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Tips for selecting a financial professional

The process of selecting a financial professional to help you is a particularly important one and involves a great deal of trust. For this reason, you need to make sure the professional you hire maintains high professional and ethical standards.

Experience and knowledge are also critical. Many financial professionals are specialists in certain areas, but may be more limited with other needs, so you should conduct your own research to ascertain that the professional you select is competent to handle your situation, whether that involves college savings or any other financial objective.

The professionals on our "Find a Financial Professional" financial planner directory are very interested in working with people with college-savings needs, and all propose to be 529-savvy, but it is up to you to check out your potential choices to make sure they are worthy of your trust. Fortunately, obtaining background information on most financial professionals is fairly easy. Here are a few tips:

All brokers, investment advisors and their firms are required by state and federal law to be licensed or registered, and to disclose several types of important information. Several public directories collect this information and make it available to help investors make informed decisions.

  • Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has a tool called BrokerCheck that you can use to look up a brokerage firm or individual registered representative. If an advisor holds a securities license, or has within the past 10 years, you can view his or her employment history and any disciplinary action or customer disputes.
  • Many advisors must also register with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and submit a Form ADV, which discloses all previous employers and educational background, as well as any client, regulatory, or criminal incidents. The Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) is the directory that you can use to access this information.
  • Your state securities regulator will also have information on the brokers in your area, and may even have more comprehensive details pertaining to investor complaints than can be found on the IAPD or BrokerCheck, so this is another good place to include in your search for a financial professional. Contact information for your state securities regulator can be found at the North American Securities Administrators Association.

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»Tips for selecting a financial professional

 
 

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