How to pick a financial adviser

Look for proper registration

A government registration form — Form ADV — will tell you more about an investment adviser, including whether he or she is properly registered.

"Investment advisers, brokers and their firms are required to be licensed and/or registered, and the information is easily accessible," says Braden Perry, who practices financial services and regulatory law with Kennyhertz Perry in Prairie Village, Kansas.

The easiest way to determine if an adviser is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (required for advisers with $100 million or more in assets under management) or with the state (required for smaller advisers) is to ask, he says. But it should be disclosed in the person's marketing materials and website as well.

For SEC-registered firms, you can view an adviser's most recent Form ADV online by visiting the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website (adviserinfo.sec.gov).

For state-regulated advisers, you can find contact information for your state securities regulator on the website of the North American Securities Administrators Association (www.nasaa.org/about-us/contact-us/contact-your-regulator).