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Choosing a financial professional

Getting help with investing

Financial professionals who can advise you with your investments fall into three general categories: broker/dealers, investment advisers, and financial planners.

There are differences among the three; one of the most important is their obligation to you when it comes to suggesting investments. A broker/dealer’s recommendation must be suitable at all times and be based on factors such as you age and income. An investment adviser has what is known as a fiduciary duty and has the obligation to put your interests ahead of their own. A certified financial planner has the same obligation.

Ask family members and friends for recommendations of financial professionals, and make an appointment to interview who they suggest. Some questions to ask include:

  • What training and experience do you have?
  • How long have your, or your firm been in business?
  • Have you personally been involved with any disciplinary action or arbitration cases?
  • What are your fees?
  • What procedures and protocols are in place to protect my personal information?

Financial professionals and finding your match

Firms and individuals selling investments and providing advice must be licensed. Always check their licensing status and background.

Your investment plan

When you first meet with your chosen financial professional, he or she will ask you many questions. Be prepared and have your answers ready. Below are items that will help your financial professional recommend the best course of action:

  • Short- and long-term goals
  • Your time horizon, or the time you need to save and invest for the future
  • Income, assets, and liabilities
  • Age
  • Risk tolerance

With this information, your financial professional will be able to suggest investments that are suitable for your needs.

While the vast majority of financial professionals put your needs and interests ahead of their own, beware of these red flags:

  • Ignores your goals and objectives
  • Evades pointed questions
  • Suggests a loan to invest
  • Recommends cashing out to fund new investments
  • Pressures you in making a decision
  • Provides no documents and agreements

Questions or complaints?

File a complaint online or contact us:

Consumer Hotline
888-877-4894 (toll-free)


Financial services


Check a license

Always verify that the company or individual you are working with has a license.

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