Tips for Finding
Ensuring the future
for those who shape it. SM
With the complexity of the financial choices
available today, many people are turning to
professional advisors for help in setting goals and
finding the best-suited savings, investment and
insurance products. Since there are several kinds
of advisors, with varying fee arrangements and
fields of expertise, finding the right professional
can be a challenge.
Most people seeking financial help want a written
plan incorporating the following kinds of services:
• An analysis of current finances, including a
calculation of net worth
• Help in identifying and prioritizing financial
• Help in designing a budget (income and
expenses) that accommodates savings goals
• A determination of investment risk tolerance
and advice on managing investments
• Advice on taxes, estate planning and
• Development of an action plan and
Since planners are involved with critical financial
decisions, it is essential to carefully review each
candidate’s credentials, experience and reputation.
Types of Planners
The first step in considering advisory services, and
in finding the right person, is to understand how
different kinds of professionals are compensated.
Fee-Only Planners charge either a flat or hourly
rate to create a plan, or a percentage (typically
1% to 3%) of the value of the assets they manage
for you. By refusing any compensation other than
client fees, these advisors can remain unbiased
and work only in their clients’ best interests.
Fee and Commission Planners (or “fee-based”
advisors) charge fees that are generally lower
than fee-only advisors, but they supplement
the fees with commissions from the investment
and/or insurance products they sell to you.
Commission-Only Planners are compensated
solely from the commissions generated by
the financial products you purchase when you
implement your plan.
In addition to understanding the commissions
and/or fees the advisor receives, it is also
essential to get a full accounting of all the loads
(sales charges) and other costs the recommended
company may charge directly to new customers.
Stay on Top of Your Finances
Even if you are working with a trusted
advisor, you should go over every decision
carefully. Here are some suggestions:
• Always get the advisor’s advice in writing.
• Check financial statements to make sure
the advisor is following your instructions.
• Never agree to any investment you don’t
fully understand or sign anything you
Finding an Advisor
Because almost anyone can solicit business as
an advisor, it’s important to consider several
candidates and get as much background as you
can on each. If you have a lawyer, accountant,
or someone else who can recommend a planner,
that may be a good place to start. You can also
contact professional associations such as
NAPFA (National Association of Personal
Financial Advisors) or the FPA (Financial
Planning Association) for a referral. (See the
reverse side for contact information.)
Many advisors have earned professional desig-
nations, which can provide an objective
measure of education and expertise. Look for a:
• Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
• Member of NAPFA
• Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)
• Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
• Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
• Registered Investment Advisor (RIA)
Most of these designations require that the
advisor complete an education program on
investments, taxes, estate planning, retirement
planning, insurance, or other subjects. Most
also require that advisors have related work
experience or education, that they fulfill a
continuing education requirement, and that
they adhere to an ethics code.
One of the best sources of background
information is Form ADV, which most
advisors are required to file with regulators.
Part I of Form ADV provides information
about the planner’s business and education,
and discloses legal or financial troubles the
advisor may have had. Part II outlines the
advisor’s services, fees and strategies. Advisors
are required to give you Part II of Form ADV
at the first meeting, but you should ask to
see Part I as well.
The CFP Board of Standards and NAPFA
require their financial advisors to sign an
ethics code and/or fiduciary oath stating
that the professional will act in good faith and
in the best interests of the client. This means
the advisor must provide written disclosure of
any conflicts of interest which may compro-
mise the objectivity of the advice.
How TIAA-CREF Can Help
TIAA-CREF is ready to work with your
financial advisor. Our advisor website
www.tiaa-cref.org/advisors provides a range
of services and facilities to make it easy for
professionals to conduct business on your
behalf. Your advisor can also use the site to
access account information and perform
transactions for you, if you have authorized
him or her to do so.
In addition, TIAA-CREF provides a wide
range of retirement planning services you can
access directly, as well as products to serve a
full range of savings goals and insurance
needs. T find out about what TIAA-CREF
has to offer – or to speak with a TIAA-CREF
representative concerning the use of financial
planners – please call us at 1 800 842-2776,
8 a.m. – 11 p.m. ET weekdays and
9 a.m. – 6 p.m. ET weekends.
What professional designations do you hold?
What is your educational background and
recent employment history?
What is your specific area of expertise?
How are you compensated? What hourly rate,
flat fee, and/or commission do you charge?
Do you always disclose, in advance, the types
of compensation you receive?
May I have a copy of your Form ADV?
Are you a full-time planner or is your
practice incidental to other activities?
Have you ever been cited by a professional
or regulatory organization or been sued
by a client?
Can you provide references?
Get the answers to these questions in writing.
Here are some organizations that can
help you find an advisor in your area and
• American Institute of Certified Public
Referrals to Professional Financial Specialists
(PFSs), CPAs who do financial planning.
1 888 777-7077 www.cpapfs.org
• Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
Board of Standards
CFP referrals and licensing confirmations.
1 303 830-7500 www.cfp-board.org
• Financial Planning Association (FPA)
Referrals to local CFPs.
1 404 845-0011 www.fpanet.org
• National Association of Personal Financial
Online referrals to local fee-only advisors.
1 888 333-6659 www.napfa.org
• Society of Financial Service Professionals
Referrals to local Chartered Financial
1 800 392-6900 www.financialpro.org
You may also want to contact the following
agencies to check on an advisor’s regulatory
• National Association of Securities Dealers
1 800 289-9999 www.nasdr.com
• North American Securities Administrators
• Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
1 800 732-0330 www.sec.gov