Taking financial advice from someone takes a lot of trust—trust you shouldn’t give someone just because he or she has a business degree. There are plenty of financial planners that don’t make the grade. These red flags will help you decide whether you can trust your planner or whether it’s time to move on to someone else for your financial planning advice.
Red flag: She won’t discuss her payment structure.
Financial planners get paid in various ways. Some of them get paid commissions on the financial products that they sell clients, some only get paid from the fees that they charge you, and others get paid according to a combination of commissions and fees.
Each of these approaches has benefits, but each also has negative aspects. What matters most is that your financial planner feels comfortable discussing how she gets paid. After all, her salary is coming from the money you pay for services and plans. It’s your right as a client to know how that money gets used.
Red flag: He gives you guarantees he can’t possibly control.
A good financial planner can help you make educated choices that will help your money grow. No matter how good he is, though, he cannot guarantee that your investments will yield specific results.
All investments involve risk. Some benefit from dramatically lower levels of risk, but you’re still placing a bet with any investment. If your financial planner says that he can guarantee a return on your investment, then he’s either lying or he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Regardless, it’s time to move on.
Red flag: She wants you to recruit other investors.
Your financial planner has an unbelievable deal lined up that could make you millions of dollars in months. To make the most of the opportunity, though, she says you’ll need to recruit other people to invest. The more people you recruit, the more money you stand to make.
If you hear a pitch that sounds even remotely like this, head for the door. Chances are that your financial planner is involved in a Ponzi scheme. Ponzi schemes need constant streams of new investors to keep money flowing upward to people who joined the deal earlier. People often think that they’re making a ton of money—until they find out that it’s all an illusion. Ponzi schemes are also illegal, and participating could lead to jail time and huge fines.
Red flag: He doesn’t have independent certification.
Any company can hire someone, give him a little training, and call him a financial planner. Often, this employee only knows how to sell the products that the company wants to push. It’s not that the financial planner wants to cheat you. He might have your best interest at heart. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know enough to make good decisions that will meet your short-term and long-term goals.
Look for planners with degrees such as a CFP or CPA-PFS. People with these degrees are overseen by regulatory organizations. Plus, they should know a lot more about advanced economics and investment strategies.
Jeff Rose is a Certified Financial Planner who writes about financial planning topics at Good Financial Cents. His latest project, The Debt Movement, aims to help people pay off $10,000,000 of debt in 90 days. You can join the movement and get a chance to earn some of the $10,000 debt scholarship money by visiting DebtMovement.com.