Everyone knows they need to plan for retirement. But what exactly does that look like? How do you know you’re taking all the right steps to seek out a safe pathway to retirement?

It’s all too common for people to struggle with planning for their own retirement, but many still hesitate to engage a professional. After all, with so many financial advisors out there, how do you know which one is the right one for your situation? And how do you know now is the right time to reach out?

Partnering with a financial advisor can help you establish a plan that ensures you’re working to address your retirement goals, because financial independence begins with a plan you can trust from an advisor you can trust. If you’re considering working with a financial advisor, here are a few questions to keep in mind.

What Standards Do Financial Professionals Abide By?

Financial professionals are bound by one of two standards: the fiduciary standard or the suitability standard. The fiduciary standard is a legal obligation for these professionals to always act in the best interests of their clients. All financial advisors are held to the fiduciary standard. By comparison, the suitability standard means that the professional is legally required to make recommendations that are deemed “suitable” for a client’s objective. Someone like a broker may only be held to the suitability standard.

Because of these two different standards, financial professionals are beholden to different responsibilities when it comes to meeting their clients’ needs. If you believe you’re saving diligently and simply want some investment advice, it may make more sense for your situation to simply go with someone held to the suitability standard, as they can provide insight into your investments, make recommendations based on your financial goals, and will likely only get paid on commission.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more comprehensive approach to your finances, you may decide to go with investment advisor representatives, who are always held to the fiduciary standard. This type of advisor can take a more holistic look at your financial situation and make recommendations that can help you both now and down the road.

What Value Do I Get from a Financial Advisor?

The question of your potential advisor’s standards leads directly into the kind of value you want to get from working with them, given your specific goals. Typically, people look for an advisor who can better position them to maximize their investment returns, leverage specialized knowledge, and help them devise a strategy that helps reduce emotional decision making. But maybe you’re also looking for help with retirement planning outside of simply saving or making investments. Maybe you want someone who can craft a financial plan based on your unique goals and provide advice that will help you both now and into retirement.

Many advisors charge the industry-standard 1% fee. For that fee, some advisors will give you access to tax and estate planning specialists, investment strategists, and comprehensive financial planning professionals. They may provide you with a team of specialists who can help answer all the financial questions you didn’t even know to ask.

Meanwhile, other advisors might simply take you for a round or two at an expensive golf course. They charge the same fee but are offering a very different value proposition. Take the time to ensure you know what you’re getting when you decide to partner with a financial planning professional, and make sure that what you’re getting addresses the needs of your situation.

What Qualifications Should I Look for in a Financial Advisor?

Perhaps the most important thing you should be looking for in a financial advisor is expertise. After all, would you trust your car to a mechanic who isn’t certified? What about your health to a doctor who doesn’t have the proper training? The same thing goes for your finances. You worked hard to build up your retirement savings; you don’t want to trust them to just anyone.

There are dozens of different designations and certifications out there for financial professionals, each one signifying a different area of specialty or expertise. Perhaps the most common one is the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) designation, which is sort of a catch-all certification awarded to individuals who have met the requirements for education, examination, and experience established by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP® Board).

Beyond that, there are more specialized designations—like the Certification in Long-Term Care (CLTC®) or Registered Health Underwriter (RHU)—that signify certain professionals have more experience and knowledge helping specific clients with more specific needs. Depending on your situation and your unique financial goals, you may look to use someone with one (or more) of these designations.

Aside from certifications, look to advisors who are recognized by industry peers and organizations. There are numerous financial publications that give out awards and accolades to individuals deemed outstanding in their field. Often, a quick Google search of a potential advisor will let you know if they’ve won any awards or have been recognized for their service (and advisors typically aren’t shy about advertising such accomplishments).

How to Find a Financial Advisor

Once you’ve gotten the ball rolling and started thinking about these considerations, it’s time to start looking! Start by asking your friends or family who have had good experiences using a financial advisor. Maybe ask other trusted sources if they have any recommendations. Search online for financial professionals near you. And then once you have some names, reach out and interview these people. Feel free to chat with more than one. Make sure they’re the right fit for you and can help you work toward the retirement of your dreams without sacrificing the life you want to live right now. Because when you have the right advisor, you get more than wealth planning—you get confidence and independence.

The specialists at Wealth Enhancement Group hold numerous designations across all the fields of financial planning and have received a number of awards and accolades from trusted industry sources. Reach out today to learn more.


The opinions expressed in this material do not necessarily reflect the views of LPL Financial.

Morgan Schleif

Morgan Schleif

Senior Vice President, Financial Advisor

Series 6, 7 & 63 Securities Registrations,1 Series 65 Advisory Registration,† Insurance License Morgan’s goal is to generate income while keeping taxes to a minimum. Known as “The Retirement Income Specialist,” he focuses on making potentially confusing financial issues easy to understand. Using his extensive...Read More