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First, you need to determine whether you’re at a stage in your life where you need a financial planner. Not everyone requires one. A lot of investors don’t realize that virtually all of the reputable investment firms that administer retirement savings accounts have well-informed customer assistance representatives who can answer basic questions about your accounts, investing strategy, and even suggest investment products to suit your needs.
I’ve had a Roth IRA with Fidelity for more than a decade, and at least twice a year, I’ve called on the company’s account representatives to answer specific questions regarding asset allocation and diversification in my portfolio. When I got married, they gave my wife and me advice on combining our retirement accounts–all for free. Charles Schwab, ING, and other firms have similarly helpful reps.
You don’t want to discuss your money worries, goals, hopes, and dreams with just anyone. (See “How to Choose a Financial Planner,” Moneywise, December 2009). If you’ve determined that you really need a financial adviser, you can go to the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards’ search page (www.cfp.net/search) to find a planner in your area. The directory can tell you whether your planner is certified and whether he or she has had any disciplinary actions taken against them. But remember, this Website only gives you a list of names, addresses, and phone numbers. A financial planner is like a doctor or dentist. You’ll have the best luck locating an adviser you like through personal recommendations.
This article originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.