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Finding a Financial Adviser

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You’re done with college and trying to make a name for yourself. You’re trying to do all the right things — working hard, paying off student loans, and saving for a future that seems so far off. There are so many financial decisions to make: savings accounts, investment options and retirement savings. With all you’re juggling, how can you possibly do it all?

The good news is you don’t have to do everything yourself. There are financial advisers trained to help young investors just starting out. The key is finding the right adviser to help your money grow along with you. Follow these tips to find an adviser you can trust.

Where to Look

Referrals. Ask family and friends for two or three referrals. These referrals are usually the result of a positive experience with an adviser, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will have the same experience. Choose someone you connect with and who will listen to your ideas, values and financial goals.

Objective, third-party periodicals. If you don’t have reliable sources for referrals or if you don’t think any of the referrals are a good fit for you, check out periodicals offered by reputable organizations like Barrons, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist or J.D. Power and Associates. These objective, third-party resources rank advisers each year.

Check Credentials

Once you’ve selected two or three advisers to interview, check their history through finra.org, the organization that regulates financial service firms, and use their BrokerCheck feature. It’s a free tool that will tell you an adviser or firm’s licensing status and history, employment history and any regulatory, customer or criminal disputes. Your state may also offer resources to confirm an adviser’s license status. Check your state attorney general’s website and the department of financial institutions.

Not all investment firms will require an adviser to have a college education, but the more reputable ones do. Though firms will conduct their own training and advisers must have a Series 7 license, a business education is also helpful, specifically an MBA or a BA or BS in economics, finance or accounting.

Interview Finalists

Narrow your choices down to advisers you want to interview, virtually or in person, and ask these questions:

  • What experience and education do you have?
  • What credentials do you have? The Certified Financial Planner is the preferred designation among financial advisers, but only about 20 percent of advisers have this designation. Additional designations include Chartered Financial Analyst, Chartered Financial Consultant and Chartered Life Underwriter.
  • How long have you been in business?
  • What products and services do you offer?
  • What is the size of the asset portfolio you manage?
  • Does your firm clear its own trades? To buy or sell an investment, and clear a trade, a firm must be a member or associated with a member of FINRA and the New York Stock Exchange.
  • Have you received any complaints? These are public record and available at FINRA.
  • Do your clients have online access to view their accounts?
  • What investments do you focus on?

Making the Decision

In addition to this information, consider what type of a rapport you had with each candidate. Choose the adviser with the credentials and background you want and who respects your values. This is the right adviser for you!

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