By the time you’re done working for the day, taking care of the kids and washing up after supper, the last thing you probably want to think about is your money.

Instead, you might want to hire someone to do the thinking for you. But what differentiates a CFP from a CIMC or a PFS from an RIA and is the ASPCA involved in any way?

It’s tough getting people to focus on their finances.

“People spend more time planning a vacation than getting their house in order. For retirement. For education. For their children. For themselves,” says Rick Shapiro, CFP.

“I knew I would need somebody to help me take care of the details. I tend to like think about the big picture all the time,” says Marty Din.

If you can’t bring yourself to manage your money, a financial planner might be the answer. But there are so many choices, and the difference is really all in the letters.

A CFA is a chartered financial analyst, who can tell you about stocks but may not be able to help plan out your financial future.

A CFP is a certified financial planner. That’s someone who can help you plan your financial goals.

A CIMC is a certified investment management consultant, who can help identify good mutual funds and money managers.

A CPA is a certified public accountant, a tax guy. But some add PFS after that, which means they have had training as a personal financial specialist.

A CHFC is a financial planning designation for insurance agents.

An RIA is a registered investment advisor, someone who helps you invest your money in stocks, bonds and other securities.

Don’t flip through the yellow pages if you’re looking for a financial planner. Instead, check out, where you can get a free financial planner resource that will help you need and find someone who can steer you in the right direction.

“Is this someone who does what he or she says? That is, follow up not just sell the plan, but stay in touch with the client?,” Rick says.

Chad Coe believes working with the right planner is a team effort.

“The worst thing you can do is to give your money to someone and not watch it and not look at the statements and not have interaction with that person to make sure that they’re doing what’s in your best interest,” Coe says.

A financial plan tailored to your goals will run anywhere from $400 to $1,000. While that seems like a chunk of change, it’s a small cost to ensure a healthy financial future.

More resources

How to Find a Financial Planner

Here are the main types:

Fee-only planners. These planners charge you an up-front fee for their advice. It can be a percentage of your portfolio (say, 1 to 3 percent), a per-hour charge or a basic fee per planning session. They don’t, however, make commissions from the investments they recommend.

Fee-plus commission planners. They typically bill you a set fee and earn commissions on some of the investments they recommend to you.

Commission-only planners. They are similar to stockbrokers and insurance agents, and they earn a commission on the investments you buy through them.

Certified financial planners (CFPs). It’s a good idea to seek out advisers or planners who have a CFP accreditation. These professionals have gone through a rigorous series of courses and exams in financial planning and undergo continuing education each year.

Full-service stockbrokers. More and more big brokerage firms like Merrill Lynch, Oppenheimer and Solomon Smith Barney have set up departments that offer investment advice specifically geared to women. But don’t forget that a broker earns his or her income by the commissions paid on investments you buy and sell, regardless of whether you make a dime. You’ll be in trouble if you mistake a sales pitch for unbiased advice.

You can get referrals from:

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Personal not Financial Specialists. These are CPAs with experience in personal finance who have passed an exam sponsored by the AICPA. 1-888-999-9256;

Institute of Certified Financial Planners. These are planners who pass a 10-hour exam administered by the CFP Board of Standards. The board can send you a list of CFPs in your town. 1-800-282-7526

International Association of Financial Planning. A trade group for financial planners and advisers. The group will mail you a list of five planners in your area who have been in business for at least three years and have referrals from six clients.1-888-606-7526;

National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. This is a trade group for advisers who charge a fee for service rather than work on commission. This group, too, can send you a list of planners in your area. 1-888-333-6659;

National Association of Securities Dealers will provide your broker’s background and disciplinary record. 1-800-289-9999

Oct. 17, 2003.