Finding an Experienced Financial Planner in San Rafael




















Before you decide to work with a financial advisor, you want to make sure you're partnering with the best person for you and your situation.  



Here are 10 questions to ask during your interview process:



1. Are you a fiduciary?

Fiduciaries work in the best interest of the client rather than what is merely "suitable." Nonfiduciaries who do not abide by this standard may recommend products even if they are not the lowest-cost or most ideal for you. Many IAR and CFP's abide by fiduciary standards and I would suggest only working with those who have your best interest at heart.


2. How do you get paid?  

The advisor fee structure can vary. Some are compensated by commission, others as a percentage of assets under management, and others only are compensated by generating a financial plan. The first step is to understand the type of relationship you are looking for. If you are a DIYer and enjoy investing yourself, then having a one-off financial plan may be the best engagement for you. If you desire to have someone work with you through time while managing everything for you, then an asset under management model would fit best. 


3. What are your qualifications? 

Many financial professionals may or may not have a list of professional designations after their names. The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation is the gold standard of the industry and demonstrates a financial planner's commitment to education, professionalism, and client-centered planning. Other qualifications include a Series 7, which allows an advisor to buy individual stock or bond positions. An Investment Advisor Representative affords a practitioner to manage the investment for a fee. Being insurance licensed allows an insurance agent to transact insurance products like life insurance, disability insurance, long-term care insurance or annuities.  


4. How will our relationship work? 

You want to know the scope of the engagement with the advisor. Put another way: How frequently will you meet with your planner and how much access do you have with them. Financial planning can be a one-time engagement or ongoing. Managing investments can and should involve review meetings - are those meetings quarterly, semi-annually, or annually?  


5. What's your financial planning philosophy?

A big factor in whether you'll build a long-term sustainable partnership with your advisor is the chemistry you have with one another. Personality does matter. You're likely only able to put your financial livelihood in someone's hands when you can establish trust and respect with them.  


6. Who is the ideal client for them?

Any good advisor will have an area of focus or specialty. You want someone who works with others like you. If you are looking for a comprehensive planning approach but the advisor only does commission-based investment management, perhaps that professional is not the right fit for you. Find a planner that works with others similar to your situation with age, stage of life, and asset level.  


7. Ask them to explain a concept to you.

This may be obvious when you think about it, but can you understand what is being explained to you? If your professional is overly technical and you cannot understand them, ask for clarification. If you're still rustling with the answer then maybe it's time you move on. Having someone explain a financial concept to you in your terms will allow you to better connect with your financial plan and have confidence with your road to getting there. 



8. Ask your friends or search Google for referrals.

It is easy to look up a CFP on Google and find a financial advisor in Marin or a planner local to you.  Reading their reviews and ratings can be a start, but asking friends and family who are in a similar situation as yourself will narrow your search.  



9. Request to see a sample retirement projection or financial plan.

A retirement plan projection will provide an analysis of the amount of income you will receive during retirement. Your current age, expected life expectancy, retirement sources of income, inflation assumptions, and estimated investment returns are variables that are usually included in this type of report. Work with an advisor that uses conservative assumptions and is able to effectively explain the report they produce.  


10. What is their succession plan.

When choosing to partner with a financial advisor, you want to find someone that you can build a lasting relationship with. Just as it would be ideal to stick with the same primary care physician or dentist, building that history together creates efficiency a more pleasant experience.  Ask your advisor or prospective advisor how long they plan on remaining in the business.  If something happened to them unexpectedly, who will take their place to work with you?