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What Used Car Salesmen and Financial Planners
Have in Common
A 19-Point Checklist to Evaluate Your Financial Planner

By Garrett B. Gunderson

© 2011 Nightingale-Conant Corporation

We don’t trust car salesmen because we know they’re typically more concerned with what they’re getting out of the deal than with meeting our needs.

Then why do we throw our money to anyone who calls him- or herself a “financial planner” — who also works solely on commission (and usually sells only one or two products)?

As a holistic Financial Advocate, I constantly encounter clients who think that because they already have a financial planner, they’re all set with their finances.

Unfortunately, most people who call themselves “financial planners” are actually just salespeople. Because they get paid from commissions on selective products, they have little or no incentive to give you an accurate, comprehensive, and efficient financial plan that accounts for every variable. Hence, their recommendations are skewed and incomplete at best.

I work personally with hundreds of clients. My thorough research has proven that more than 90% of them take home far less money than they should — regardless of whether they have financial planners. Even if your financial planner is trustworthy and knowledgeable, most likely he or she is just one part of what should be a more complete financial team and strategy.

Use the following 19-point checklist to determine whether or not your “financial planner” is giving you the best advice, tools, and strategies (to simplify this, I’ve used the universal “he”):

  1. Does he analyze the expense structures and uncover hidden financial fees in all your existing financial products?
  2. Does he analyze your accounting strategy and every aspect of your taxes to ensure that you’re keeping as much of your money as possible?
  3. Does he teach you to defer your taxes until later when your tax burden will be higher, or do your tax strategies limit or eliminate your taxes when you withdraw on the back end?
  4. Does he provide you with practical exit strategies on all your investments, or will you be subject to unexpected penalties, fees, and taxes?
  5. Does he review your estate plan to limit your taxes and liability, maximize your distributions, and give you as much control and the government as little control as possible?
  6. Does he offer strategies for limiting your exposure to market risk while also giving you as much upside potential as possible?
  8. Does he offer strategies for succeeding no matter what, or do your strategies depend on market cooperation?
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  10. Does he review all your insurance coverages to check for duplicate coverage and ensure the most efficient structure and best possible premiums?
  11. Does he analyze all your current loans to ensure that you’re getting the best terms and rates, and to provide the best debt payoff strategy?
  12. Does he analyze your credit score and help you improve it to get more favorable loans and increase your cash flow?
  13. Does he use accurate projections, or are they based on false assumptions and unknown variables? (Hint: If he gives you a projected scenario in which you’ll average 8% or more every year for the next 30 years, you can know with certainty he doesn’t know what he’s doing.)
  14. Does he teach you how to perform proper due diligence on all your investment opportunities?
  15. When you lose money in investments, does he just tell you, “You’re in it for the long haul,” and advise you to stick with the plan, or does he have effective strategies for limiting your losses?
  16. Does he teach you how to align your investments with your passion and purpose? Does he recommend what’s best for you, or what’s best for him?
  17. Does he teach you how to maximize your control and liquidity with all your investing, or does he simply tell you to dump your money in accounts you don’t understand, and then hold onto them for 30 years and cross your fingers and hope they grow?
  18. Does he teach you how to grow and manage your business, or at least connect you with resources to help you with your business?
  19. Does he analyze your business structure to ensure that you’re getting maximum tax advantages?
  20. Does he teach you how to optimize your immediate cash flow, or are his recommendations simply concerned with long-term retirement planning?
  21. Do his recommendations boil down to selling you a couple of products, or does he provide a true macroeconomic plan that identifies, prioritizes, and manages all pieces of your financial puzzle, with all pieces coordinated and working together for maximum efficiency?

One of the critical flaws of the financial services industry is that it’s driven by sales commissions. Working with salespeople posturing as “financial planners” causes you to lose money in taxes, hidden financial fees, insurance premiums, and mismanaged credit. It means you’re not optimizing your current cash flow, nor are you adequately preparing for the future.

Financial planning doesn’t mean buying a few financial products, dumping money into them, and hoping they’ll grow and provide you with a healthy retirement. It includes every aspect of your finances and economics.

To get a true financial plan that actually works, you need more than a salesman — you need a legitimate planner who analyzes your entire financial picture.

Garrett Gunderson is a Financial Advocate, the author of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Amazon bestseller Killing Sacred Cows: Overcoming the Financial Myths that Are Destroying Your Prosperity, and the creator of “The New Rules to Get Rich.”

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