Money Talks, So Should You

Q&A: What do I look for in a financial planner?

David John Marotta
by David John Marotta, NAPFA (@MarottaOnMoney)

There are three criteria to look for in a financial planner. The first is professional competency. Advisers who are Certified Financial Planners (CFPs) have passed exams that measure their degree of proficiency.

The second is a client-centric perspective, a more subjective measurement of determining if the adviser’s approach will meet your needs. Most clients want comprehensive financial planning, but many in the financial services industry only offer investment management. Try to determine if your primary concerns match an adviser’s expertise.

READ: What to ask a financial adviser

And finally, make sure you understand how an advisor is paid. A small number of advisers are fee only, which means the only compensation they receive is from clients. This approach minimizes the conflicts of interest that can result from recommending products for which the adviser is paid a commission. Commission-based advisers often call themselves fee based, which is not the same as fee only. Having a fee-only adviser gives you the peace of mind that your adviser does not receive payments for any recommendations.


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David John Marotta, CFP, AIF, is president of Marotta Wealth Management, Inc. Marotta is a member of the National Association of Personal Finance Advisors (NAPFA), a fee-only professional association and a Dimespring knowledge partner.