Noel Whittaker: Choosing a financial planner

WHERE do you start when choosing a financial planner, and what should you expect from them?

First make sure that the planner is properly qualified.

For that, you need a planner who has the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® designation. Planners who have this designation - the highest level available - must meet ongoing competency, ethics and practice standards, meeting higher professional and ethical standards than those required by law. Look for the letters CFP® after their name.

Next set up an introductory meeting, and use it to make sure that you feel comfortable with your planner.

The relationship between you and your planner will be a very personal one. For it to work you're going to need to talk to them not just about money, but about your goals, dreams and your family situation. It's a bit like choosing a doctor.

Alarm bells should start ringing if your planner:
·       fails to take time to learn about your individual circumstances, needs and goals
·       is more interested in selling you a product than developing a strategy for you
·       promises you the world (i.e. high returns and low risk) and tells you not to worry
·       avoids questions or withholds information
·       is not clear about fees and charges, or their fees appear excessive.

Ask: "How will you help me reach my goals?' The answer will quickly show you whether your planner is a good match. They should understand your goals and lifestyle, create a plan specifically suited to you, then clearly explain the plan before putting it into action.

It is your financial planner's responsibility to make clear recommendations and ensure that you fully understand their recommendations as well as the possible risks. If something isn't clear or you don't understand, ask.
Once you've agreed on your plan, you'll be given a statement of advice. This tells you who is covered by the advice (just you? your partner? children?) and includes the products and services suggested, with a clear explanation of why these were chosen and how they will benefit you.

Don't be intimidated to ask questions or take along this article, remember your financial planner's job is to help you achieve a better financial future. Don't settle for anything less!

Noel Whittaker is the author of Making Money Made Simple and numerous other books on personal finance. His advice is general in nature and readers should seek their own professional advice before making any financial decisions. Email:

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