Accountants, too, are in financial planning. There are more than 305,000 accountants in the United States, but only about 7,000 are planners, says Kathleen Flynn, spokeswoman for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. And only about 600 have taken the additional course work and testing required to earn the institute's designation as an accredited personal financial specialist. Call (800) 966-7379 for a list.
A few states allow certified public accountants to receive commissions for investment products. The CPA institute is encouraging those states to pass legislation to prohibit the practice, Ms. Flynn says.
Insurance agents who sell mutual funds and other investment products may not be as objective as the members of these organizations, but they are answerable to a higher authority than their companies. To sell mutual funds, an agent or broker has to have at least a "Series 6" license from the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Not only does that mean customers can contact the SEC, but they can also ask for a copy of Part I and Part II of the ADV, or adviser's form, that all brokers, registered investment advisers and agents who sell investments file with the SEC. The adviser is not required to give you Part I, but since that addresses disciplinary issues, you should get it if you ask.
It might take a few weeks or months to find and check out an investment adviser you're comfortable with.
That's OK. If you have a CD coming due this month, roll it over one more time for six months, or put it in a savings account while you look for competent, objective -- and honest -- advice.