How To Find a Financial Planner

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If you're in your 20s, you may think you don't need to worry about your financial future. But this is actually the best time to start planning financially for the future.

This is where a financial planner comes in. Hiring a certified professional can help you better reach your financial goals throughout your life.

Though they may not seem financially-oriented at first, many of your goals are likely related to finances: saving for retirement, purchasing a home, helping your children attend college, or starting your own business. A good financial planner can help you to reach those goals by setting up a financial plan.

But it can be tough to find the right financial planner for your needs. Follow these five steps to find the best financial planner for you.

Write Down Your Financial Goals

Before you meet with a financial planner, you need to determine what you want to accomplish in terms of long and short-term goals.

Take an evening or weekend to write down your specific money-related goals, whether it be buying a bigger house, paying off debt, or setting up a college savings plan for your child. It also may be helpful to list where you want to be in 5 years, 10 years, even 20 years.

Don't forget about saving for retirement. Be sure to include a few goals regarding where and how you want to spend your retirement years. If charitable giving is important to you, write down your goals regarding your ability to give away money in the future.

This will give a financial planner a more well-rounded view of where you'd like to be financially. Then they can help you get there.

Find a Financial Planner That Understands You

Don't just put your money with the first financial planner you meet with. Do your research online, then ask around. Often, word of mouth is the best way to find a great financial planner.

Ideally, you should ask friends or relatives who have similar goals and strategies regarding finances. This will help you find a financial planner who is a better fit. You can find a financial planner through your local bank, a brokerage firm, or through a professional organization, such as The Financial Planning Association.

Review Information on Different Planners and Investment Firms

Gather information from several planners before you decide on who to go interview. Many financial planners have income or investment minimums that you must meet before they will work with you.

Others will specialize in different areas, such as small business, retirement planning, or estate planning. Each firm should also disclose any fees and/or commissions that the financial planner is paid.

Interview Several Financial Planners

Then you should interview several financial planners before choosing one. You should find a financial planner that you feel comfortable with and who listens to you and carefully considers your needs. You should also ensure that any financial planner you work with is a certified financial planner (CFP).

For example, a good financial planner may suggest products and services to help you meet your goals, but should not force you into taking certain investments. Also, he or she should always be able to explain to you why an investment is a good one, as well any risks associated with that investment. If he or she refuses to or you find yourself arguing with him, you should likely find another financial planner.

Start Investing

Finally, you should meet with your chosen financial planner and begin to invest. You and your financial planner will consider your goals, then figure out a workable plan for you to get there. He or she will likely give you a certain amount of money you should invest each month to work toward your goals. To meet this number, you may have to cut spending or stick to a budget.

You should continue to meet with your financial planner on an annual basis. You should also meet with him or her if you experience life-changing events such as marriage, having a child, or going through a divorce. Your goals may change over time, and it is important to clearly communicate these goals with your planner.

Other tips:

  1. Most good financial planners will recognize and emphasize the importance of having an emergency cash reserve on hand. This means that you should have several months’ worth of income in a savings account that is easy to access if you lose your job or another true emergency arises. This will allow you to leave the money you have invested in the market.
  2. Financial planners should look at your entire financial picture. They may make suggestions on a percentage of your income to invest, address your insurance needs, or managing your risks and your taxes. It is important to carefully consider this advice, but you should be comfortable with any product that you choose.
  1. You should also consider the way that your financial planner is paid. If it is purely via commission, then you need to take that into account when they suggest certain products and investments, since they may be getting a cut.
  2. You should be able to completely understand an investment before you make it. Your financial planner should be able to explain the difference between annuities and mutual funds, as well as the risk and rate of return for each investment. If you cannot understand the investment or if your planner does not seem able to explain it, you may want to find a new financial planner.

    Updated by Rachel Morgan Cautero.