4 things to look for in a financial planner

Portrait of investment advisor businesswoman and young financial businessman analyzing data and working on laptop.

The world is full of people who offer financial advice – both professionally and personally. Newspapers, magazines, online articles, websites, blogs, podcasts, word-of-mouth, and television programs are but a few avenues that financial advisors use to spread their advice. Working your way through the vast amounts of financial information available to you can be a daunting task.

In searching for a financial advisor, you may take to an online search, scouring bios and financial planning websites. This is a great way to begin, but when it comes down to trusting a professional planner with mapping out your financial future, you should look beyond what can be captured on a website. Here are some key things to look for in choosing your financial planner. This is by no means an exhaustive list; however, I do believe it provides a good basis to assist in one’s search:

1) Independence – It is important for financial planners to be free of bias. The term ‘Fee-Only’ is a good indication of a planner’s financial compensation. What Fee-Only means (or, what it should mean in its purest sense) is that the planner will bill you for their service (time) only, and that the planner does not receive commissions for recommending financial products. This should ensure that the planner will only recommend products if they truly believe they are your best interest.

2) Expertise – This may seem obvious, but good financial planners must carry professional competence. While I appreciate that it may be difficult to gauge a person’s capability until after you’ve started to work with them, there are a few things that offer some clue as to the magnitude a professional’s competence. Look for professional designations such as Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Registered Financial Planner (RFP), Trust and Estate Practitioner (TEP), or the Financial Planner (F.Pl.) designations (Quebec) to name a few. Also, look for testimonials, university credentials, and perhaps most importantly, work experience! The more competent and experienced the planner is, the better advice you will receive.

3) Personal Approach – While independence and expertise are certainly important considerations, it’s also important that you find someone you are compatible with on a personal level. Different planners have different styles, and you don’t need to settle for a planner whose style doesn’t suit your needs. One further consideration may be the planner’s long-term career, and/or succession strategy. Life is full of surprises and any number of reasons (relocation, disability, or retirement) may cut your relationship short. Inquire about their plan to transition your account to an equally qualified professional when and if it’s necessary to do so.

4) Reach – Believe it or not, all larger scale financial planners rely on others. As a profession, we’re charged with answering a myriad of questions, and rightfully so. It is only natural that we seek the help of colleagues, specialists, and even professional associations at one time or another. As such, an important thing to consider is not only how good a planner is, but how much reach they have in terms of other professionals. A good planner should have some relationship with accountants, lawyers, insurance brokers, investment managers, etc. It doesn’t hurt to inquire about a planner’s professional network when considering if they are right for you.

For help with finding a planner that’s right for you, visit the Financial Planning Standards Counsel website, or contact a T.E. Wealth expert in one of our five regions.

Personable and professional, Brent Soucie specializes in cross-border tax and financial planning for U.S. citizens and/or Green Card holders residing in Canada, as well as Canadian residents with U.S. employment and/or property. His clients include professional athletes, entrepreneurs, and corporate executives.

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