It used to be easy to tell the good guys from the bad--good guys rode in on a white horse and got the girl. It takes more than that to evaluate a financial advisor, however, so don't be too quick on the draw. Make sure any candidate's record is free of customer and regulatory agency complaints. "The percentage of people in the industry who have had trouble or who are trouble is a small percentage of those who are registered," says Walter. "But it's also a large number of people."
Information regarding customer complaints against a registered representative is available to the public and can be accessed by calling the NASD at (800) 289-9999 or through its Web site, http://www.nasdr.com . Information on employment history, disciplinary actions, settlements over $5,000 and arbitration awards is available at no cost.
Thirty-one thousand individuals have earned the right to use the CFP designation. Planners' records are checked annually to make sure they are properly registered. "Written complaints received by the board against a CFP licensee must be answered in writing within 20 days," says Bob Goss, president of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. "Failure to respond or cooperate is grounds for suspension or revocation of the CFP license."