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Common Questions About Financial Planning

Q

Who can use the term "financial planner"?

A

The government regulates financial professionals as stockbrokers, insurance agents or investment advisers, depending on the services they provide. As a result several different financial professionals "hang out a shingle" and call himself or herself a financial planner. CFP Board's Consumer Guide to Financial Planning can help you look for someone who has paid the fees and completed the coursework to be listed on their site. The brochure contains questions to ask during an initial interview with a planner to help you determine if he or she is right for you.

Q

Why should I choose a financial planner over another type of financial professional?

A

A financial planner should focus on your needs first before recommending a course of action. Always ask a financial advisor what qualifies him or her to offer financial planning services.

Q

What is the best age to start financial planning?

A

While it generally holds true that the younger you start the more beneficial the process will be, financial planning is worthwhile at any age. Although younger people may have more decisions to make regarding their financial lives, changing laws and circumstances can lead middle-aged people and seniors to have to adjust their financial plans as well. Changes in tax law, for example, may require many people to revisit certain investments or estate plans, and adequate disability planning becomes more important as people age. CFP Board's Consumer Advocate outlines important financial planning steps you can take at all stages of life in the Lifelong Financial Strategies series.

Q

How are financial professionals paid?

A

There is currently no uniform method by which financial professionals are paid. A professionals can be paid by a salary paid by the company for which they work; by fees based on an hourly rate, a flat rate, or on a percentage of your assets and/or income; by commissions paid by a third party from the products sold to you to carry out the recommendations; or by a combination of fees and commissions whereby fees are charged for the amount of work done to develop financial planning recommendations and commissions are received from any products sold. Be sure to ask the planner how he or she is paid.

Q

Do I have to pay a financial planner for the first interview? How much does a planner typically charge?

A

Most financial planners will provide you with one meeting to talk about your reasons for wanting to work with them. During these initial interviews, they will also decide if they can help you and explain how they would work with you. Like other professionals, the rates financial planners charge depends on their experience, geographic location, level of services and your needs.