Choosing an investment advisor can be extremely complicated and stressful. An investment advisor is someone who helps you decide specifically how to invest your money in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or other types of securities. Your investment advisor might even manage your entire investment portfolio for you. Since this person is going to have so much influence over your financial future, you need to make sure that you find someone who is both trustworthy and knowledgeable.
Begin by only meeting with investment advisors who are certified financial planners. Certified financial planners are licensed and regulated. Not every investment advisor is certified as a financial planner, and investment advisors who are uncertified may be good advisors, but they are more difficult to research. If your investment advisor claims to be a CFP, you can just check with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards online. You can also look up your CFP's ADV Form, which is a form that specifies whether he has ever had a problem with a regulator or client, and explains your adviser's fee structures and strategies. CFPs are required to pass vigorous tests and continue their educations throughout their careers.
Ask your friends and relatives for recommendations for an investment advisor. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising. Try to ask friends and relatives who are at the same stage in their lives as you are. For example, if you are a new parent hoping to build a college fund, you want an investment advisor who has experience working for people with the same goals. It might not be the same investment advisor who you choose when you are ready to start thinking about retirement.
If you don't know anyone who uses an investment advisor, you can check with the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors for a lead. This is an association of fee-only advisors who only earn money from client fees. These guys have taken a pledge not to accept commissions and to always act in a client's best interest. You should also read your investment advisor's code of ethics and search for the word "fiduciary." This word means your investment advisor has pledged to act in your best interest, rather than just your sustainability.
Next, ask your investment advisor about how he gets paid. Some investment advisors get a percentage of the value of the assets they manage, some receive an hourly or fixed fee, some get commissions on the securities they sell, and some charge in a combination of ways. Obviously, guys who work on commission may have an interest in steering you towards certain investments. Some very successful investment advisors won't work with any client who has less than $250,000 to invest. You'll need to choose your investment advisor based on your particular situation and your needs.
Always meet with your potential investment advisor in person. Once you confirm that this person is certified and comes recommended by other clients, you are going to want to make sure that the advisor understands your personal needs. Some people are more willing to take risks than others. Choose an investment advisor who respects your wishes and doesn't patronize you.