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An experienced, rational and well informed one without own agenda.
In addition to the great info below, I’d say look for one that services people like you. Do you have a particular career or situation that you think is unique? There might be an advisor who tailors services to the few people like you. For example, Publix Super Markets in FL has the biggest ESOP plan, and employees often own way more employer stock than they should. There are a few advisors who cater specifically to Publix retirees and pre-retirees. It’s their niche.
For many years when we were much younger my wife and I didn’t have an advisor. We had an attorney who drafted wills, powers of attorney – the usual stuff. We had a CPA who did the accounting and taxes for some property LLCs, but we never had anyone who knew our full financial picture.
When we were almost 50, we lost some close friends to illnesses like cancer. It then made me realize, if I was not around my wife would need help to guide our financial life if I was not here.
I spoke with our very large financial services company and told them I was looking for an advisor who was a female and less than 40 years old. Did they have anyone like that? Luckily they had an advisor like that at our local office. We met with her, and my wife liked her for being very level headed. We signed up for some minimal services.
Our advisor at the time did not have her CFP. She has since finished that and other credentials. She has a family with children so we knew in all likelihood she would stay with the firm she was with.
After several years we got older and our needs became more complex. We hired an estate attorney who created a trust where we integrated our financial accounts. Our advisor was very instrumental in getting us the legal language that was needed and we retitled our brokerage and IRA accounts.
After we retired we shuffled 401k accounts and bought a QLAC. Our advisor became more successful, she is still with the same firm, but now only handles new clients who have large net worth accounts. We are lucky again as we still meet with her at least annually.
We put most of our investments on “autopilot” with index funds. As we get older my wife knows what to expect/do if a premature heart attack should occur to me.
My advice to find the right advisor is to find someone young enough that they may still be around when either you or your spouse need them. Someone stable who will probably remain with the same firm for decades. If they don’t have the right credentials, ask them what their plan is for achieving them.
We have been with the same large financial firm for almost 40 years. When I was younger I traded stock and index options, foreign stocks and primarily individual stocks. Over the decades, I learned the power of John Bogle insight about low cost index funds. They may not be right every year, but over time they reduce your mental effort tremendously. Having the right advisor also reduces your mental effort even more. In the end, if you can simplify your life, your stress level approaches being a contemplative lifestyle.
Having taken the CFP curriculum, and passed the exam, I have some insight into what the industry demands. I know a few professionals and the ones I recommend have the following characteristics:
First of all, a good advisor doesn’t charge too much or try to do too much. If they say they can beat the market, beat it out of their offices. They should not steer you to the complex investment products Wall Street continually invents. Their best role is to persuade you to follow sound, low cost investment strategies and act as a check on our occasionally hare-brained ideas.