You have decided it is time to find a financial planner. You may have even asked your CPA, your estate planning attorney or a financially savvy friend or two for a referral.

How do you evaluate those referrals or perhaps broaden your search?

Here are 5 terrific resources to guide you in your search.

The Financial Planning Association (www.fpanet.org) is the most widely recognized professional organization for Certified Financial Planners. This is the only industry site that consistently indicates any income and/or asset minimums a financial planner requires for new clients. This level of detail is helpful because some advisors do not post this information on their websites.

The FPA site also indicates how the planner charges (fee, commission or combination). I prefer fee-only compensation because it has none of the conflicts of interest found with commissions. (Note that membership is not mandatory, so some perfectly qualified financial planners may not appear on this site.) http://www.fpanet.org/PlannerSearch/PlannerSearch.aspx.

The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (www.cfp.net) administers the CFP® designation. It has a helpful public awareness campaign to educate your clients, too. And the board’s database allows you to search; verify a planner’s name, city, state and current certification status; whether the planner is a CFP® practitioner; and whether the planner has any public disciplinary history.

The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (www.napfa.org) is a membership organization exclusively for fee-only planners. But not every fee-only planner (myself included) is a member. The site has solid consumer content and a tool to help your clients find a planner near them.

Garrett Planning Network (garrettplanningnetwork.com) is an international network of fee-only planners who charge hourly. The site features helpful information on how to choose and locate and advisor.

The Certified Financial Analyst Institute (www.cfainstitute.org) confers the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. CFAs have received rigorous training in global investment research and portfolio management. Many CFA professionals specialize in wealth management and financial planning – typically with a focus on investment management. The institute’s site has an investor education section that includes an advisor search function.

If you have any questions about certifications or professional qualifications, I’d love to hear them. Ask away and I will post my answers.

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