Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Questions to Ask Your Financial Advisor

Bernard Madoff 'Made Off' With Investor Money –
How Other Consumers Can Avoid a Similar Fate

Livermore-based financial advisor provides local residents with important questions they need to ask before putting trust in a financial advisor.

Livermore, CA (3/24/09) – Bernard Madoff's alleged Ponzi Scheme stands as an example of how the financial services industry has failed to protect the best interests of consumers. It highlights the increased need for consumers to proceed cautiously when working with an advisor and the importance of asking pointed questions before hiring a professional.

As the post-Madoff era begins and the federal government and industry regulators decide the best course of action to protect consumers, people need to ask the right questions of an existing or potential advisor.

Steve Bell of Steve Bell Financial Planning and a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), the country's leading association of Fee-Only financial advisors, encourages consumers to take the time to get to know an advisor and gauge his or her commitment to placing clients' interests first.

Find out how the advisor and his or her firm are compensated. Fee-Only compensation has the fewest conflicts of interest, but there are other acceptable methods as long as full disclosure takes place up front. It's important to know if an advisor will make additional money if you follow certain recommendations.

You should always know where your money and securities are actually held. Most reputable advisors will use an unaffiliated custodian for the safe keeping of your assets. This simple check and balance could have saved the Madoff investors millions by bringing the problem to the forefront earlier.

Legally, all clients are entitled to a copy of the firm's Form ADV Part II or brochure. It's a compliance document, that can be pretty dry, but it holds a lot of important information and ultimately shows that the firm is registered with the SEC or state.

"NAPFA and the Fee-Only advisor community are hopeful the new administration, the SEC and other regulatory bodies will enact thoughtful regulations to protect consumers," said Steve Bell, owner of Steve Bell Financial Planning.

Consumers can access a Financial Advisor Checklist and Financial Advisor Diagnostic on the NAPFA website by visiting and clicking on the Tips and Tools button in the Consumer Information section. The Diagnostic tool includes an answer key to help consumers understand NAPFA’s recommendations for the most appropriate answers to the questions.

If you are interested in discussing these important questions with Steve Bell, please contact Steve Bell Financial Planning at 1-800-472-1844, ext 21 or

About Steve Bell Financial Planning

Steve Bell Financial Planning is a comprehensive financial planning and investment advisory firm located in the Livermore, CA. They offer financial planning and advice in the areas of goal planning, retirement planning, investment planning, debt management, risk mitigation, college funding and estate planning .... all on a fee-only, as needed, hourly basis. They also offer investment management services on a percent of balance basis. Unlike many financial planning firms, Steve Bell Financial Planning will not turn away prospective clients just because they fail to meet minimums for income or investment balances, nor will they require a client to commit to a long-term agreement.

For more information on Steve Bell Financial Planning, please visit

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