Tips for working with an Investment Advisor or Financial Planner
- Determine your investment goals before you talk to your advisor
- Let them earn your trust. Make certain you receive statements directly from the brokerage firm. Particularly for independent advisors, don't assume they are working in your best interest. Make them prove it to you.
- Ask how the advisor is compensated. Is it a percentage of your portfolio? How much per year? Does it change based on how much you have invested?
- Know when you're paying twice. Mutual funds almost always have a management fee, so holding these funds means you are paying two advisor's fees. Ask your advisor to favor ETFs or low fee mutual funds.
- Do not allow the advisor to have direct access to your funds. Your account should be in your name.
- Fill out a beneficiary document and update it every time you have a change.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There are no "guaranteed investment returns". The promise of higher returns always means higher downside risk. Your advisor should be talking to you about asset allocation based on market trends, not day trades.
- If you don't understand the investors methodology or philosophy, don't invest with them. If they are talking over your head, slow them down.
- Be wary of short term investments. Retirement investing means investing over a long time horizon. Be wary of shorts/options and other short term trades.
- Read your contract paperwork.
Beware of the following investments:
- Unregistered Promissory Notes (check SECs EDGAR Database)
- Penny Stocks / Stocks valued under $5
- Any high yield investment that is promoted as 'guaranteed' or 'risk free'
- high-yield 'bank guaranteed' or 'Prime Bank' investments
Verify that your Advisor is registered and in good standing with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority
Both Investment Planners and Brokers need to be licensed and in good standing. The best way to validate that your current or prospective broker meets those requirements is to look him/her up on the Finra Website. Search for your broker by name/company/zipcode, and check the details. It will show the length of time in the securities industry, any Disclosure events, and any other issues that may be on record.
If you do see a Disclosure event on the report, details will be available on the SEC Investment Adviser Public Disclosure Site. Most events are Customer disputes, and if you see more than one, you'll want to ask your advisor what happened. Remember there are two sides to every story and the broker may have just had a bad client. If you see a bankruptcy or regulatory action, you'll want to be more wary.
Find a Retirement Planner by Specialty or Location
Please see our Firms page to look for Financial Advisors by organization. We list the top 14 investment firms in the US.
Other ways to research Financial/Retirement Planners
There are numerous organizations that cater to financial planners. We've included links at the bottom of the page to four of them: ASPPA, AAII, RIIA, & NIAAM. While these sites cater to investment professionals, they are also a good resource when researching information about investment choices, advisor quality, etc..