A good financial planner will not make recommendations until they understand your goals and have run a long-term financial plan for you. If you meet with someone who starts talking about a financial product right away, even if they call themselves a financial planner, they are more likely a financial salesperson. A good financial planner will want to gather account statements and data on all aspects of your financial life.
Anyone can hang out a shingle as a financial planner, but that doesn’t make that person an expert. They may tack on an alphabet soup of letters after their names, but CFP (short for certified financial planner) is the most significant credential. A CFP has passed a rigorous test administered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards about the specifics of personal finance. CFPs must also commit to continuing education on financial matters and ethics classes to maintain their designation. The CFP credential is a good sign that a prospective planner will give sound financial advice. Still, even those who pass the exam may come up short on skills and credibility. As with all things pertaining to your money, be meticulous in choosing the right planner.
Investment advice can range from a general recommendation as to what type of asset allocation model you should follow, to specific recommendations on which investments to buy and sell. Some financial planners also offer investment advice and investment management services in addition to financial planning. Ask a potential financial planner if they give specific investment advice or only offer planning services.
Typically, financial planners earn their living either from commissions or by charging hourly or flat rates for their services. A commission is a fee paid whenever someone buys or sells a stock or other investment. For reasons we’ll explain later, you may want to avoid financial planners who rely on commissions for their income. These advisers may not be the most unbiased source of advice if they profit from steering you into particular products.
As the host of "The Dave Ramsey Show," the third-largest radio program in the United States for 2018, Ramsey teaches more than 13 million daily listeners how to get out of debt quickly. He is an Evangelical Christian and, as such, uses Bible-based principles to teach people how to succeed with money. In each episode of his show, Ramsey responds to a wide range of money-related questions that are asked by callers. These questions may include how to properly invest an unexpected inheritance and the best way to pay off several credit card balances. Ramsey has written a number of New York Times bestselling personal finance books over the years, including "The Total Money Makeover" and "Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money."
If you're considering hiring professional help, you'll need to know what to expect from a good financial planner, and how to tell the difference between a salesperson and someone who offers fiduciary financial planning advice and carries valid financial credentials or designation. Hiring the right professional planner starts by understanding what financial planning is and knowing what to expect of the person you might hire.
There are several resources available that can help you know if an advisor is a fiduciary. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) has an online search tool that makes it easy to find certified financial planners in your area. Every advisor in that system operates on a fee-only basis and promises to act as a fiduciary. Garrett Planning Network is another planner organization of fiduciary financial planners who charge an hourly rate. Additionally, the Certified Financial Planners Board has an advisor search tool. You can use it to look up a particular planner and see their experience and history.