Consumers are increasingly savvy using technology, but there are a few things that might be helpful when searching for and navigating financial planning websites.
In trying to find a well-aligned planner, use as many applicable keywords that fit what you’re seeking when using search engines like Google or Bing. For example, if you’re looking for planner that doesn’t charge commission, be sure to include the specific words like “fee-only financial planner” in your search. If you’re looking for a specialist include the area in your search like “retirement planning.”
Including the city will also help define and narrow your search results to advisors in a specific geographic area. This is particularly important if you want to widen your search beyond the location where you’re physically located when doing the search. Some search engines detect your current location and order results based on distance from that point. If you’re looking to expand that reach, referring to a specific city such as “retirement planner Racine, WI” helps refine your results.
Once you’re in a financial planner’s website, you’ll want to explore and some things aren’t always easy to find. For instance, not all sites are clear about how they charge clients. One easy way to tell how a firm charges you, for example, is to scroll all the way to the bottom of the home page. If there’s any language referring to Broker/Dealer relationships, it’s not a fee-only/no-commission planner. You may also find this type of information if the firm posts a Disclosure brochure or offers a tab labeled “Disclosure,” “Legal” or similar on their site.
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Checking out the “Team” page should provide information about the credentials of the planners in a firm. The gold standard in the financial planning industry is the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation, but you may also see other designations and certifications for financial planners and staff that further increase your confidence in working with that firm or planners. Financial planners could also be CPAs, or have RICP (Retirement Income Certified Professional) credentials.
If innovation and forward thinking is important to you in a financial planning partner, you may want to explore the firm’s “News” or “Blog” posts and read up on how the firm is responding to or anticipating changes and trends in financial planning practices and regulations. You may also discover if the firm offers opportunities for their clients or guests on topics related to personal finance that may be of interest.
Today, it’s all about ease of access. Your financial planning firm’s website should allow for easy access to client account information through some type of secure portal. Check the site for a “Clients” or similar tab to ensure you can get to confidential info like your meeting notes and links to accounts easily and conveniently from one place.