Finding a financial advisor can be as easy as going to the Yellow Pages, selecting two or three names, and telephoning them. Of course you may be initiating contact with a great advisor or the next Bernie Madoff. The problem is you don’t know, when you use this method for finding a financial advisor.
Regardless of the method you use to find a financial advisor, you should proceed with extreme caution.
The Internet is a much more powerful tool than Yellow Pages for finding financial advisors for one basic reason. The Internet and the Yellow Pages both help you find advisors, but only the Internet will enable you to learn more about advisors without contacting them.
There are also services on the Internet that will help you find advisors and provide a report that documents their credentials, ethics, business practices, and services. For example, Paladin’s Registry (www.paladinregistry.com) is one of the oldest Internet services that matches you to pre-screened advisors (since 2003).
Your CPA or Attorney
You may ask your CPA or attorney for the names of local, trustworthy financial experts. You assume CPAs know the good guys and their knowledge about financial advisors reduces your risk of selecting a bad guy. This is a bad assumption because many CPAs and attorneys have personal or reciprocal referral relationships with advisors.
A Church or Country Club Member
The leading type of affinity marketing scams impacts members of churches. Financial advisors join churches to meet prospective clients. Investors assume advisors are ethical because they are members of the same church. Church affiliations have nothing to do with competence or ethics. In fact, selecting an advisor based on a church affiliation increases your risk. For example, Bernie Madoff marketed his scam through his synagogue and country club.
Friend or Family
There is a substantial risk that friends and family refer advisors based on personal relationships versus more objective criteria such as: competitive performance, reasonable expenses, and acceptable risk exposure. Your risk is the advisor is friendly, but incompetent. Or, the advisor is a representative who possesses exceptional sales and relationship management skills.
A Newspaper Article
Members of the media write about advisors or quote them in their stories. Some investors believe the advisors must be competent and reputable or they would not be in the article. This is a bad assumption. Virtually no writers conduct due diligence before they mention advisors in their stories. They don’t know how. Plus, their number one priority is meeting a deadline with a story that is approved by their editors.
A Free Seminar
Some advisors use direct mail to invite you to free seminars for seemingly benign topics such as How to Save More for Your Retirement Years. They may even provide a free meal as an inducement to attend. This is a relatively low cost strategy for meeting new prospects for their services. Keep in mind they have to meet you before they can sell you their investment and insurance products. You should not trust advisors who use deceptive sales tactics to gain access to you and your assets.