San Diego Financial Literacy Center

Tips for Selecting a Financial Professional

Guest post by Bonnie Treichel, JD

Senior Consultant at Multnomah Group

For most of us, we want to believe that those we trust will do what’s in our best interests. Sometimes it’s a friendship or family member that we trust and as such, we believe that they will honor that relationship and do what’s best for us. Other times, its someone we hire, and we trust he/she will do what’s best for us by virtue of the position held. The question is: do you go through a process of serious vetting for each person you entrust to make decisions on your behalf? The answer is likely no. So, how do you decide which positions or relationships are worthy of taking your time to vet and how extensive should the process be?

While this article won’t look at all important relationships, it will focus on one significant relationship, which is that of a financial professional. For some, you may be willing to spend more time researching and reviewing a hairdresser or barber than a financial professional. While hair is important, let me assure you that selecting your financial professional should be a well-thought-out decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The good news is that the Securities and Exchange Commission (also called the “SEC”) is a government agency which has provided some objective guidelines and tools to help you think about who would be appropriate to serve your needs and do what’s in your best interests.

Review these key tips below from the SEC and if you still have questions, the SEC provides a phone number for additional information, available at 1-800-SEC-0330.  Likewise, the SDFLC is another great resource to learn more.

Tip 1: Make sure the financial professional is licensed. Check for licensing by going to and searching the database.

Tip 2: Learn about the products and services available from the financial professional and determine if that aligns with your goals and objectives. For example, are you looking for someone to help you with basic budgeting and financial planning or are you looking for access to a broad range of securities and frequent stock trading? Depending on your goals, you may need different products and services, and these products/services vary greatly across financial professionals. Be able to state your goals and see if the financial professional can meet them; if not, it may not be a good fit.

Tip 3: Understand how the financial professional gets paid and understand how you will make payments (and when). Across the financial services industry, there are a variety of fee models and methods for disclosing fees. If the fee model seems too complicated to understand, it may not be a good fit for you.

Tip 4: Ask about the experience and credentials of the financial professional. The SEC says to be cautious of exaggerated credentials and suggests using this database to verify the credibility of the professional’s designation(s): For example, if the professional has “ABC” after his/her name, ask what that means and check the database to learn more about what ABC stands for.

Tip 5: Check into the financial professional’s disciplinary history. The SEC now has a tool available that will assist you in looking for any recent actions against the financial professional, which is available here:  However, this tool won’t capture everything, so it’s always best to ask the financial professional too.

While this is not an exhaustive list, these are some of the guidelines from one of the regulators of financial professionals. Consider using this as a starting checklist to discuss with a financial professional before you sign any contracts or hand over your money. It’s always good to trust people, but don’t be too trusting when it comes to your financial decisions. It might be okay when it comes to cutting your hair, but not when it comes to your financial security.


Disclaimer: Multnomah Group is a registered investment adviser, registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Any information contained herein or on Multnomah Group’s website is provided for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and, unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed. Multnomah Group does not provide legal or tax advice. 

Any views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Multnomah Group or Multnomah Group’s clients.


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