Finding a trustworthy financial planner is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Only less than 10% of financial advisors in the country are required to act in your best interest. Luckily, you’re halfway through your search, after discovering the reasons why fee-only financial planners are the best way to go.
What are Fee-Only Financial Planners?
- Fee-based Financial Planners don’t sell commission-based products that create conflicts of interest.
- They’re not tied to a specific company, so they are free to provide a wide array of solutions.
- You know exactly what you’re paying (fees are more transparent).
- A fee-based financial planner acts as a fiduciary, prioritizing your interest above their own.
Here are three great websites to find fee-only financial planners near you.
National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) is a non-profit association of fee-only financial planners. All of their members have attested to act in the best interest of their clients. It was created in 1983, as a counter to the pervasive practice of planners selling mostly commission-based financial products, which often lead to sub-optimal advice.
NAPFA members are required to have advanced education in financial planning and three years of comprehensive planning experience. Its members are also required to maintain 60 continuing education credits every two years. This means that its members are likely up to date on modern financial planning issues.
When you go to napfa.org, just type in your zip code in the search box. It will then show you a list of fee-only financial planning firms near you.
NAPFA also lists 10 important questions that you may want to ask prospective financial advisors. The questions include things like, “How are you compensated,” “Do you accept referral fees,” or “Are you held to a fiduciary standard at all times?”
2. XY Planning Network
The XY Planning Network is a newer organization of fee-only financial advisors. Its members focus mostly on Generation X and Generation Y clients.
XY Planning requires its members to offer financial planning services to clients without requiring a certain asset level. Most if not all of its advisors offer virtual financial planning services. These two requirements make it more accessible to regular people.
When you go to their home page, just type in your zip code in the search box. A list of fee-only financial planners in your area will then be generated. Once you click on an advisor, their specialties and fee options will be listed. Only advisors with a CFP® designation will appear in the “Find an Advisor” search.
3. Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Board
The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Board is the entity that administers the CFP® designation. The CFP® designation is perhaps the most well-known and trusted financial planner designation. (Other trusted designations include the Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®) and the Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC®) designations).
Not all CFP® professionals are fee-based financial advisors. So you’ll have to ask the financial advisor directly if s/he accepts commissions and acts as a fiduciary.
To find a CFP® professional, go to www.letsmakeaplan.org and enter your location.
You may notice that many advisors listed here have minimum investable assets of $500,000 or more. Several advisors who work for big-box firms will also usually come up.
If you are in your 30s and 40s and most of your retirement savings is in your 401(k), you may want to filter the results and click on the $0-$100,000 investible assets.
Out of the three options above, I prefer using NAPFA or XY Planning Network. This way, you can be surer that the financial advisor you’ll consider is a fee-only financial planner. Meaning, she/he does not accept any commissions from a financial product she/he would recommend, and that the financial advisor has sworn an oath to act in your best interest.
District Capital is a fee-only financial planning firm working primarily with clients in their 30s and 40s in the Washington, DC area. If you’re interested in elevating your finances and maximizing your money, schedule a FREE 30 minute discovery call with one of our fee-only certified financial planners today!
Alvin Carlos, CFP®, CFA is an investment advisor and fee-only financial planner, in Washington, D.C that works with clients across the country. He has a Master’s degree in International Relations from SAIS-Johns Hopkins. Alvin is a partner of District Capital, a financial planning firm designed to help middle-class professionals achieve their financial goals through smart investing, reducing taxes, retirement planning, and maximizing their money. Schedule a free discovery call to learn how we can help elevate your finances.