I got a great question from a client the other day: How do I go about finding a good financial advisor to help me with this stuff? (This stuff: investing for retirement and college savings.)

That prospect can be daunting.  The financial world is a big one.  Do you go to your bank or your local investment brokerage?  Someone in a high-rise, or next to the country club?  Should I go with my buddy, or go to my dad’s “guy”?  Do they need to be a CFP, a CPA, a ChFC, a CFA, an MBA, or an RIA?

Is it okay if they’re more my age, or is it important to go with the “more experienced” gentleman who sits behind the big desk with the glasses low on his nose?  Do I Google someone, or how do I find these people?

Note: I’m using “guy,” “gentleman,” “he,” “him,” for the duration of this series because most investment advisors are, in fact, male, and I simply don’t want to go back and forth.  I know some excellent female advisors, and women can be just as great at being advisors as men and all that jazz.  Can’t believe I even have to make this point. 

For me, I’d break this process down into 3 parts:

1) Find qualified candidates
2) Interview qualified candidates
3) Know your deal-breakers

Let’s look at each one of these.

1) Finding qualified financial advisor candidates

When I say qualified, I don’t necessarily mean they need to have the alphabet soup of certifications behind their name.  In addition to at least the basic credentials, I want them to be qualified in terms of us having compatible investing philosophies and for them to prioritize educating me about investing.

On this step, I’m going to start with the people who I know that have the same values as me, who believe the same things as me, and who do the things I’d like to emulate.  Who is their financial advisor?  These could be longtime friends, folks in your church or community organization.

If I don’t find any good leads that way (and even if I do), I’m probably going to get on the Google and try to poke around to find out who the Dave Ramsey ELP is in my area.  I’ve had interactions with multiple Dave Ramsey ELP’s and had a great experience with each.

At the very least, I’d like to give the local ELP a look because they ostensibly already fit a few categories that I’m looking for in a financial advisor: (1) They have the heart of a teacher, not the heart of a salesman, and (2) Their investing philosophy is likely going to be compatible with mine.  If you can’t find them via Google, you can always use DaveRamsey.com.

Personally, I’m likely going to avoid bank-based (especially big bank) advisors.  Publicly traded banks are under stockholder pressure to produce returns.  That pressure filters down from the executives to middle management, then is exerted upon the rank-and-file advisors they employ.  Advisors in this environment are pressured to sell the newest product that is refreshed quarterly, and bonuses are employed for those who sell the most investment units of said products.  That’s not the kind of advising situation in which I want to find myself.

Between those two methods, I’d like to find at least three to four candidates and review their website, check them out online elsewhere for third-party reviews, and likely schedule a face-to-face sit-down with them, if they check out.

That should give you enough to get started searching for your advisor until I publish Part 2 of this series: Questions to Ask.

Question: How did you find your financial advisor?