The investment professional (or team of professionals) you decide to work with will depend largely on your investing goals and the types of products and services that can help you meet those goals. Your financial needs, and the professionals you work with, are likely to change over your lifetime. The amount of money you have to invest and your investing priorities also will likely change. What doesn’t change, though, is the best way to find help. FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority), an independent not-for-profit organization authorized by Congress to protect Americans’ investors, offers the following key steps for choosing financial professionals:
- Identify your financial needs, starting with your goals.
- Understand the different types of people or firms you could work with, and what each can (and cannot) offer.
- Search for possible candidates.
- Check the work background and disciplinary history of your finalists.
- Make sure you read and understand any paperwork you’re asked to fill out or sign.
Searching for Possible Candidates
One place to start is by talking with your friends, neighbors, relatives, and colleagues—especially those who have some experience as individual investors. Here’s what to ask:
- What are the names of the investment professionals you have used?
- How long have you done business with those individuals?
- How much or how little have you relied on their advice?
- Have you ever had a problem with that professional? And, if so, how well and how quickly was the matter resolved?
- How often does your investment professional contact you? Different people like to interact in different ways and on different schedules, so this question can help assess whether the relationship would work for you.
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- Ask students if they are working with an investment advisor. And if so, what is their experience with him/her.
- Did students check if their investment advisor is registered with a state, the SEC, or FINRA? If so, in what capacity?
- Does it matter if a professional investment advisor holds relevant professional designations? Why or why not?
- How are the investment advisors compensated? Should you choose a fee-only advisor? Why or why not?
- Is it important to ask your investment advisor for a list of clients you can contact as references?