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When you approach your bank teller with a request to refer you to someone in the bank to review your investments, here’s what to ask: “Please refer me to a Certified Financial Planner® and not just anyone whom your bank designates as a client investment manager.”  This simple request, that is, by precisely stating the terminology, Certified Financial Planner® can spell the difference between surviving a “rainy” day or, if no rainy day, then the difference between a retirement filled with financial anxiety and a retirement filled with financial happiness.

When you speak to a bank teller be aware that you are speaking to a person who wants to get a good rating on his or her performance appraisals and to do so must meet a client referral quota. Yes, beyond the smile and pleasant body language you remain just a NUMBER. The teller’s eyes will light up when they discover you might be a potential referral to help them meet their performance quota.  The more referrals to their in-house investment adviser the better his or her  performance rating.

When referring you to an investment consultant, the bank teller has TWO options. He or she can refer you to their  investment manager, who is more salesman than financial PLANNER,  or refer you to their Certified Financial Planner®. What’s the difference?

When the bank teller selects his or her bank’s investment adviser you are being directed to someone who has a strong quota to sell certain PRESELECTED bank instruments. You will be gently persuaded to route your investment dollars into an instrument that serves the bank’s needs not necessarily your needs. You take a back seat, so to say, to the bank’s profit objectives.

On the other hand, when directed to a Certified Financial Planner®, which is the teller’s second option, you are being directed to someone who LISTENS TO YOUR NEEDS, wants, concerns, and risk tolerances and then makes a customized recommendation that FITS YOU. Granted, the Certified Financial Planner® may indeed recommend some bank investment vehicles, but only if they fit your needs and your customized financial plan.

Don’t misunderstand me. Many of those bank-pushed investment vehicles may be quite okay, so, the bank investment person may luck out and put your money into something that works for you. But a Certified Financial Planner® will work hard to be certain your investment plan is indeed customized to you.

The better option is to INSIST on meeting with one of the bank’s Certified Financial Planners®. The Certified Financial Planner® carries the designation of  CFP®  which you may find on his or her letterhead, emails, or business cards.

What’s it take to become a Certified Financial Planner®?  Extensive study. And best of all: STRONG ETHICS in your best interest. Considerable effort is required to achieve this designation. Course of study is very difficult, lengthy, and very challenging. Reams of information, in fact many binders full of financial information must be mastered. Consequently, failure rates to qualify for this designation are very high. A small percentage of the people who apply and study for this designation ever make it through. I like to express it this way: “Many want it, but few make it”.  In other words, though anyone can put up a shingle as a money manager, not everyone can make it through the gruelling course of study and qualifications required to achieve the CFP®  designation.

Be sure to ask to meet with a person carrying the CFP®  designation to assure yourself of a highly trained, highly qualified financial planner.

“Be sure to work with a planner who considers your overall financial goals, values and attitudes even if they specialize in a specific area such as taxation, estate planning, insurance or investments. As an example, an investment specialist’s portfolio recommendations should consider your investment objectives and risk tolerance, but as well your cash flow needs, tax situation, risk management and estate goals. Ask whether the individual deals primarily with clients with specific net worth, levels of income or investable assets, and whether the planner will help you implement the plan s/he develops or refer you to others who will do so.”  [Source: http://www.fpsc.ca/10-questions-ask-your-planner.]

A Certified Financial Planner® must put your interests first.  “CFP® professionals are held to the highest of standards, as outlined in CFP Board’s Standards of Professional Conduct. They are obliged to uphold the principles of integrity, objectivity, competence, fairness, confidentiality, professionalism and diligence as outlined in CFP Board’s Code of Ethics. The Rules of Conduct require CFP® professionals to put your interests ahead of their own at all times and to provide their financial planning services as a “fiduciary”—acting in the best interest of their financial planning clients. CFP® professionals are subject to CFP Board sanctions if they violate these standards.” [See more at: http://www.cfp.net/about-cfp-board/cfp-certification-the-standard-of-excellence/the-four-e’s?utm_source=four-Es&utm_medium=timely&utm_content=homepage&utm_campaign=homepage]

NOTE:  CFP®  and  Certified Financial Planner®  are certification trademarks owned outside the U.S. by Financial Planning Standards Board Ltd. (FPSB). Financial Planning Standards Council is the marks licensing authority for the CFP marks in Canada, through agreement with FPSB.  In USA:  certification trademarks owned by Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.