By Rita Cheng, CRPC®, CFP®
Financial Advisor and Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner
Ameriprise Platinum Financial Services
In my August 2012 article, I defined wealth management, and offered six tips to get you started on the path toward solid financial planning for your future.
My top recommendations included:
- Take charge: Remember, it’s your money. You are in complete control of the engagement with your financial planner. You need to feel heard and understood, as opposed to being lectured to or talked down to.
- Look at the big picture: Financial planning is more than just retirement planning or tax planning, so it’s important to keep both your long- and short-term goals in mind when developing a strategy.
- Don’t confuse financial planning with investing: There is a difference, and you need to distinguish between them. The financial planning process helps you understand the impact that one decision may have on other areas of your financial life.
- Don’t expect unrealistic returns on investments: The market fluctuates daily, so take a long-term view, especially with your retirement funds. It is not uncommon for clients to adopt a 30-year time horizon for retirement.
- Don’t wait until a money crisis to begin financial planning: It is never too early to plan, nor is it ever too late to start planning. You may not be able to control stock market volatility, interest rate fluctuations, or the value of your home, but you can still be in control of your future. Planning provides direction and guidance, which can ultimately increase your financial confidence.
To assist you further, here are three tips on how to pick a financial planner.
1. Do your homework.
Remember, it’s your money—and you are responsible for making sure that anyone who is managing it will do the best of their ability. Because the past few years have shown us that not all financial managers are trustworthy, it’s important to spend time with several planners to learn which one you are most comfortable working with.
- Interview the candidates several times.
- Ask for references—and check them (see details in #2 below).
- And most importantly, remember that you are the boss in this relationship. Technical skills and competence are the starting point. Your advisor must understand your time horizon, your goals, your capacity for risk—and most importantly, you as an individual, not just an investor.
2. Be diligent about checking references.
I can’t emphasize this enough. Here are some useful sites for your research:
- Finra.org is the Financial Industry’s Regulatory Agency where you can obtain records on stockbrokers, investment advisors, and insurance agents and their firms. Finra offers information on the states and regulatory organizations they are registered with, as well as the licenses they hold, and the exams they have taken/passed.
- Adviserinfo.sec.gov has information about clients, fees, and business and disciplinary records for investment advisors regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. These are firms that manage more than $25 million. Click on “Investment Advisor Search” in the left column to see the Form ADV.
- www.fpanet.org is the official site of the Financial Planning Association, which lists information about advisors’ education and area-of-practice focus.
3. Find a financial planner in your area. Be sure to inquire about how the advisor makes decisions, assesses their performance, and processes decisions. Listen for responses that seem too impressive or evasive.
- Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.
800-487-1497 • www.cfp.net
- Financial Planning Association
800-322-4237 • www.fpanet.org
- National Association of Personal Financial Advisors
800-366-2732 • www.napfa.org
For more good information on this topic, read this useful article in The Wall Street Journal.
Rita Cheng, CRPC®, CFP® is a Certified Financial Planner TM based in Bethesda, MD. She works with individuals and families to help them identify, clarify, and quantify their life financial goals and objectives.
Through her personalized approach, she educates and empowers her clients to plan for their personal financial future. She proudly serves as a CFP Board Ambassador to help raise awareness in the public at large, the media, and among policymakers about the benefits of competent, ethical financial planning.
Since January 2012, she has been the president of the Financial Planning Association of the National Capital Area.
For more information, visit www.ameripriseadvisors.com.