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Choosing a financial advisor is an important and complicated decision.

Many advisors display similar skillsets that can make distinguishing between them difficult. The following guidelines can help you better understand their qualifications and services.

1. Make sure an advisor offers what you need. Are you looking for someone to manage a stock portfolio, dole out tax advice or help with estate planning, or do you want help with everything? Find out how advisors plan to meet your goals.

2. Ask about education and licenses, as well as how they performed where they previously worked. You can research advisors on sites provided by the Financial Planning Association and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.

3. Speak with clients to reveal an advisor’s ethics, personality and responsiveness. Feel free to interview multiple advisors and compare their pitches.

4. Ask advisors if they’ve been audited, and by whom. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s brokercheck site lists any discipline advisors receive for unethical or unlawful behavior.

5. Know exactly how you’ll pay an advisor. Many charge an hourly rate or a flat monthly fee, while others receive a percentage of assets managed, which is usually two percent of a portfolio or less. Still others may bill a combination of charges. Note that fee-only advisors earn no commissions for selling specific investments.

Before making a decision, you should feel confident that an advisor will make decisions for your benefit, not to increase their own profits.

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