Obtaining Professional Advice

Attending a seminar, reading books on personal finance, casually discussing money management or using computer software can help measure the dimension of your concern about these issues. They can also help you focus on the areas that need the most immediate attention, such as education funding or liability protection. However, these steps cannot help you determine:

  • How to reorganize your present investments in order to increase your net after-tax investment return
  • How to structure the investments held by you and your family in order to maximize the potential financial aid for education funding or long term care
  • How to select and purchase the most suitable mix of investments and insurance to pre-fund education, survivor needs and retirement income expenses
  • How to change your estate plan and retirement plans as a result of thorough needs analysis and goal setting

Of course, you can try to “go it alone” in these regards, but you may not have the appropriate training, background or time. In any event, you probably do not have the licenses to make the purchases of products directly. There are two types of people who may be able to assist:

  • A product salesperson (insurance and securities) who is compensated entirely by the commissions on purchases
  • A qualified financial advisor who may charge a fee for the time required to prepare any analysis and develop a report for your consideration

There is certainly nothing wrong with a salesperson's receiving a commission on purchases. That is how people are generally compensated in the financial product area. After all, if you purchase a Certificate of Deposit at a local bank, you do not for a minute believe that the tellers and officers are working for free. Their compensation is derived from the difference (you could call it a commission) between what the bank earns on its investments and what it credits to your account.

However, there are many reasons why you need the financial advice first. Then you are free to make the product decisions without feeling obligated to immediately make purchases. You do not want to be under pressure to make purchases; simply because that is the only way a financial advisor will be compensated.

For these reasons, you may want to obtain the services of a qualified financial advisor who can separate the advice stage from the product purchase. What are the qualifications that you should look for in such a person? How do you go about finding and selecting a person who can help chart your path through the financial dilemmas? The person you ultimately select must have:

  • Sufficient experience guiding personal financial affairs
  • Professional education, both initial and ongoing
  • Standing in recognized financial associations
  • Adherence to the developed professional standards
  • A commitment to client service and your objectives
  • The capacity to fulfill your current and future needs
  • Sufficient staff, facilities and computer equipment
  • The ability to provide comprehensive analysis and ongoing services
  • An ethical posture
  • An ability to communicate effectively

Of all the requirements listed above, perhaps the most important is the capacity to communicate with you and your spouse, so as to clarify your attitudes and to help you understand all the ramifications of the alternatives.

PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS

There are several professional designations, degrees or memberships that indicate that the financial advisor has met educational, experience and ethical qualifications. The following are that Dave holds:

CFP® - Certified Financial Planner. Completed an educational program, passed certifying exams, meets continuing education requirements and is licensed by the CFP Board of Standards.

CPA - Certified Public Accountant. Has met educational qualifications, passed examinations and met experience qualifications in the area of public accounting. A few CPAs have also taken additional financial planning study courses and are Accredited Personal Financial Specialists.