How to pick a financial adviser

Know where to look

Here's where to start looking:

  • — Do an Internet search for "financial adviser" and your city.
  • — Use a free service that prescreens advisers for you, like PaladinRegistry.com.
  • — Consult BrightScope.com, a database of more than 700,000 registered financial advisers.
  • — Use the search tool at a professional association’s website. These include the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, NAPFA.org; the Financial Planning Association, FPANET.org; the Certified Financial Planner Board, CFP.net; or the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, AICPA.org, to find a CPA who is a personal financial specialist.

Be careful about referrals. They might have undisclosed relationships with advisers, says Jack Waymire, an advisory services industry veteran and founder of the Paladin Registry website.

He suggests narrowing your list by eliminating advisers who:

  • — Use aggressive marketing language or undocumented sales claims on their website like "I am the best."
  • — Don’t provide legally required licensing and registration information on their website.
  • — Have a thin bio lacking information on experience, education, certifications and licensing.
  • — Accept commissions.