6 Steps to Finding a Great Financial Adviser

Do your due diligence to make sure you'll get financial advice you can trust.

1. Align your interests by working with a fee-only adviser, meaning one who does not accept commissions. All advisers have some conflicts of interest, but fee-only advisers have the fewest. (Note that "fee-based" advisers are different -- they receive a blend of commissions and other fees.) You can find a fee-only adviser through the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. Some fee-only advisers, as well as some brokers, charge a percentage of your assets (say, 1% to 2% a year) to manage your money on an ongoing basis. Others charge a fee, generally $100 to $300 per hour, to help you set up a financial plan or for periodic advice. If you have a one-time need for advice or you just want to keep a tight rein on costs, the latter may be the better option for you. You can find an hourly adviser through the Garrett Planning Network.

2. Learn the alphabet soup. A Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is a generalist who should be able to help you with your whole financial picture. The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation indicates particular expertise in investing. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a tax whiz. And a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) has extensive training in insurance and estate planning.

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Elizabeth Leary
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Elizabeth Leary (née Ody) first joined Kiplinger in 2006 as a reporter, and has held various positions on staff and as a contributor in the years since. Her writing has also appeared in Barron's, BloombergBusinessweek, The Washington Post and other outlets.