Thinking About Retirement?

Financial Adviser Questionnaire

  1. What licenses do you currently hold?
    1. Series 7 (Securities)
    2. Life, health, variable annuity, long-term care insurance
    3. RIA (Registered Investment Advisor) – allows compensation based on assets managed, not commissions to sell or buy securities
  2. What professional designations do you have?
    1. Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
    2. Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC)
    3. Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
    4. Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) – generally for insurance agents
    5. Certified Plan Fiduciary_Advisor (401k)
  3. How many years of experience do you have?
  4. Have you ever declared bankruptcy?
  5. Tell me about your firm?
  6. What products can your firm offer? Do you get additional compensation for recommending proprietary products?
  7. How do clients pay you — commission or fee?
  8. What fees do you charge?
  9. How many clients do you have? How do you find new clients?
  10. What is your process when working with a new client?
  11. What services can I expect to receive?
  12. How often should I expect to meet with you?

Source: Robert Mouro, CFP, Fried Mouro Group, Cary

The last year has many people 55 and older thinking about retirement. But before making that leap, it’s important to have a plan — one that considers more than how much is in your 401(k).

Roughly five to 10 years before retirement is a great time to start thinking about what’s next, says Andrew Snider, director of financial planning at Coastal Wealth Management.

“That’s when 75% of the people come to see us, when they’re in their mid-50s and older because that’s when things start to come into focus about maybe when they could retire,” Snider said.

Do I need an adviser?

No matter your financial situation, it helps to enlist the aid of a trusted financial professional. Not everyone needs a full comprehensive financial plan, Snider says. Some people just need an unbiased and realistic retirement projection.

“When people do their own planning, they tend to be very optimistic, because they want to make it work,” he said.

Even if you are confident you have enough retirement savings, Snider says, an adviser will often raise questions that hadn’t occurred to you. In addition to retirement savings, topics to consider include insurance, Social Security, estate planning and taxes. Coastal Wealth Management, which is affiliated with Coastal Credit Union, provides free financial planning and insurance advice to credit union members.

What kind of adviser?

Before hiring anyone, make sure you understand what kind of advice you need and what you are paying for.

First, some definitions. A financial adviser is a broad term for someone who helps manage your money, including investments, insurance and other accounts. A financial planner is a type of financial adviser who helps clients create a program to meet long-term goals.

Drew Snider, Coastal Credit Union

To find the planner for you, ask friends and family for referrals. You can also visit The Financial Planning Association website at to find local professionals.

Before meeting with anyone, it’s vital to check their licenses and registrations, says Snider. On their website, there should be a notice that says they’re required by law to act in your best interest. Often an adviser will identify themselves as a fiduciary: someone who puts your interests ahead of their own.

You can also research a financial professional on The free tool is provided by FINRA, the securities industry’s independent regulatory organization.

Even when someone’s credentials check out, their priorities might be on selling financial products rather than giving appropriate advice. Even at many financial institutions, the person doing the planning might also be doing the selling, Snider says.

“They’re really incentivized to make your plan look like you need to do certain things,” he said.


According to the AARP, it’s a good idea to interview several prospective advisers, asking about the expert’s education, professional history and compensation, along with other topics.

“Hone in on the person’s compassion, professional expertise, understanding of your needs, and ability to effectively communicate with you,” wrote Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, in a blog post for the nonprofit.

Financial Terms

Fiduciary — A fiduciary is required to act in the best interest of his or her client. Registered investment advisers must adhere to this rule; people known as broker-dealers (who may also call themselves advisers) generally do not.

Registered investment adviser (RIA) — An RIA is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or state regulators and is compensated for providing advice on different types of investments. An RIA must be a fiduciary.

Broker — This financial professional traditionally buys and sells stocks, bonds and mutual funds and charges a fee or commission for handling orders submitted by an investor. Brokers are regulated by the SEC and by the states, and they must be members of FINRA, the securities industry’s self-regulating body.

Financial planner — A financial planner assesses every aspect of your financial life and may also manage your investments. The financial-planning profession doesn’t have its own regulator. But planners may be regulated based on the services they offer. For example, financial planners who are also investment advisers would be regulated by the SEC or their own states.


How will I spend my time?

While planning for financial security is important, it’s also a good idea to think about how you’ll spend your time.

“When we’re helping people prepare for those last five years and that transition, there are really two aspects,” said Snider, “The one that everyone thinks about is the financial aspect: Do I have enough money? The other is the social aspect, which I don’t think a lot of people consider.”

Before you retire, Snider suggests identifying three or four social activities that you enjoy or groups that will keep you engaged in the community. It could be serving on a corporate or nonprofit board or volunteering for a beloved cause. Perhaps your passion is a favorite hobby? Maybe you want to launch a business?

Besides keeping you busy, these activities will help you make friends and maintain social ties that are vital to mental health.

“People can really actually fall into a depression, especially people who were in really important positions,” Snider said. “These leaders, all of a sudden they’re not leading anything anymore. They have a difficult time transitioning to retirement.”

Along with making a financial plan, he suggests laying the groundwork for a post-retirement life, before you leave work. That preparation could be buying the right tools for a woodworking hobby or arranging for certifications for a new business.

“Those last five years while you’re working, it’s important that you start making those connections,” Snider said. “Don’t wait until you’re retired.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *