HARRISBURG, Pa., April 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As part of Financial Education Month in Pennsylvania, the Office of Financial Education in the Department of Banking today released a list of 10 questions for consumers to ask when seeking advice from a financial expert.
"With so many self-proclaimed experts and gurus promising to help people get rich, get out of debt or avoid foreclosure, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish the legitimate advisors from the scams," said Mary Rosenkrans, director. "However, there are steps consumers can take to help themselves avoid ending up in worse financial condition."
Among the questions consumers should ask when seeking financial advice are:
- What experience do you have?
- Find out how long the person has been active in the financial counseling/education arena, as well as previous work experience.
- What are your qualifications?
- The terms financial "counselor," "coach," "mentor," "educator" and "advisor" are often used to describe a wide variety of services. Ask about any formal education, professional certifications or designations and look into the organizations providing them.
- What is your approach to financial counseling/coaching?
- Ask about the types of individuals and financial situations that the person typically likes to work with. Make sure you are comfortable with the person's views on personal finance.
- What services do you offer?
- A person may offer one-on-one counseling sessions, group classes, online education or ongoing memberships of some sort.
- How much do you typically charge for your services?
- Find out how much the person charges and compare it to other service providers. Be wary of "free" consultations.
- How are you paid for your services?
- Your written agreement should clearly state how the person will be paid for the services to be provided, whether it is a salary, hourly fee, commission or some combination of the three.
- Can I have it in writing?
- Ask for a written agreement that details the services the person will provide.
- Could anyone besides me benefit from your recommendations?
- Some business relationships or partnerships that the person has could affect their professional judgment while working with you. Ask the person to provide a description of any potential conflicts of interest in writing.
- Have you ever been disciplined for any unlawful or unethical actions in your professional career?
- Ask whether the person is licensed or regulated by any professional organizations or government agencies. Contact these references to see if there are any issues.
- Are you bonded and do you have any professional liability insurance?
- Bonding and insurance can help protect you in the event the person fails to deliver on the promises in your written agreement.
The Pennsylvania Office of Financial Education reminds consumers to be cautious of claims that sound too good to be true – they probably are. To learn more about how to evaluate financial experts and their qualifications, visit www.moneysbestfriend.com.
Consumers with questions about financial transactions can call 1-800-PA-BANKS or the state Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555.
Media contact: Ed Novak, 717-783-4721
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Banking