How To Find A Good Financial Advisor

Financial advisors are trained professionals in a highly-regulated industry. Like doctors and lawyers, financial advisors must be licensed and undergo continuing education. Unfortunately, financial advisors are salespeople, and many put their role as salesmen ahead of their roles as fiduciary professionals.

Here are some tips to make sure that you find a person who is a credit to the investment industry, not a cheap salesman in a fancy suit.

Experience or Youth – Which is Better For You?

How experienced is your financial advisor? If he or she appears to be older, this does not necessarily answer your question. Many people become financial advisors after being displaced from another career.

Experience is important, but don't necessarily disqualify a would-be financial advisor for being new to the industry. Many more experienced financial advisors develop bad habits over the course of a career, and may not be up on the newest trends.

Older financial advisors may be more conservative in their recommendations, which may or may not be appropriate for you.

If your financial advisor is experienced, ask for some references. A good financial advisor with happy clients will be eager to provide them. A shady one will skirt the issue. It will be easy to tell.

If your financial advisor is new to the industry, ask him or her what score they received on the Series 7 exam. More experienced brokers will undoubtedly find such a question offensive, and it is less relevant for them.

But newer financial advisors are there for one of two reasons – 1) They have strong sales skills, which is good for the company but probably not for you. 2) They have strong investment knowledge, in which case, they may be a better financial advisor for you than their other, more experienced counterparts.

The Series 7 exam is a comprehensive test of a new financial advisor's investments knowledge, which a full 33 percent of would-be brokers fail and has a median score of just 73 percent. Look for a new financial advisor with a score of at least 85 percent – they are not easy to find, but they know their stuff.

Interview Your Prospective Financial Advisor

Set up a face-to-face interview with at least four financial advisors from different firms. First, take note of their phone demeanor. Does the person sound like a professional?

Does she seem eager to meet with you or expect you to qualify? A true investment professional is interested in helping people, whether they are worth £500 million or £5,000. Only cheap salespeople from disreputable firms refuse to work with people of modest means.

When you meet the financial advisor, take note of his company's office. Does it seem professional and well managed? Professionals take pride in their work and conform to industry standards. In the investment world, this means everyone is in professional business dress and things are orderly.

During the interview, determine whether the broker is truly trying to assess your needs or simply trying to sell you products for which he earns a high commission.

Never buy mutual funds from a broker – you can pick mutual funds for yourself. Funds sold by brokers include sales charges, whereas funds you can buy on your own typically do not. Also, be highly skeptical of annuity products.

Finally, when you have narrowed your search down to your favorites, Google their employers. If there have been any securities law violations by the firms, take this into account when making your decision.

A perfectly good advisor can work for a firm with a bad apple or two, but if there are multiple violations, particularly from the executive level of the firm, then the company probably does not practice the best business ethics and it is most likely advisable that you take your business elsewhere.