Most people believe that choosing an advisor comes down to who will offer the highest investment returns. However, there is no reliable way to know in advance whose performance will come out ahead.

Fortunately, there are objective criteria you can use to increase the likelihood of finding the right advisor1. Here are a few to consider:

1) CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM Certification

This designation, which is only held by approximately 20% of advisors, is widely considered the profession’s “gold standard” in terms of rigor and ethical requirements. A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professional can find ways to improve your finances regardless of market performance, giving them a leg up on investment generalists. Examples include optimizing Social Security benefits or implementing income tax reduction strategies.

2) Places Your Interests First

Would you even consider working with a doctor who didn’t place your interests first? Why should it be any different when working with an advisor? Not all advisors are held to the same regulatory standards. Before entering into a working relationship, be sure to ask whether they are legally bound to place your interests above their own.

3) Objectivity

Big Wall Street firms must balance your interests against their shareholders. As such, they might limit the investments their advisors can offer, promote proprietary products, or otherwise influence advisor behavior through compensation plans. These conflicts are one reason you’re more likely to receive objective advice from an independent advisor.

There are other criteria that might be helpful as well. For example, we believe you can tell a great deal about a person by their attention to detail, or how responsive they are to your calls or e-mails. It’s also important to find advisor whose specialty is consistent with your unique needs.

1 - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission offers more information on choosing an advisor at http://www.sec.gov/investor/pubs/invadvisers.htm