How to Select a Financial Planner


  1. Trust and transparency with your advisor so you are comfortable sharing your life stories.
  2. Broad base of knowledge – experience coupled with the ability to look at various approaches to solving problems across disciplines.
  3. Strong convictions that hold to a core philosophy rather than shifting with every change in the market.
  4. Disciplined with personal success while retaining humility.

18 Point Checklist

Video Transcript

Today I would like to visit with you on how you would choose a financial planner. I think there are four things you should look for when you’re picking a financial planner.

First and most important is you want to find someone that you can trust, someone that you believe will always do the right thing for you at the right time, is transparent in their cost, in their approach, in their products, and how they go through a process to help you.

But another aspect of trust is, “Is it someone you trust enough that you can share your life stories with?” Unless you can be transparent and completely honest with your planner, he can’t do his best work for you.

Secondly, you want a planner that has a broad base of knowledge, somebody that has a lot of life experience, maybe seasoned in life, where the rubber meets the road if you will. Also in a broad base brings many disciplines to the table.

There are investments. There are income taxes. There’s insurance. There’s estate planning. There’s budgeting. All these things play into your financial plan and you want somebody that brings a multitude of disciplines.

There is a saying that if you only have one tool in your tool bag and that’s a hammer, everything else starts to look like a nail. So you don’t want someone that just has one approach to life in solving your problems.

Third, I think you want someone that’s opinionated. Now that might sound a little funny at first. But do you really want to hire a “yes” man, someone that will tell you what you want to hear just to get your business? You really want someone with strong convictions around a core philosophy in life, someone who will tell you both the good and the bad, take you where you are and help you get to where you need to be.

Lastly you want someone that has been successful in life. You know the old story about the cobbler’s kid who goes barefoot? You want to be able to see the financial planner has been able to apply the disciplines of his craft to his own life and to do it well.

The same time though, you want someone that’s humble. As they say in Texas, you don’t want a big hat with no cattle. That doesn’t do anybody good. So you want somebody that has been successful and humble about it at the same time.

Now a couple of year ago Vanguard came out with a little study that said a financial planner could add about three percent to your results every year. Now notice I didn’t say a financial planner will beat the stock market by three percent. But that he will add three percent to what you could have gotten on your own.

Now 1.5 percent of that though is from behavior modification or behavior coaching. Helping you make the right decisions at the right time. Life brings ups and downs. Stock market is tough sometimes. You’re going into retirement, maybe a divorce, maybe a death in the family.

There are difficult parts to life. You want somebody with experience, that has navigated these currents before. They can help you be successful to make the right choices.

Another one half percent of that return comes from spending strategies. How much can I afford to spend in retirement? Should I have a budget or not and which account do I take the new car purchase from? Do I take it from my individual account, my IRA, or my Roth? All these decisions come into play in helping you achieve extra return.

The last smaller part of the three percent is just good financial management, good investment management. I think a lot of financial planners do this part well but there are many other parts to financial planning other than investing. The study of adding three percent shows that a financial planner can add value to your life.

Committed to your successful retirement,

Ron Dickinson

Dickinson Investment Advisors - Council Bluffs, IA
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