I'm a financial planner, and here's the best advice I can give you about getting help with your money

Eric Roberge Official Headshot   Sept 2017Photo by Dina Konovalov

Elite athletes don't try to DIY their success. They're surrounded by teams of people who support, coach, and help them improve their game and achieve peak performance.

If you had the opportunity to get your own team of pros to guide you to the kind of success you want in your life, would you take it?

The good news is you do have this opportunity - especially within your financial life. Money touches almost every decision we make and goal we want, so hiring a financial planner to help you build a comprehensive strategy for how to best manage your assets and grow your wealth can make a lot of sense.

But finding the right financial planner can be a challenge. Let this be your initial guide for learning how to choose the right financial planner for you, so you can start building your team of professional supporters who can coach you to an optimal financial outcome.

Look for a fiduciary with credentials

You can easily narrow down your field of potential candidates by simply requiring any professional you work with to serve as your fiduciary 100% of the time. That means they are legally and ethically bound to put your interests ahead of all others.

That sounds like a no-brainer, but that standard of client care isn't currently required and not all financial planners uphold it. Demand that your financial professional act as your fiduciary - and ask them to sign a fiduciary oath for you.

If they won't, walk away and keep looking.

You'll also want to verify that the professional you choose has the appropriate credentials. The gold star standard for financial planners is holding the CFP® marks.

This is so important because anyone can call themselves a financial planner; that job title is not regulated or associated with any kind of experience, credential, or education.

But to earn a CFP®, professionals have to have a college degree, at least three years of experience in the field, and additional education and training before sitting for a rigorous board exam. CFP®s must also go through continuing education to maintain their marks over time.

Understand how the planner gets paid

Financial planners can get paid in a few different ways. In general, if you want advice and comprehensive financial planning, you'll want to avoid professionals who work on commissions.

You want to hire someone who is getting paid to deliver their unbiased, objective, independent advice to you - not someone who only gets paid if they can sell you a product. That's a lot of conflict of interest and can raise a red flag.

The shortcut for this is looking for "fee-only" planners. Fee-only financial planners do not earn commissions and they do not make money from any third parties. Their only payment for their advice to you comes directly from you, the client.

SmartAsset's free tool can help you find financial advisers and choose the right one for you »

Ask about the clients they specialize in serving

Your financial situation is pretty unique to you - and your goals and dreams even more so. You should choose a financial planner who understands the specifics of your situation, and can help you build a plan that takes those into account.

A lot of financial planners specialize in helping people in certain professions or from specific walks of life. For example, Meg Bartelt of Flow Financial Planning is an expert on serving women in tech. That's her exclusive focus and her processes, knowledge, and resources are all designed to cater to that group of people.

Search for a planner by their specialty, and consider working with someone who deeply understands where you're coming from.

Where to start your search

In addition to checking out LetsMakeAPlan.org, you can check out the following professional organizations and associations. All have "find an adviser" search portals and require their members to be fee-only and hold a CFP®:

SmartAsset's free tool can help you find financial advisers and choose the right one for you »

Eric Roberge, CFP, is the founder of Beyond Your Hammock. He helps professionals in their 30s do more with their money.

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.

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