Five Star Logo
As seen in
Denver Five Star award winner
Marketing partner logo

How to Pick a Financial Planner

Selected content image

Candidates aren't hard to come by. Here's how to find the right one for you.
By the editors of Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Updated January 2015

It's not always easy to take a dispassionate view of your own financial situation and decide on the proper mix of insurance, investments and the like. A good stockbroker can help. But if you'd like someone to make broader-based investment recommendations based on extensive knowledge of your financial situation, you may be in the market for a financial planner.

You can get names of planners in your area from the profession's major membership organizations:

  • For a directory of fee-only practitioners, contact the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.
  • Find CPAs who have earned the credential of Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) through the American Institute of CPAs.
  • The Financial Planning Association has a registry service you can use to get names of members in your area. Visit its Web site, where you can do an online search. The site also features consumer information related to financial planning.


After you have the names, select at least three candidates. Visit the office of each and ask for a detailed statement of fees and services, a résumé and references. Your purpose is to compare them on the following points:

Experience: Your planner should have, at the very minimum, a few years of experience in planning or allied fields, such as accounting, securities analysis or trading, or law.

Credentials: Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is probably the best-known credential. Graduates must take a series of courses, pass a two-day, ten-part exam, and complete three years of work experience to earn the CFP designation. In addition, the planner must complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years to keep the credential. The coursework usually takes a couple of years or more to complete and covers virtually all aspects of financial planning for individuals.

Chartered Financial Consultants (ChFC) have earned the designation from the American College in Bryn Mawr, Pa., which also grants an insurance-business certification, Chartered Life Underwriter. The ChFC has successfully completed an eight-course sequence over a period of two to four years and passed two-hour exams on each.

Master of Sciences in Financial Services (MSFS) is also conferred by the American College, after 36 credits of coursework. Twelve of the credits are earned by attending two weeks of study at the college.

Registered Financial Consultants (RFC) have met the requirements of the International Association of Registered Financial Consultants, which confers the designation on planners who meet certain academic and work-experience guidelines.

These titles do provide some assurance that the planner took the trouble to take the courses to raise his or her level of skill and knowledge in the field.

Access to experts: No one person, however well trained, has the encyclopedic knowledge required to deal in depth with all the problems that can affect an individual's financial affairs. Instead, a planner should be able to demonstrate that he or she consults regularly with experts in a variety of fields.

Fees and commissions: There is no standard fee system or scale in the planning business. Some planners work only for fees, much like lawyers. Others operate entirely or almost entirely on commissions. In between are the larger number, who depend on a combination of fees and commissions. In some cases the planner might partly credit commissions against the fee to encourage the client to buy insurance or other financial products through the planner's
company. A planner who feels confident of being able to sell a high-commission product might gamble on a low fee.

Unless you're dealing with a fee-only firm, you can expect to get suggestions that you purchase an investment or insurance product that the planner sells. There's nothing wrong with that, provided the product is suitable for someone in your financial situation and compares favorably with the scores of others you might buy elsewhere.

However, you'd want to think twice about buying a load mutual fund when there are so many no-load funds available, for instance. And why buy the stocks recommended by the planner at a standard commission rate when you can use a discount broker? It's up to you to decide whether the quality of the planner's service is worth the cost.


This award was issued on 10/01/2023 by Five Star Professional (FSP) for the time period 12/12/2022 through 06/30/2023. Fee paid for use of marketing materials. Self-completed questionnaire was used for rating. This rating is not related to the quality of the investment advice and based solely on the disclosed criteria. 2,580 Denver-area wealth managers were considered for the award; 247 (10% of candidates) were named 2023 Five Star Wealth Managers. The following prior year statistics use this format: YEAR: # Considered, # Winners, % of candidates, Issued Date, Research Period. 2022: 2132, 235, 11%, 10/1/22, 1/17/22 - 7/15/22; 2021: 2158, 206, 10%, 10/1/21, 1/4/21 - 7/30/21; 2020: 2172, 213, 10%, 10/1/20, 1/20/20 - 8/14/20; 2019: 2146, 262, 12%, 10/1/19, 1/21/19 - 8/23/19; 2018: 2255, 267, 12%, 10/1/18, 1/18/18 - 8/21/18; 2017: 1716, 287, 17%, 10/1/17, 1/18/17 - 8/9/17; 2016: 1552, 515, 33%, 9/1/16, 2/23/16 - 8/26/16; 2015: 3008, 517, 17%, 10/1/15, 2/19/15 - 8/17/15; 2014: 4385, 528, 12%, 10/1/14, 2/19/13 - 8/17/13; 2013: 2083, 607, 29%, 10/1/13, 2/19/12 - 8/17/12; 2012: 1965, 611, 31%, 10/1/12, 2/19/11 - 8/17/11.
Click to access BrokerCheck

Hinds Financial Group only transacts business in states where it is properly registered or notice filed, or excluded or exempted from registration requirements. Follow-up and individualized responses that involve either the effecting or attempting to effect transactions in securities, or the rendering of personalized investment advice for compensation, as the case might be, will not be made absent compliance with FINRA, and investment advisor representative registration requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. 

Registered Representative offering securities and some advisory services through Centera Advisor Networks LLC, member FINRA/SIPC, a broker/dealer and Registered Investment Advisor. Hinds Financial Group Inc. is not affiliated with and Cetera Advisor Networks LLC. Advisory Services also offered through Hinds Financial Group

The Five Star Wealth Management Award, administered by Crescendo Business Services, LLC (dba Five Star
Professional), identifies a percentage of wealth managers within a local region (click here for research statistics) who
satisfy objective eligibility and evaluation criteria associated with providing quality services to clients. Wealth
managers do not pay a fee to be considered or awarded. Factors considered include: credentialed as a registered
investment adviser or an investment adviser representative, a minimum of five years of experience in the financial
services industry, *favorable regulatory and compliant history review, internal firm review, acceptance of new clients,
one year and five year retention rates, non-institutional discretionary and/or non-discretionary client assets
administered, number of client households, and education and professional designations.
*A favorable regulatory and complaint history is defined by Five Star Professional to mean that the wealth manager
has not: been subject to a regulatory action that resulted in a license or registration being suspended or revoked, or
payment of a fine, had more than a total of three settled or pending customer complaints filed against them (excluding
dismissed complaints) with any regulatory authority or through Five Star Professional’s consumer complaint process,
individually contributed to a financial settlement of a customer complaint, filed for personal bankruptcy, been
convicted of a felony.
Recognition from rating services or publications is no guarantee of future investment success. Working with a Five
Star Wealth Manager does not ensure that a client or prospective client will experience a higher level of performance
or results. The inclusion of a wealth manager on The Five Star Wealth Manager Award list should not be construed
as an endorsement of the adviser by any client nor are they representative of any one client’s evaluation.


this email and any emails transmitted with it are confidential and intended soley for the use of the indiuvidua; or entity to who the email is ADDRESSEd

*Winners appearing on this page do not pay a fee to be considered or to win the Five Star Award. Professionals with a digital profile have paid a promotional fee.
Wealth managers do not pay a fee to be considered or placed on the final list of Five Star Wealth Managers. The award is based on 10 objective criteria. Eligibility criteria-required: 1. Credentialed as a registered investment adviser (RIA) or a registered investment adviser representative; 2. Actively licensed as a RIA or as a principal of a registered investment adviser firm for a minimum of 5 years; 3. Favorable regulatory and complaint history review (As defined by FSP, the wealth manager has not; A. Been subject to a regulatory action that resulted in a license being suspended or revoked, or payment of a fine; B. Had more than a total of three settled or pending complaints filed against them and/or a total of five settled, pending, dismissed or denied complaints with any regulatory authority or FSP's consumer complaint process. Unfavorable feedback may have been discovered through a check of complaints registered with a regulatory authority or complaints registered through FSP's consumer complaint process; feedback may not be representative of any one client's experience; C. Individually contributed to a financial settlement of a customer complaint; D. Filed for personal bankruptcy within the past 11 years; E. Been terminated from a financial services firm within the past 11 years; F. Been convicted of a felony); 4. Fulfilled their firm review based on internal standards; 5. Accepting new clients. Evaluation criteria-considered: 6. One-year client retention rate; 7. Five-year client retention rate; 8. Non-institutional discretionary and/or non-discretionary client assets administered; 9. Number of client households served; 10. Education and professional designations. FSP does not evaluate quality of services provided to clients. The award is not indicative of the wealth manager's future performance . Wealth Managers may or may not use discretion in their practice and therefore may not manage their clients' assets. The inclusion of a wealth manager on the Five Star Wealth Manager list should not be construed as an endorsement of the wealth manager by FSP or this publication. Working with a Five Star Wealth Manager or any wealth manager is no guarantee as to future investment success, nor is there any guarantee that the selected wealth managers will be awarded this accomplishment by FSP in the future. Visit