No matter where you are in your financial life, chances are you could benefit from guidance or support. In today’s environment of instant information, data breaches and “armchair experts,” it can be challenging to decipher whom to trust.

If you are looking to build a strong financial foundation, working with a financial counselor or coach is a great place to begin. An Accredited Financial Counselor® can help you tackle an immediate financial crisis, overcome debt, navigate student loans and grow your savings. Once these foundational skills are developed, you may transition to a trusted financial planner or advisor to build long-term wealth.

Remember, not all financial professionals are created equal. Before you select a financial professional, ask these important questions:

1. Do you have a credential?

Make sure they have a reputable certification that requires ongoing education and ethics. Ask how they stay up-to-date with current changes and developments in the personal finance field.

2. What services do you offer?

Credentials, licenses and areas of expertise are all factors that determine the services a financial professional may offer. Financial counselors and coaches do not sell insurance or securities products, such as mutual funds or stocks. They also do not provide investment advice unless registered with state or federal authorities.

3. What is your approach?

Personal compatibility and communication style is critical to a positive engagement. Make sure that their philosophy and approach align with your needs and values.

4. How much do you charge and how will I pay for your services?

Financial professionals can be paid in several ways, so make sure that the professional is a good fit for your financial situation and that the fees and terms are clearly defined in writing.

5. Do others stand to gain from the financial advice you give me?

Ask the professional to provide you with a description of any conflicts of interest in writing.

6. Ask for more background

If the professional was not recommended by someone you trust, ask for a referral and check with the national accrediting body to ensure that they have never been disciplined for any unlawful or unethical actions.

Be an informed consumer. Use these questions to find a financial professional who is qualified to address your unique financial situation and life goals.

The Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education® (AFCPE®) certifies, trains, and supports financial professionals to be qualified motivators of change for people with life goals, regardless of where they are or where they’ve been on their financial journey.

Our comprehensive certification programs represent the highest standard for financial counseling, coaching, and education, including the nationally recognized and NCCA accredited AFC® (Accredited Financial Counselor®) certification, as well as the FFC® (Financial Fitness Coach) certification, which is delivered in partnership with Sage Financial Solutions.