Let’s get right to the crux of it:  whose advice can you trust?  There is no way to know (without a long-term relationship) whether someone is thinking about your best interests or his/her own pocketbook.  Ultimately, the goal is to find professionals that you can trust – but how?  Here are a few suggestions:

1.  Find professionals who are required BY LAW to put your interests before their own or anyone else’s:  This would mean an attorney that is representing you and only you – or a certified financial planner designee (someone with a CFP® designation) in good standing with CFP Board of Standards [Find a CFP® Professional].  CFP® Professionals provide services with the “duty and care of a fiduciary”.

2.  Create a Short List:  Who do you know that is particularly savvy in law or finance?  Ask that person for the names of two or three professionals keeping in mind that you are looking for ‘specialists’ for your particular situation (i.e. divorce, death/estate planning, retirement, etc…).

3.  Check licenses and regulatory history:  For attorneys, go to the Wisconsin State Bar website.  For financial planners, go to the CFP Board of Standards website.  For investment advisers, go to the SEC’s Registry to check for ‘Disclosure Information’.

4.  Search online:  See if your professional has a website or a Linked In profile.  This is a great place to gather information on how s/he does business.

5.  Call and ask for a free initial consultation:  Not all professionals will offer this but it does not hurt to ask.  Even twenty minutes face-to-face can give you an idea if this is someone that you want to work with.

6.  Prepare beforehand:  Read the following – how to prepare for your meeting with a financial planner or how to prepare for a meeting with an attorney.

Happy New Year – and good luck with your search!

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