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Attending a seminar, reading books on personal finance, casual discussion of money management or using computer software can help measure the dimension of your concern about these issues.
They can also help you focus on the areas that need the immediate attention, such as education funding or liability protection. However, these steps may not help you determine:
- How to reorganize your present investments in order to potentially increase your net after-tax investment return?
- How to structure investments to maximize the potential financial aid for education funding or long-term care?
- How to select the appropriate mix of investments and insurance to pre-fund education, survivor needs and retirement income expenses?
- What changes should be made in your estate plan and retirement plan as result of a thorough needs analysis and goal setting?
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There are two types of people who may be able to assist:
1. A product salesperson (insurance and securities) who is compensated entirely by the commissions on purchases
2. A qualified financial advisor who may charge a fee for the time required to prepare any analysis and develop a report for your consideration.
There is certainly nothing wrong with a salesperson receiving commission on purchases. That is how people are generally compensated in the financial product area. After all, if you purchase a Certificate of Deposit at a local bank, you don’t for a minute believe that the tellers and officers are working for free. Their compensation is derived from the difference (you could call it a commission) between what the bank earns on its investments and what is credited to your account.
However, working with a financial advisor before making a purchase is more likely to leave you feeling informed and confident about a product without the pressure to buy, simply for the commission.
A qualified financial advisor can separate the advice stage from the actual purchase. What are the qualifications that you should look for in such a person? How do you go about finding and selecting a person who can help chart your path through the financial dilemmas?
The person you select should have:
- Sufficient experience guiding personal financial affairs
- Professional education, both initial and ongoing
- Standing in recognized financial associations
- Adherence to the developed professional standards
- A commitment to client service and objectives
- The capacity to help you fulfill your current and future needs
- Sufficient staff, facilities and computer equipment
- Ability to provide comprehensive analysis and ongoing services
- An ethical posture
- An ability to communicate effectively
Of all the requirements listed above, perhaps the most important is the capacity to communicate with you, to clarify your attitudes and to help you understand all the ramifications of the alternatives.
Several professional designations, degrees or memberships indicate that the financial advisor has met educational, experience and ethical qualifications. The following (selected from a list of 80 designations, 72 associations) list is presented for your benefit – not as an endorsement, or in any order of ranking or preference:
CFP – Certified Financial Planner
Completed an educational program, passed certifying exams, meets continuing education requirements and licensed by the CFP Board of Standards.
RFC – Registered Financial Consultant
The RFC professional financial planning designation is awarded to those who meet requirements of education, examination, experience, licenses, a clear record of business conduct, significant annual continuing education, business integrity and adherence to the RFC Code of Ethics.
ChFC – Chartered Financial Consultant
A ChFC has completed an educational program, passed certifying exams and meets experience, ethical and continuing education requirements.
CEP – Certified Estate Planner
A professional designation awarded by the National Institute of Certified Estate Planners to persons completing a comprehensive program of advanced study. The NICEP offers a six day intensive curriculum, separated into two three-day sessions, each followed by a comprehensive exam. Graduates agree to a standard of ethical performance and continuing education.
CFA – Chartered Financial Analyst
Has completed exams on securities and portfolio management and meets reference and experience requirements.
RIA – Registered Investment Advisor
Not a professional designation. A Registered Investment Advisor is a person or firm that has filed with the Securities Exchange Commission and adheres to certain disclosure requirements. This qualification is necessary for the rendering of investment advice.
CLU – Chartered Life Underwriter
Has completed examinations covering the application of life and health insurance in filling needs for survivor income, estate planning, business continuation and employee benefits.
RHU – Registered Health Underwriter
Has qualifications and experience with disability and medical insurance.
CPA – Certified Public Accountant
Has met educational qualifications, passed examinations and met experience qualifications in the area of public accounting. A few CPAs have also taken additional financial planning study and are Accredited Personal Financial Specialists.
FPA – Financial Planning Association
A professional membership organization. A key mission of the FPA is to promote the value of financial planning to the public and to serve as a voice to the financial planning profession.
IARFC – International Association of Registered Financial Consultants
Professional membership group of the Registered Financial Consultants (RFC). Formed to foster public confidence in the financial planning profession.
Even if we as individuals were to remain the same, the financial world around us changes so frequently that constant monitoring is a necessary part of the planning process. The political, tax, legislative and economic changes increase in frequency.
The on-going review and reporting also holds the planning firm accountable to you the client. Quarterly reviews also ensure that any necessary adjustments are made before it is too late.
Investing involves risk, including the loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit of protects against loss. Neither Lion Street Financial, LLC, nor its registered representatives, offer tax or legal advice.