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Important information about selecting a financial advisor

Planning for retirement begins the first day you start working for a PERS-participating employer and continues throughout your career. Having the right information can help make your retirement decisions easier and your retirement more successful.

PERS can provide information about your benefit and the retirement options available through the state retirement system. However, you may need additional financial planning information that PERS cannot provide.

PERS staff are not financial planners or tax advisors and do not give financial planning, tax, or investment advice. However, some basic principles of retirement planning are consistently cited by financial planning experts:

  • Plan early.
  • Invest your time before you invest your money.
  • Get help.

You can’t begin planning too soon for retirement. Can you reasonably anticipate your needs for the retirement years? What contingencies must you cover? Children still at home or in college? A nonworking spouse or partner? Mortgage payments? Health issues? Long-term care?

Depending on your circumstances, you may need to answer many other questions. Waiting until you’re about to retire to tackle your questions can lead to disappointment. Early planning can help you better reach your retirement goals.

Take the time to do the following:

  • Conduct research into investment strategies.
  • Attend PERS education sessions.
  • Seek out other financial planning workshops.
  • Carefully analyze your retirement needs.
  • Consider the demands that will be placed on your money and time in retirement.
  • Learn how to select financial and tax advisors.
  • Get to know what investments are available, what they are designed to do, and the fees associated with them.

Deciding to get help can be an important step in your retirement planning.

How do you choose a financial planner who will best serve your needs and your goals?

Professional money managers often recommend that you do the following to find a financial planner who is right for you:

  • Ask questions. It’s your money, and you should feel comfortable with your financial and tax advisors. Don’t be intimidated by potential advisors. Insist on answers to your questions.
  • Include your spouse or partner. They should feel comfortable with your financial advisor, too. They also may think of questions or issues that did not occur to you.
  • Check for professional credentials. Anyone can create a personal corporation, or PC, so it is not a guarantee of financial expertise. so those initials are not very instructive. The following credentials at least require the successful completion of courses approved by professional organizations: certified public account (CPA), personal financial specialist (PFS), chartered life underwriter (CLU), certified retirement counselor (CRC), or chartered financial consultant (ChFC). You also can look for someone who is a member of the International Association for Financial Planning (IAFP).
  • Check that they function in a fiduciary capacity.
  • Consider more than one candidate. Professionals are willing to be initially interviewed by phone to be sure you fit their client profile. Some advisors also suggest that you pass on hiring anyone who won’t do a free, 30-minute, in-person interview.
  • Check references. Start by checking with state regulatory agencies and professional associations, most of which track customer complaints. Take the time to find out if your candidate has a record of complaints. Get the names of current clients. Check for reviews.
  • Know how the advisor generates income. Does the person make a commission on products sold, charge a percentage of assets under management, or charge an hourly rate for advising? Most consultants recommend against people on commission, but norms vary by industry. Commissions are standard, for example, in the insurance industry.

Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid advisors who guarantee they can beat the market. Advisors should carefully describe both the benefits and risks of an investment.

Where can you find both information and financial professionals? Try the following organizations:

For financial advisors:

Financial Planning Association

National Association of Personal Financial Advisors

For accountants and tax preparers:

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants

Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation

National Association of Enrolled Agents


This webpage is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal or financial advice. If there is any conflict between this webpage and federal law, Oregon law, or administrative rules, the laws and rules shall prevail.

Published January 2006. Updated March 2024.