4 tips to picking a financial planner


Veterinarians need to know a potential advisor's methods for investing and payment.

When veterinarians need someone to manage their financial investments, do they look for a professional money manager—or a financial gigolo? Joe Kain, CFP, owner and president of Sunflower Asset Management in Lenexa, Kan., worries that it’s the latter. After all, a personal relationship with everyone from drug reps to accountants to car salesmen is sometimes valued over expertise and results. We all want to like and be liked, right?

“A gigolo is someone paid to act like they love you, while supposedly performing certain ‘services,’” Kain says. “A financial gigolo will overly schmooze, laugh at everything you say, and show an exaggerated interest in your personal life.” Kain can relate. When he went to buy a car, he got the feeling that the salesperson was trying to be best friends. But that’s not what he was looking for. What he wanted was a good deal on a car. And what you’re looking for is a serious, trustworthy, knowledgeable advisor to faithfully manage the funds that make or break your financial security.

To help you determine the worthiness of potential advisors, Kain has shared his list of questions to ask (click here for his list). The answers you get will help you find out whether this person is the right money manager for you. He also offers these four tips:

1. Ask for recommendations

Ask friends, colleagues, and your accountant or attorney for recommendations. Offer to pay a financial planner or investment advisor for an hour’s work to give you his or her top three recommendations for you to consider.

2. Ask questions

When you find a potential lead, use Kain’s questionnaire or questions you put together on your own. Even if you don’t understand all the details of these questions, you’ll see whether the advisor is willing to answer tough questions, and you can evaluate his or her answers later. “If someone balks when you ask a question or won’t put what they say in writing, that’s a huge red flag,” Kain says.

3. Bring a friend

Pay an accountant or attorney you work with and trust to visit a potential financial advisor with you to ask questions and listen to answers. An experienced ear is helpful. “They may pick up on things you wouldn’t,” Kain says.

4. Consider the compensation

Most money managers are paid in commissions or a flat fee. Kain says fee-only advisors are held to a higher standard. “When a commission broker makes a recommendation, he or she only needs to show that the investment was suitable under the circumstances,” he says. “A fee-only manager is a fiduciary and is required to act in your best interests at all times and reveal any potential conflicts of interest.”

Our tendency is to ask if we like someone or not, Kain says. But when you’re picking an investment advisor, you want trustworthy, competent help, not necessarily a good buddy. “I’ve got a few doctors I’ve seen, and one of them I don’t really like,” he says. “But who cares? He’s good.”

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