Getting the answers to important questions up front will help you avoid surprises (the bad kind) later on.
Most people, however, don’t know what questions to ask. When you decide to start looking for advisors, you may find there are many to choose from. You can narrow down your list with some calls or emails asking a few basic questions.
What are your credentials? Designations are often listed after a planner’s name.
What exactly do you do? The term financial planner is ambiguous, so ask who their typical clients are and what their area of expertise is.
How do you get paid, and what will it cost me? Financial planners can be compensated in a number of ways.
Are you a fiduciary? Fiduciaries make a commitment to work in the best interest of the client. They cannot combine product sales with advice giving, and they must disclose how they get paid.
Once know who you’re interested in, it’s time to get more details. Both The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have developed lists of questions that you can use when interviewing candidates.
NAPFA’s consumer resources page has some great tips and tools for choosing a planner. We suggest giving a copy of the NAPFA “Tough questions to ask your advisor” questionnaire to each candidate to fill out. This will make it easy to do a side-by-side comparison and those who don’t want to fill it out can quickly be eliminated from your pool of prospects. In fact, there may be good reason they don’t want to answer some of the questions.
The SEC website provides questions to ask that are specific to investment products as well as the people who sell them. Plus, you’ll find good information about the 403(b) and what to look for when choosing a provider.