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Why waste time picking a financial adviser? Because it matters

There are some people who are natural networkers. You might casually mention that you received a severance package or perhaps you're simply conversing about the gloomy global economic prospects and they instantly say, "I have a great financial adviser who can help you!"

I ran into such a person recently and they were ready to put me in touch with "their guy." I played along and asked for the reason behind the glowing recommendation. "He helped me set up an RRSP."

That's like recommending an English tutor because they know the alphabet.

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Other people have told me that they just pop into their branch and meet with whomever is around when they have questions. Others may use the person who services their group RRSP at work.

But ask people how they settle on the contractor who handles their kitchen renovation and you're more likely to hear about how they interviewed three different people, checked references and even had a friend sit in on the meetings.

Having a financial adviser is not just a box that needs to be ticked on a to-do list. It's an incredibly important decision that most people gloss over. Let me reiterate a point I make often: A few hundred dollars and a few weeks of study is the minimum requirement to become a financial adviser in Canada. But there are plenty of advisers who do a lot more than the minimum in order to become trustworthy, competent professionals. How can you separate the wheat from the chaff?

Many readers and advisers have weighed in on what designations you might want to look for in a financial adviser, but they all recognized that there is more to an adviser than letters after their name.

Few financial advisers will last in the business if they aren't cordial. And being a nice person is not a guarantee of competence. So I don't want to hear how nice they are as a person. That's great, but not sufficient.

READERS: Let's hear from you, how did you pick your financial adviser? And more importantly, how do you really know they are any good?

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