If you're interested in finding a financial advisor but aren't sure where or how to begin, here are some resources that can help.
For starters, many people ask friends or family for referrals of advisors. That isn't a bad idea, but just because a friend uses a particular advisor doesn't mean that person is right for you.
Your best strategy is to get a list of advisors in your area who handle clients with similar finances and goals. That will take a lot of phone work on your part--first to get advisor names, then to call them and cull perhaps four to six who might be compatible.
After that, you will face still more research, checking advisors' backgrounds, getting more referrals and, finally, interviewing each advisor one-on-one.
A lot of work? Of course. But what is a more serious issue than your long-term financial well-being?
REFERRALS: PROFESSIONAL GROUPS These groups will send you lists of member advisors in your area.
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (personal financial planning division) Phone: (800) 862-4272 Web site: http://www.aicpa.org
Financial Planning Assn. Phone: (800) 282-PLAN Web site: http://www.fpanet.org
National Assn. of Personal Financial Advisors Phone: (888) FEE-ONLY Web site: http://www.napfa.org
REFERRALS: PRIVATE FIRMS THAT SCREEN ADVISORS These companies will recommend a list of advisors who have been screened for certain qualities. The advisors pay to be evaluated by the programs. Ask the referral firms for details and for minimum required investment amounts.
Charles Schwab Corp. (AdvisorSource) Phone: (800) 278-2820 Web site: http://www.schwab.com
AdvisorLink Phone: (800) 348-3601 Web site: http://www.advisorlink.com
REGULATORY AGENCIES Under a new federal law, regulation of financial advisors will be split between the federal Securities and Exchange Commission and state securities regulators beginning July 8. Generally, advisors who manage more than $25 million will be regulated by the SEC; those who manage less than $25 million will be regulated by their state securities administrator.
Securities and Exchange Commission
Phone: (800) 732-0330
Web site: http://www.sec.gov Useful for: Guidance on evaluating SEC-regulated advisors, literature on general questions to ask when interviewing an advisor.
National Assn. of Securities Dealers Regulation
Phone: (800) 289-9999
Web site: http://www.nasdr.com Useful for: Requesting disciplinary histories on brokerage representatives and broker-dealers, general information on avoiding fraud.
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards
Phone: (303) 830-7500
Web site: http://www.cfp-board.org Useful for: Checking on planner's CFP designation and disciplinary history.
California Department of Corporations
Phone: (213) 736-7588
Web site: http://www.corp.ca.gov Useful for: Obtaining information on state-regulated investment advisors, including disciplinary histories.
National Fraud Exchange
(Mortgage Asset Research Institute)
Phone: (800) 822-0416
Useful for: Comprehensive one-stop background searches for investment advisors, financial planners, brokers, etc. Fee: $39 per report. Ask for details.
Investor Protection Trust
Web site: http://www.investorprotection.org Useful for: Excellent site for links to other regulatory agencies, plus advice on investing wisely and investigating investment advisors.