has a conflict of interest. Best to select an independent, fee-only Fiduciary Advisor unaffiliated with a broker/dealer or insurance company.
- For simple advice regarding asset allocation, Robo Advisors are a viable alternative to a traditional financial advisor. However artificial intelligence and computer algorithms are not yet ready to replace a skilled human professional in more complex situations.
- Avoid advisors with low quality, and worse yet, self-conferred professional designations.
- Ask your candidate these ten questions. Get answers. Take notes.
- It’s an excellent idea to choose an advisor that works as part of a cohesive wealth management team. Talk to the lead advisor as well as other members of the group.
Be picky. Verify information. And consider choosing a fee-only fiduciary advisor with experience, a clean record, quality credentials and alliances with one or more top-rated discount brokers.