A financial advisor can offer valuable strategies and guidance to help you grow your savings and meet your financial goals and dreams. It’s important to select a qualified individual who is also a good match—personally and professionally.

How to find the right advisor for your financial future:

Ask for a preliminary meeting. Your first meeting should be complimentary and without any obligation on your part. Be wary if you are pressured to write a check or make any decisions at your initial consultation. During the meeting, listen carefully to what the advisor says. Does he or she ask questions to help clarify your financial circumstances and goals? Or are you listening to a canned speech? Be prepared to ask questions to determine how your advisor will work with you, including compensation (more on that later), frequency of meetings or calls and how your progress will be tracked. Look for someone who follows a process but is also flexible and responsive when your needs change.

Understand the compensation model. Advisors may charge a flat fee for services while others charge a percentage of assets under management. Still others may be paid commission on the sale of financial products. It’s not unusual for all three methods to contribute to an advisor’s earnings. It’s important to understand how commissions and fees will affect the growth of your portfolio and to be aware of potential conflicts of interest.

Compatibility matters. Your financial advisor should be someone who makes you feel at ease—enough so that you are comfortable sharing intimate financial details of your life. A successful advisory relationship can last for many years, so look for a person you can trust and with whom you enjoy spending time.

Review experience and training. Look for someone with a depth of knowledge and valuable experience in the field. Your advisor should be able to distill complex financial topics for you in a way that you clearly understand and apply to your situation.

Some advisors earn designations as part of their ongoing training. For example, a Certified Financial PlannerTM certification indicates completion of training in the financial planning process, with an understanding of insurance, investments, tax strategies and retirement and estate planning. Another designation, Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC®), indicates the advisor has received training in personalized financial planning processes. Some financial planners also may be trained and experienced as Certified Public Accountants or attorneys.

Consider specialization, as needed. Look for an advisor who has special expertise to meet your specific needs, such as estate planning or succession planning for your business.

Check professional references. Take the time to call each reference. Ask specific questions to get an idea of the advisor’s strengths and weaknesses. If possible, talk to clients and professional associates. Credentials can also be verified by the organizations that award them.

Be a proactive client. Ask for what you need. If you aren’t satisfied with the level of service you receive, take your business elsewhere.

Michael W. Yee is a senior financial advisor with Michael W. Yee, a financial advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. As a financial advisor, Yee provides customized financial advice that is anchored in a solid understanding of client needs and expectations, and provided in a one-on-one relationship with his clients. For more information, please contact Michael W.Yee at (808) 952-1240. Advisor is licensed/registered to do business with U.S. residents only in the states of Hawaii. Brokerage, investment and financial advisory services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA and SIPC. Some products and services may not be available in all jurisdictions or to all clients. © 2010 Ameriprise Financial, Inc. All rights reserved.