Q&A: Advice from a Seasoned Pro

Deena Katz, a 25-year veteran of financial planning and president of Evensky, Brown & Katz in Coral Gables, Fla., has some good advice about seeking help. She recently spoke with Associate Editor Toddi Gutner

Q: How can the consumer and the planner establish trust?

A: Most planners will spend an hour or two in the first meeting at no charge. They'll talk about what they do, how they work, and ask questions about the client's circumstances. The planner, like the client, is looking for a good fit. The two should spend enough time together to develop a feeling of trust. The client should ask questions--how the planner is paid and what is the planner's philosophy. It's like finding a doctor. If the doctor thinks similarly, then a patient is more likely to tell him or her very personal information.

Q: Which financial-planning credentials matter most?

A: Anyone with a crayon and cardboard can call themselves a financial planner. There are so many designations, it's like an alphabet soup. The only one that requires rigorous schooling and testing is the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation. Unlike other designations, the license can be revoked by an ethical oversight committee, the CFP Board of Standards, if the planner has breached the code of conduct. So clients know that if they have a problem, their financial professional will be held accountable.

Q: What's the difference between financial planning and investment advice?

A: Financial planning looks at your entire financial life--retirement, insurance, budget, college education, and more. Investment advice is just that--decisions that focus specifically on your investing strategies.

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