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Safe Money Advisors -- 5 Steps to Finding the Right Financial Professional for You

safe money advisors locate a good financial professional

Are you looking for help on how to retire safely and comfortably? "Safe Money Advisors," or financial professionals offering safe strategies, can provide solutions to help you reduce risk and manage uncertainty. But so many are promoting themselves online and elsewhere. Whom can you turn to for the guidance you need?

As you consider different candidates, conduct careful due diligence. Just like doctors and lawyers and their specialties, not all financial professionals specialize in retirement planning. Any advisor you meet should state clearly their focus on retirement issues, and communicate that expertise. As you meet with them, pay attention to the language and concepts they use - do they speak of the need to plan for income, financial protection, risk management, and lifestyle goals?

Here are some other variables to weigh as you evaluate different Safe Money Advisors to help with your financial future.

5 Steps to Finding the Right Safe Money Advisor

Ask about their background. Before they move into the "safe side" of the business, many advisors and brokers work in other parts of the financial world. It's not unusual for them to have experience as stockbrokers, traders at big firms, investment analysts, wealth managers, financial analysts, or in other finance-related roles. Another point of credibility is their educational background. Many financial professionals hold advanced degrees in business, finance, or accounting. Be sure to inquire about their prior experiences as a financial industry professional and what their educational pedigree is.

A wide-varying background might indicate an advisor has a first-hand knowledge of specific market cycles or economic conditions. On the other hand, a long track record as an insurance solutions provider or at a brokerage firm can also show knowledge of different insurance products, and what may be solid options for your needs. These experiences can demonstrate their knowledge and credibility. Ask each advisor about their background so you can determine how their expertise may be right for your planning needs.

Assess their credentials. Here's a simple rule. If a financial professional will be giving a recommendation with certain products, they must hold all required licensing for those products. Because we are discussing Safe Money Advisors, any prospective advisor or broker should have the required insurance licenses for the annuity and/or life products they guide you on and offer.

Of course, this point extends beyond the minimum requirements, to include professional knowledge. There are a number of educational programs in which financial professionals can earn designations. For example, The American College of Financial Services provides courses for many degrees and designations, including:

  • Retirement Income Certified Professional, or RICP designation
  • Chartered Financial Consultant, or ChFC designation
  • Certified Financial Planner, or the official CFP designation
  • Chartered Life Underwriter, or the CLU designation - considered the premier designation for insurance professionals

 
Because laws, regulations, and strategies change, some of these programs have continuing education requirements. Ask your prospective financial professional about whether they hold any designations or advanced degrees. Inquire about what they do to continue educating and updating their knowledge, including how often they do so.

Evaluate their track record. Ask for a list of client references -- and make sure to call them! You may also want to get references of people whom your prospective Safe Money Advisor offered advice, but they didn't decide on any course of action. You can ask them about their experience and their opinion of it. Apart from customer testimonials, you will want to examine the financial professional's record in the community. Do they:

  • Contribute to any community causes or events in a meaningful way?
  • Participate in any meaningful activities, such as giving time to host financial education workshops or financial literacy presentations?
  • Provide any expert insights or opinions in a newspaper column, trade publication, article mentions, or other outlets where investors can learn new, valuable knowledge?
  • Belong to any organizations or groups that have a clear, open statement of ethics and/or business mission?
  • Participate in any consumer education projects or information sources -- like SafeMoney.com?


If you meet with a prospective Safe Money Advisor or financial professional, check to see if they give you any authored materials -- or other sources of information in which they play a part. If they provide these reference materials during the appointment, or after the meeting via email or some other fashion, that's a good indicator of them being on top of their business.

Ask about their retirement planning philosophy. Another powerful way to evaluate? Ask your prospective Safe Money Advisor/prospective retirement planning professional about how they personally approach retirement planning. Questions such as the following can yield insightful answers:

  • What their personal philosophy on retirement planning?
  • Does their own retirement plan include any protection, income, growth, or risk management strategies?
  • Does their portfolio include annuities and life insurance products?
  • Have they given any recommendations to their family members or friends for any similar strategies they suggest to you?
  • If they give you a recommendation, is it something they would be comfortable with recommending to their own children or parents?


If you have reached the point-of-recommendation, use our Annuity section and Life Insurance section to ask questions for making a decision.

Clarify how do they advocate for your best interest as a client. On Friday, June 9, 2017, the DOL fiduciary rule began taking effect. Now almost all financial professionals are held to higher legal standards of conduct when offering investment advice on retirement accounts. The DOL rule covers advice on retirement accounts including 401(k) plans, IRAs, 403(b) plans, and other retirement savings plans falling under the regulations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"). While these regulations aren't fully in effect yet and are still under federal review, financial professionals are obliged to abide by "Impartial Conduct Standards" as best-interest parties for their clients.

The Impartial Conduct Standards include:

  • An advisor or broker acting in your best interests as a client
  • The financial professional being required to make no materially misleading statements
  • The financial professional receiving no more than "reasonable compensation" for their recommendation(s)


Part of these standards are disclosure requirements. Again, we are talking about Safe Money Advisors, so those would include a description of the advisor or broker's relationship with the insurance company (whose product is being recommended), any fees and/or charges associated with the recommended product, and even disclosure of sales commission from the insurance company. 

So, financial professionals offering insurance products are to be best-interest advocates in this new regulatory environment. Be sure to ask your financial professional exactly what measures they take to ensure they are acting in your best interest. How are those steps and measures being documented? Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest must be disclosed to avoid giving materially misleading statements. So be sure your financial professional communicates these clearly.

Whether your prospective Safe Money Advisor is an independent or captive financial professional is important. Independent advisors and brokers can offer annuity and life products from multiple insurance carriers. In contrast, captive advisors and brokers must rely on one or a few parent companies for their product shelfs. Learn more about the difference between captive and independent advice, for more details.

Safe Money Advisors: Retirement Planning Help a Click Away!

We hope these guidelines are helpful to you in your search for a financial professional. If you are ready for personal guidance, a number of financial professionals are listed here on SafeMoney.com, for your convenience. They can help you discover powerful safe strategies to protect your wealth, generate reliable income, and enjoy a predictable lifestyle for your retirement years.

Use our Find a Licensed Advisor section to connect with someone directly, or to request a personal goal-setting appointment. Or if you have any questions or need a personal referral, please call us at 877.476.9723.

Author: Ian

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