Selecting a Financial Planner: The Top 10 Questions You Need to Ask
September 28, 2020

For many of us, the decision to hire a financial planner arises at a time when we are facing change. Whether planning for our children’s college education, facing retirement, making some career changes, or getting married/divorced —there are a myriad of opportunities that raise the question: Is it time to get a financial planner?

With that question posed, another follows closely behind—What can a financial planner do for me? Financial planners address your entire financial picture by reviewing your net worth, goals and objectives, cash flow, investments and needs. They help you crystallize your personal/family/business goals and develop an action plan.

Know Your Options

While having a plan is key, you also need to have the right guide to get you where you want to go. This leads many to ask about the difference between a financial planner and an investment advisor. The titles Financial Planner and Financial Advisor can be vague.   While most financial planners are investment advisor representatives (IARs), not all financial advisors are financial planners. Your financial planner should assess every aspect of your financial life—savings, investments, insurance, taxes, retirement, and estate planning—and help you develop a detailed strategy for meeting your financial goals.

Ask the Right Questions

With your goals in sight, it’s time to select the professional best able to make your dreams become a reality. The trick is asking the right questions. The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards developed the following list of 10 questions to ask when interviewing potential financial planners:

1. What experience do you have?

Determine how long the planner has been in practice as well as obtain a description of his/her work experience and how it relates to the current practice.

2. What are your qualifications?

Be sure to select a recognized specialist in financial planning – one who has undergone rigorous education and experience requirements – such as CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER(CFP), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) or Personal Financial Specialist (PFS).

3. What services do you offer?

Does this planner offer comprehensive advice on investments, insurance, retirement, estate planning and taxes?

4. What is your approach to financial planning?

Get a sense of the type of clients with whom the planner typically works. Find out if they require a minimum net worth. Also, ask if the planner will help carry out financial recommendations he/she makes for you.

5. Will you be the only person working with me?

If other people work with the planner on client situations, request to meet the entire “team.”

6. How will I pay for your services?

Planners are compensated by: a salary provided by their company; a fee based on an hourly rate, flat rate or percentage of the assets and/or income; a commission paid by a third party from the products sold to the client; or a combination of any of the above.

7. How much do you typically charge?

While this depends on your particular needs, the planner should give you an estimate before work begins.

8. Could anyone besides me benefit from your recommendations?

To prevent conflicts of interest, ask if the planner receives any compensation for making referrals to other professionals (CPA, attorney, etc.).

9. Have you ever been publicly disciplined for any unlawful/unethical actions in your professional career?

Conduct a background check through the organization regulating the planner’s actions. All financial planners registered as investment advisor representatives (IARs) with the SEC or state securities agencies or who are associated with a company registered as an investment advisor representative, must provide you with a disclosure form (Form ADV Part II or the state equivalent).

10. Can I have a written agreement?

Get a written agreement detailing the services that will be provided. Keep this document in your files for future reference.

Take Action

Armed with the knowledge that you are ready for a financial planner and the list of questions to ask, it’s time to schedule your appointment and get your finances on track. Regardless of whatever life-changing event you are facing, having your financial future mapped out will give you the confidence, knowledge and tools necessary to meet your goals.



Elizabeth Paal Goss is a Registered Representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors. Securities and investment advisory services offered through Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., a broker/dealer (Member SIPC) and registered investment advisor. Insurance offered through Lincoln affiliates and other fine companies. 307 International Circle, Suite 390, Hunt Valley, MD 21030.Heritage Financial Consultants, LLC is not an affiliate of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. CRN-3098153-05