How to Choose a Financial Advisor

There are some decisions you don’t mind leaving to chance, like when you let your spouse choose the restaurant or allow your child to pick the movie on movie night. And then there are other decisions, like mapping out your financial future, that require more careful consideration. 

Choosing a financial advisor is an important decision. A financial advisor should be a trusted partner you can go to for advice and objective guidance when you’re faced with tough decisions. 

With all the choices that abound when it comes to selecting a financial advisor, how can you determine whether a financial advisor will be a good fit for you?

To help you make the best choice, here are 3 criteria to consider when deciding to partner with a financial advisor. 

Knowing Your Options

There are many types of financial advisors out there, including but certainly not limited to:

  • Investment Advisors
  • Certified Financial Planners
  • Financial Consultants
  • Broker-Dealers
  • Portfolio and Asset Managers

Some gray area and overlap exist among the services different types of advisors offer. For example, an investment advisor might specialize only in managing assets and investment advice. On the other hand, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional such as myself might offer comprehensive planning strategies to help you reach your goals in addition to providing asset management and investment advice.

An advisor’s title can’t tell you everything there is to know about their services, but it’s a good place to start. If you’re looking for goals-based financial advice, you may want to interview certified financial planners. If you’re looking for a more hands-off relationship with an advisor who manages assets directly, a portfolio manager might be a better option.

Choosing Based on Specialty

Advisor specialties should be one of your most essential considerations. Some advisors specialize broadly in retirement planning, while others specialize in narrow niches, such as retirement planning for physicians or portfolio management for real estate investors. 

Some advisors serve specific age ranges, others focus on specific professions, and others even specialize in helping women or divorced individuals with their unique circumstances. In all likelihood, there’s an advisor out there who specializes in serving your particular needs.

I work mainly with business owners, federal employees, and military members. I have extensive knowledge of individual investments, retirement plans, and both the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) and the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). I focus on helping these three groups manage their investments and plan for retirement.

In today’s virtual world, it’s less important that your advisor is located physically near you, and more important that their specialty aligns with your needs. Although being able to meet with your advisor face-to-face is nice, most work can be done through videoconferences, especially with features like screen-sharing and recording.

Vet Credentials and Philosophies

Finally, you should consider every potential advisor’s credentials and philosophies. The truth is that anyone can start a financial advising firm, and they don’t necessarily have to have any credentials to do so. 

I hold the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation that focuses on financial planning, investment and retirement planning needs, and other principal knowledge domains and topics.

As for credentials, the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) designation is noteworthy for advisors to carry, as it is earned after years of study, service, passing of exams, and demonstrated commitment to ethics. There are other noteworthy credentials that focus on financial consulting, financial analysis, and fiduciary matters. Not all credentials are created equal, so make sure you know what a credential entails when you see it attached to an advisor’s name.

In addition to determining your advisor’s credentials and designations, you should also ensure their philosophy regarding investments and wealth management aligns with your values. You can usually find out about a financial advisor’s philosophy on their website, but I also highly recommend asking them to tell you more about their philosophy during a consultation call.

Partner With an Advisor You Trust

Sometimes taking the first step can be the most difficult. Whatever your financial, investment, or retirement planning concerns, Sentinel Financial Planning is here to help you on your journey. We would love to meet you to discuss your concerns and financial goals and see if we’d be a good fit to work together. I encourage you to contact me today for a no-obligation get-acquainted meeting. Schedule an appointment here, or call (443) 906-1565 or email

About Mark

Mark Humphries is the owner and financial advisor at Sentinel Financial Planning, a boutique, veteran-owned and operated investment management, and financial planning firm. Mark focuses on helping business owners, federal government employees, and military members manage their investments and plan for retirement. As a former military service member and federal employee with over 10 years in the financial industry, he is familiar with the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) and the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) and is uniquely qualified to serve his clientele.

Before working in the financial industry, Mark was enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1999 to 2003, during which he became familiar with the challenges military service members and their families face, especially during deployments. After seven years of working in the financial industry, Mark launched Sentinel Financial Planning to provide a better way for small business owners and federal employees to find reliable financial planning solutions. In addition to the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation, Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Central Florida and a master’s degree in personal financial planning from Kansas State University.

Outside the office, Mark enjoys boating, fishing, hunting, and collegiate sports. Additionally, he is a member of the National Association of Professional Financial Advisors, XY Planning Network, the Anne Arundel County Pension Oversight Commission, and the Naval Academy Primary School Board of Trustees. To learn more about Mark, connect with him on LinkedIn.