Liz Weston: Don’t confuse “paying” financial planners with “paying only” financial planners

Dear Liz: How do I find a paid financial planner? I just inherited a lot of money, and trying to figure out our future is stressing me out.

Answer: It’s understandable. Getting sound advice can be the difference between growing your newfound wealth and squandering it. But finding a good, honest and competent planner takes work.

Most advisors aren’t fiduciaries, so they don’t have to put your interests ahead of their own. Instead, they may recommend investments that cost more or perform less well than the available alternatives, simply because the recommended investments earn them more.

These advisors often refer to themselves as “fee” advisors, hoping you’ll confuse them with “fee-only” planners. Paid planners are only compensated by the fees you pay; they do not accept commissions or other compensation that could influence their advice.

The Assn. of Personal Financial Advisors and the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners are two organizations that represent fee-based planners, many of which charge a percentage of your investable assets. You can find paid planners who work on an hourly basis at Garrett Planning Network and those who charge a monthly fee at XY Planning Network.

Interview at least three candidates. Ask them how they are paid and what your “all-in” costs – their fees plus the cost of the investments they recommend – are likely to be. Ask about their credentials and verify them. (You can verify the status of a certified financial planner at cfp.net/verify-a-cfp-professional.) Ask about their education and experience, including whether they have advised people similar to you.

They must be willing to affirm in writing that they will be trustees. Finally, check their background, including their disciplinary history, on BrokerCheck.finra.org.

Liz Weston, Certified Financial Planner, is a personal finance columnist for Nerd Wallet. Questions can be sent to him at 3940 Laurel Canyon, No. 238, Studio City, CA 91604, or by using the “Contact” form at asklizweston.com.

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