Chapter 10. How to Hire a Financial Adviser

"The nature of any human being, certainly anyone on Wall Street, is 'the better deal you give the customer, the worse deal it is for you.'"

Bernard Madoff, convicted Wall Street swindler[75]

Remember the Bo Diddley song "Who Do You Love?" When it comes to financial advice, a better question might be, "Who do you trust?" Bernie Madoff's victims certainly wish they'd thought harder about that question, and the general cloud of scandal hanging over Wall Street these days reinforces the need to work with trustworthy—and competent—financial advisers.

At the same time, as boomers confront the challenge of retirement planning, increasing numbers of us see that we need advice—lots of it! Even before the economic crash, the knowledge gap about retirement was large, and the need for smart planning has only become more acute in hard times. Do-it-yourself planning certainly is an option, but a little help from a professional adviser can be well worth the time and money. The rationale for hiring an adviser is simple: Money spent now could make a big difference in helping you achieve a secure, happy future retirement lasting two decades or more.

The field of financial-planning services is growing quickly, and finding the right person is a big challenge. Almost anyone can hang out a shingle and dispense advice; planners may have any number of certifications or titles attached to their names, but none are required. So let's break down the various types ...

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