Everyone arrives at a time in life when he or she must decide who, if anyone, will assist with the critically important work of transforming retirement lifestyle dreams and goals into reality. What initially begins in early working years as a relatively simple, self-directed financial life consisting mostly of basic investment accounts and insurance programs grows more complex as life moves forward and variables multiply.

Most people simply outgrow the capacity to manage their own financial affairs long before they realize it. The time to make the transition from a “do it myself” plan to an “I need professional help with my planning” strategy is before, and not after, you make an expensive financial mistake.

To begin the process, locating a qualified financial adviser prospect can occur through several channels. Referral from friends, family, or work associates is one source. Make sure you ask why this person or firm is being recommended to you. You’re looking for reasons that go beyond the adviser being the referrer’s sister-in-law or being new in the business and needing new clients. Another source is requesting a referral through a trusted resource such as your tax or legal professional. Also, industry associations such as the Financial Planning Association® (FPA®) (http://www.plannersearch.org/), the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) (http://www.napfa.org/), and the Find a CFP® Professional (http://www.cfp.net) can yield qualified candidates. Finally, there are sponsored referral sources available where a financial adviser pays a fee to be introduced to you. This type of referral can create a potential conflict of interest that raises questions about the motivation of the referral source. Is the adviser being recommended to you because of his or her great qualification or is it because of a paid fee or both?

Next comes the premeeting vetting process. This step is often skipped and is vital to the hiring process. Before you actually meet the potential financial adviser, conduct your own investigation of the candidates’ work, education, and disciplinary history. There are two public adviser-vetting resources: Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) (http://brokercheck.finra.org) and the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website (http://www.adviserinfo.sec.gov/) . Also, study the website of the adviser’s firm. Does it describe a holistic financial planning approach, or does it highlight services in just one or two areas? If there are no red flags, and everything checks out to your satisfaction, it’s time to schedule a “meet and greet” meeting.

It’s important to evaluate a potential financial adviser and his or her firm in several areas before you make a hiring decision. Diamonds are graded by assessing the four Cs—cut, color, clarity, and caret. Financial advisers should be evaluated by assessing the seven Cs: character, commitment, communication, competence,   connections, comprehensiveness, and compensation.

To assist you with a seven Cs assessment of a potential financial adviser, go to https://retirementrecess.com/seven-cs/ and request the e-book Hiring a Lifetime Financial Adviser. Also, download The Seven Cs Financial Adviser Profile Questionnaire in theExtra Creditsection at:   https://retirementrecess.com/thank-you-extra-credit/

Once you have all your information about the potential financial adviser and all your questions have been answered to your satisfaction, it’s time to make your selection and hire your financial planning pro to begin the process of securing your financial future.


Jim Collier, author of Retirement is Recess for Grown-Ups and the blog The Retired Retirement Planner, is the founder of RetirED LLC, a non-affiliated retire ready resource company located in Larkspur, Colorado.

For more education topics visit: www.retirementrecess.com or email: jim@retirementrecess.com.

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