- Ask about their typical client. If the profile sounds like you, you're on the right track. It's best to work with someone who has built his or her practice around people who are like you in their goals, lifestyle and net worth.
- Find out what services they offer — and how much they charge. Financial planners have different fees depending on the services they provide. Some charge a percent of the assets they manage; others charge a flat or hourly fee. Still others are compensated based on the products they sell you. Get a clear written statement about fees and don't hire anyone who won't give you one. Also keep in mind that someone paid on commission may have his, and not your, best interests at heart.
- Check backgrounds carefully. Find out how long they have been doing this kind of work, as well as any specific training they have. Verify credentials through professional organizations, licensing agencies or various certifications. Ask for and check references. Also see if they have ever been disciplined by the National Association of Securities Dealers or any other regulatory agency, such as the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission.
For more information on finding an adviser who's right for you, visit aarp.org/money, the Financial Planning Association (800-322-4237), or the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (800-366-2732).