Three Tips for Choosing the Best Wealth Manager for Your Business and Family

By Rita Cheng, CRPC®, CFP®
CEO, Blue Ocean Global Wealth

In my August 2012 article, I defined wealth management, and offered six tips to get you started on the path toward solid financial planning for your future.

My top recommendations included:

  • Take charge: Remember, it’s your money. You are in complete control of the engagement with your financial planner. You need to feel heard and understood, as opposed to being lectured to or talked down to.
  • Look at the big picture: Financial planning is more than just retirement planning or tax planning, so it’s important to keep both your long- and short-term goals in mind when developing a strategy.
  • Don’t confuse financial planning with investing: There is a difference, and you need to distinguish between them. The financial planning process helps you understand the impact that one decision may have on other areas of your financial life.
  • Don’t expect unrealistic returns on investments: The market fluctuates daily, so take a long-term view, especially with your retirement funds. It is not uncommon for clients to adopt a 30-year time horizon for retirement.
  • Don’t wait until a money crisis to begin financial planning: It is never too early to plan, nor is it ever too late to start planning. You may not be able to control stock market volatility, interest rate fluctuations, or the value of your home, but you can still be in control of your future. Planning provides direction and guidance, which can ultimately increase your financial confidence.

To assist you further, here are three tips on how to pick a financial planner.

1. Do your homework.

Remember, it’s your money—and you are responsible for making sure that anyone who is managing it will do the best of their ability. Because the past few years have shown us that not all financial managers are trustworthy, it’s important to spend time with several planners to learn which one you are most comfortable working with.

  • Interview the candidates several times.
  • Ask for references—and check them (see details in #2 below).
  • And most importantly, remember that you are the boss in this relationship. Technical skills and competence are the starting point. Your advisor must understand your time horizon, your goals, your capacity for risk—and most importantly, you as an individual, not just an investor.

2. Be diligent about checking references.

I can’t emphasize this enough. Here are some useful sites for your research:

  • is the Financial Industry’s Regulatory Agency where you can obtain records on stockbrokers, investment advisors, and insurance agents and their firms. Finra offers information on the states and regulatory organizations they are registered with, as well as the licenses they hold, and the exams they have taken/passed.
  • has information about clients, fees, and business and disciplinary records for investment advisors regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. These are firms that manage more than $25 million. Click on “Investment Advisor Search” in the left column to see the Form ADV.
  • is the official site of the Financial Planning Association, which lists information about advisors’ education and area-of-practice focus.

3. Find a financial planner in your area. Be sure to inquire about how the advisor makes decisions, assesses their performance, and processes decisions. Listen for responses that seem too impressive or evasive.

For more good information on this topic, read this useful article in The Wall Street Journal.

Marguerita M. Cheng, CFP® is the CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth, which provides corporations and institutions with portfolio construction, investment due diligence, and risk-management consulting services. The firm works with families, entrepreneurs, and executives to help them identify and achieve their financial goals. As a CFP Board Ambassador, she helps educate the public, policy makers, and media about the benefits of competent, ethical financial planning.

A Financial Planning Association (FPA) National Board Member and member of the finance committee, Cheng served eight years on the Board of Directors of her alma matter, The Robert H. Smith School of Business at University of Maryland, where she collaborated to increase alumni engagement and developed asset management education programs. She is also the President of the Blue Ocean Economic Empowerment Fund.

Cheng says her greatest joy and passion is touching the lives of others so that they may achieve their “personal financial success.”

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