It’s Your Money Column – Finding a Financial Planner

Question: How can I find someone to help me update our financial plan? Do you work with individuals?

Answer: Thanks for asking, but I am strictly an educator. You can find copies of past "It’s Your Money" columns that might help answer some of your questions on the Web at Otherwise, here are some tips to find the right financial planner.

Your financial planner will know more about your personal financial resources than anyone else. It is imperative that you find one you can trust, feel comfortable with and depend upon to provide professional advice suited to your individual needs.

When you are looking for a financial planner, know what it is that you want the planner to help you with. Determine your general financial goals such as college tuition financing, retirement planning, investment advice, estate planning and/or an overall financial plan. You can do a better job communicating with a prospective financial planner if you know the specific expertise you are looking for.

Some financial planners are fee-only and will charge based on the time spent on your plan. Other planners work only on commission. You won’t pay a fee but they will be compensated for the products that you purchase from them. Some planners are both fee- and commission-based, so clarify the method of payment before engaging a financial planner’s services so there is no misunderstanding.

Planners are identified by different credentials. A certified financial planner, or CFP, has passed comprehensive exams. You can get a list of CFPs from or by calling 1-800-282-7526. Personal Financial Specialists have at least three years of training and have passed an exam beyond their initial public accountant license. The insurance industry’s financial planning designation is the Chartered Financial Consultant, or ChFC.

Membership in professional organizations indicates a planner’s commitment to being accurate and current about financial planning issues. CFPs and ChFCs often belong to the Financial Planning Association. Fee-only financial planners are often members of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. Check the NAPFA Web site at for fee-only financial planners in your area.

Get referrals from advisors you trust and from business associates and friends. Ask the planner for names of clients who have similar financial planning needs and who would be willing to serve as references.

When you interview a financial planner, you’ll want to know:

  • years of financial planning experience,
  • membership in professional organizations, and
  • how they are compensated.

Finally, make sure you get a written contract to document the nature and scope of services the planner will provide.