Financial Planning: How to Choose a Financial Planner – Finding a Professional You Can Trust

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Financial Planning: How to Choose a Financial Planner – Finding a Professional You Can Trust

A Goal Without a Plan Is Just a Wish

A financial plan can get you on a solid path toward your goals. But what if you don’t have the time, inclination or expertise to create and implement a plan on your own? “Consider hiring a financial planner to assist you,” suggests Financial Planning Association of Singapore (FPAS), a nonprofit member organization of Financial Planning Standards Board (FPSB), the global standards-setting body for financial planning.

A 2015 study by FPSB member organizations showed that consumers lack confidence in achieving their financial goals, but that they are interested in financial planning services to help get them on track financially. Surprisingly, though, many said they rely on friends and family – not professional financial planners – for information on financial matters and financial planning.

“A financial planner can bring in-depth expertise to your situation, help you follow through on your plan and provide an objective perspective on often emotional money issues,” FPAS said. Finding a competent, ethical financial planner can be a challenge, however. In most countries, financial planners are not regulated as such, so anyone—qualified or not – can call himself or herself a financial planner. It’s up to you to shop carefully for a financial planner you can trust.

Tips on choosing a financial planner

FPAS offers the following tips on choosing a qualified financial planner:

√ Look for a true planner. Don’t confuse a financial planner with a stockbroker, insurance intermediary, banker, or accountant. Even if these individuals say they are planners, they may focus on just one aspect of your financial life, like your investments, insurance or taxes. A true financial planner considers all these elements, and uses a financial planning process to identify your goals and provide you with integrated strategies to achieve them. CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER practitioners are educated and trained to take this type of holistic approach. Look for the marks of professional distinction – CFP, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER and CFP logo mark.

√ Identify what you need. You may want a financial planner to develop a comprehensive plan that that addresses your cash flow, debt, investments, insurance, taxes and estate plan. Or, you may prefer to hire a planner who has expertise in a specific area, such as small business planning or retirement planning. By identifying what you need, you can narrow your selection.

√ Ask for recommendations. Your accountant, attorney, business associates and friends are possible sources. Another resource is FPAS’s website,, to find a CFP professional near you.

√ Interview several planners. Many planners offer an initial meeting at no charge, so you can get acquainted and determine if the planner is the right fit for your needs. At the interview, ask the following questions and listen if the planner answers them forthrightly and keeps the focus on your goals and needs.

  1. How do you work with clients? Find out if the planner uses a financial planning process that starts with your needs and goals, analyzes your specific situation before making recommendations and monitors the plan over time. Ask if the planner has clients similar to you.
  2. How are you paid? Some planners charge a flat fee or an hourly rate for their services, or charge a percentage of the assets you have under their management. Others might receive commissions for the products they sell to you as part of the financial plan. Or, their compensation might involve a combination of methods. Make sure you understand and are comfortable with the compensation arrangement.
  3. Do you follow a client-first standard? Look for a planner who pledges to place your interests first. CFP practitioners, for example, adhere to a client-first standard as part of their code of ethics.

√ Check them out. Call references. Check government databases to see if the planner has ever faced professional disciplinary action. If the planner claims to have a credential, verify it with the organization that administers the designation.

√ Follow your instincts. Rapport is important, too. Choose a planner with whom you will feel comfortable sharing your goals, dreams, concerns and financial information—possibly over many years.

Earning trust

“At the core of a planner-client relationship is trust,” FPAS said. “A qualified financial planner must earn your trust by proving competence, providing full disclosure and putting your interests first. Don’t expect anything less.”

For more information about financial planning and choosing a financial planner, visit







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