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Tips for selecting a financial advisor who's right for you

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Tip: Money is a sensitive topic for most folks. Finding someone that you feel comfortable with is essential. Once you identify a potential advisor, spend some time talking with him or her — and then trust your gut.

Why You Want a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®)

The reason finding the right financial advisor is so hard is because "financial advisor" is a broad title that many people in the financial services industry use — even though they don't all do the same thing.

Because the SEC sees terms like "financial advisor" and "financial planner" as marketing terms1 — not actual indicators of experience or qualifications — you can't rely on a job title or what someone calls themselves to figure out if they're qualified to help you.

Instead, look for some other indicators that carry a little more weight — specifically, the Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation, which is the gold standard in the financial planning world. It indicates that a financial planner has gone through a lot of education, training, and experience to earn those marks.

To be allowed to use the CFP® designation, financial planners must have a bachelor's degree and must complete an intense course load that is the equivalent of 18 semester hours and includes topics such as risk management, tax planning, insurance planning, and saving for retirement.2 After completing this coursework, candidates must pass the rigorous CFP® Certification Examination — and then gain 6,000 hours of professional experience. This lengthy process of education and on-the-job training prepares professionals to do the highest quality of financial planning. You can trust that an advisor who earned this designation really knows their stuff.

Narrowing Down the Field

Determining if someone is a CFP® professional is a great first step to take — but there are 79,878 CFPs in the United States!3 How can you narrow down the field?

While a professional certification is important, it's equally important that you actually like and get along with the financial planner you select. You should be able to trust that your advisor works in your best interest.

You need to make sure a potential financial advisor understands and respects your goals and values. If you don't feel like someone is truly listening to you, or if they try to convince you to drastically alter your goals, keep looking for someone who listens attentively and gets what's important to you.

Don't be afraid to ask specific questions to get more information about how much an advisor knows about working with someone in your situation, too. Look for someone who works with clients in your age demographic and has experience working through some of the specific planning scenarios you might be facing (like retiring from a career and starting a new business or dealing with a unique tax situation).

Money is a sensitive topic for most folks. Finding someone that you feel comfortable with is essential. Once you identify a potential advisor, spend some time talking with him or her — and then trust your gut. If you don't feel comfortable, there are plenty of other CFP® professionals to choose from.

Where to Start Your Search

Now that you're equipped with the knowledge you need to make a sound decision, it's time to start your search. Here are a few places to begin looking for a financial advisor:

  • Your local bank. Because it's important to know and like your advisor, start with financial professionals you already trust. Your local bank might have CFP® advisors on staff who are familiar with your financial situation and can help you set up what you need all in one place.
  • Ask for referrals. Turn to family, friends, or coworkers and ask if they have a financial advisor they really like. Just be sure to use the checklists and steps above to vet this professional — even if they came recommended by someone you know.
  • Do your homework. Search for a CFP® in your area at the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards website.4

Ready to talk with someone to help you get started? Find a Synovus financial advisor near you or call us at 1-888-SYNOVUS (1-888-796-6887.)

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Important Disclosure Information

This content is general in nature and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.

  1. SEC, Making Sense of Financial Professional titles, The Office of Investor Education and Advocacy, https://www.sec.gov/files/ib_making_sense.pdf, April 15, 2018. Back
  2. CFP Board, CFP Professional Designations, Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, https://www.cfp.net/become-a-cfp-professional/cfp-certification-requirements, April 16, 2018. Back
  3. CFP Board, CFP Professional Designations, Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, https://www.cfp.net/news-events/research-facts-figures/cfp-professional-demographics, March 31, 2018. Back
  4. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, http://www.letsmakeaplan.org/, May 14, 2018.

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