Q: I am a 53-year-old widow and mother of two. While I am bright, financial planning and taxes are new to me. I have enough money to see me through if I steward the money well. I would like to develop a financial, investment and tax plan but I think I need help. How do I find a competent professional to help me? What certifications should I be looking for? In the past I had free financial planning services from a wealth management company but found that the financial plan was centered around me investing money in the stock market through them. I discovered that I am too fearful of the stock market. I am however very comfortable with rental real estate. Any help in getting me a good adviser would be greatly appreciated. -- Lise, Lincoln
A: One of the best ways to find a competent financial adviser is to ask your family and friends who they use. If you do not have any luck going this route, you will need to do a little research.
For overall financial planning help, e.g., retirement planning, budgeting, debt management , investments, savings for your children's education, etc., look for a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), at one of the following sites:
The above sites will provide a list of local professionals, including their credentials, method for compensation, experience, education and areas of expertise, e.g., real estate.
Interview at least three advisers, and ask them:
• How they are compensated
• What services they provide
• Do they have any conflicts of interest that influence the advice they provide
• What type of clients they usually work with
• If they are managing assets, where will the assets be housed
• Do they act in a fiduciary capacity toward their clients
If your primary concern is taxes, you should look for a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who specializes in taxes, or an Enrolled Agent (EA).
Remember that your financial adviser will be working for you, so don't be intimated by the process.