How to Choose a Financial Planner

The FINANCIAL PLANNER INTERVIEW - Below are some questions to ask.

Note: Barbara Nevils' [BN] and Jennifer Morrell's [JN] answers are in red.

BACKGROUND & EXPERIENCE

The backgrounds of financial planners can vary as much as the services offered. The planner's education and experience should demonstrate a solid foundation in financial planning and a commitment to keeping current. In addition to the following questions, ask the planner to describe his or her specific financial planning work experience.
 

1. What is your educational background? College Degree / Area of study.
BN: Degree in Mathematics; Graduate Degree in Mathematics & Education.
JM: BS in Accounting 


Financial planning education and designations:

  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP) BN + JM

  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)

  • CPA/PFS

  • Other


2. How long have you been offering financial planning services?

  • Less than 2 years

  • 2-5 years

BN: 20+ years, JM: 5+ years

3. What continuing education in financial planning do you pursue?

  • 1-14 hours of professional education each year

  • 15-30 hours of professional education each year

BN + JM: At least 30 hours of professional education each year

4. Are you a member of any professional financial planning associations?
BN + JM: Financial Planning Association (FPA)
BN + JM: National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA)

5. Have you ever been cited by a professional or regulatory governing body for disciplinary reasons?

BN + JM: NO

6. Will you, or an associate work for me?
BN + JM

SERVICES

Financial planners provide a range of services. It is important to match client needs with services provided.

1. Does your financial planning service include a review of my goals? And advice on: 

  • Cash management & budgeting

  • Tax planning

  • Investment review & planning

  • Estate planning

  • Insurance needs in the area of life, disability, health and property/casualty

  • Retirement planning

  • Other requested concerns

BN + JM: YES to all of the above.

2. Do you provide a written analysis of my financial situation and recommendations?
BN + JM: YES
And is the analysis tailored to my personal needs and goals?

BN + JM: YES

3. Does your financial planning service include recommendations for specific investments or investment products?

BN + JM: YES
And do you offer assistance with implementation?
BN + JM: YES 


4. Do you offer continuous, on-going advice regarding my financial affairs, including advice on non-investment financial issues?

BN + JM: YES


5. Do you take possession of, or have access to my assets?

BN + JM: NO 

COMPENSATION

Financial planning costs include what a consumer pays in fees and commissions. Comparison between planners requires full information about potential total costs. It is important to have this information before entering into any agreement.

1. How is your firm compensated?

  • Fee-Only

  • Commission Only (from securities insurance, etc.) that clients buy from a firm with which you are associated.

  • Fee and Commissions ("Fee based")

  • Fee offset (You charge a flat fee against which commissions are offset. If the commissions exceed the fee, is the balance credited to me?)

BN + JM: FEE ONLY


2. How is your compensation calculated?

  • Fee-Only: BN + JM

  • Hourly rate: BN + JM: Depends on services

  • Percentage: BN + JM: Depends on type of Assets Under Management

  • Flat fee: BN + JM: Determined Individually


3. Are fees capped
BN + JM: YES


4. If you earn commissions, approximately what percentage of your firm's commission income comes from?
BN + JM: We do not earn commissions on any products.

5. Does any member of your firm act as a general partner, participate in or receive compensation from investments you may recommend to me?

BN + JM: NO

[Note: the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires that this information be disclosed.]

THIS FORM WAS CREATED BY THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF PERSONAL FINANCIAL ADVISORS (NAPFA) TO ASSIST CONSUMERS IN SELECTING A PERSONAL FINANCIAL PLANNER. IT CAN BE USED AS A CHECKLIST DURING AN INTERVIEW OR SENT TO PROSPECTIVE PLANNERS AS A PART OF A PRELIMINARY SCREENING. NAPFA RECOMMENDS THAT INDIVIDUALS FROM AT LEAST TWO DIFFERENT FIRMS BE INTERVIEWED.
 

REGULATORY COMPLIANCE

Federal and state laws require that, under most circumstances, individuals or firms holding themselves out to the public as providing investment advisory services are required to be registered with either the U. S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) or the regulatory agency of the state in which the individual/firm conducts business.

1. Are you or your firm registered as an Investment Advisor with the state of Massachusetts?

BN + JM: YES

Other States?
BN: Also registered in the state of Florida

If not registered with either the SEC or any state, please indicate the allowable reason for non-registration.

607 North Avenue, Building 18
Wakefield, MA 01880

960 SE Indian Street

Stuart, FL 34997

Phone:  877.552.2638 

Fax: 781.245.4114