7 Things to Look for When Choosing a Financial Planner for Your Parents
A smart and responsible financial planner is a critical team member who can help your parents plan and pay for their retirement. Helping them find that person is one of the most important ways to make sure their financial situation is under control.
But finding a savvy financial planner who can help them avoid costly mistakes while making sure there will be enough money to pay for later care and lifestyle priorities isn't easy. Start by checking with trusted friends and family to see if anyone works with a financial planner worth raving about. Once you have a list of names, it's time to start the interview process.
Here's what you should find out when choosing a financial planner for your parents:
Whom will your parents actually deal with?
Make sure that the financial planner you meet at the initial consultation is actually the person who'll be handling your parents' account. If this isn't the case, insist on meeting and reviewing the qualifications of the associate who'll be handling the day-to-day tasks.
What relevant experience does the financial planner have?
Financial planners come from all sorts of different financial career paths. They can be certified public accountants, stockbrokers, mortgage brokers, and insurance salespeople, to name a few options. It's important to know what your advisor's background is -- along with her professional accreditation and experience as a financial advisor -- to gauge how accurate her advice may be.
It's also important to choose a financial planner who has at least several years of experience in that role and has worked through recessions and bull markets and can advise clients through both market conditions.
Finally, it's crucial to make sure she doesn't have any disciplinary actions in her record. An easy way to do this is to check with the Certified Financial Planners Board of Standards hotline (888-237-6275). If she's selling stocks or securities, you can also check her disciplinary record with the National Association of Securities Dealers (800-289-9999.)
Does the financial planner really listen to you and your parents?
For anyone, but especially for people facing retirement and an uncertain financial future, laying out the details of their financial existence to a relative stranger can be daunting. Although your parents should keep the specific details of their finances to themselves during the interview process, when they do choose a financial planner to work with, they'll need to feel comfortable opening up. Many of the long-term financial planning issues they face are uncomfortable for most people to think about, much less discuss with a stranger -- long-term care, nursing home costs, and even end-of-life care and expenses. Many older adults also may not be familiar with current financial strategies or products, and for that reason may find the whole experience intimidating.
But a good financial planner who's experienced with elder issues can provide invaluable advice about everything from asset management to housing decisions, estate planning, and what kind of long-term care your parents can afford, among many other issues.
For the relationship to succeed, though, your parents will have to open up and provide a complete picture of their financial situation, including assets, debts, and current expenses, as well as lifestyle expectations for the next 10 or 20 years. This can be a difficult process, especially for those who are protective of their privacy and independence. But if the financial planner you choose is empathetic, attentive, and sensitive to your parents' needs, it can help make the process of addressing their financial future much less intimidating.