Find someone you can trust
with your savings.
Just a few short years ago it seemed easy to make your own investment choices: just drop everything into the stock market, and you were sure to gain. Now, though, two years of a down market -- peppered by corporate blowups and untold losses -- has led many individuals to seek professional help.
Working with a financial planner can do a lot of good -- they can help you determine your goals, assess your comfort with risk and even suggest specific investments. But they won't solve all your problems; you alone are responsible for your investing decisions. All the more reason you need to find a planner you can trust. To that end, here are a few tips to keep in mind while looking for some help:
- Know what you want. You should have a fair idea of what you'd like a planner to help you with. Are you looking for a retirement plan? Or do you have other goals you need to reach before retirement, such as buying a home or paying for college? "A lot of people walk into a planner's office, drop everything and say, 'How can you help me?'" says John Markese, president of the nonprofit, Chicago-based American Association of Individual Investors. "Ask yourself this basic question first: What are you trying to achieve?"
American Association of Individual Investors
- Know your expert letters. There are several designations for financial planners; most of which indicate a certain level of education and experience. The most common is the Certified Financial Planner (CFP), issued by the CFP Board. There's also the Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) designation that only CPAs (Certified Public Accountants) can get. Both represent a high level of education and continuing requirements. If you want your planner to make specific investing choices, make sure he or she is a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA); this designation is administered by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Securities and Exchange Commission