Knowing whom to trust

Author: By Dan Searles and John Stohlman
Posted: Friday, June 26, 2009

We all know times when we have tried to warn someone we love about a person who we didn’t trust, or maybe we were the one who wouldn’t listen to someone trying to help us. In the financial world, knowing who to trust can be even more daunting. A mistake of badly placed trust can be tragic in this arena. On that happy note, let’s go to our question of the month.

Q: “I am a 77-year-old
widow. My husband placed all my assets with a financial planner he liked. When my husband died several years ago, I learned that my planner had secured a loan from him for $100,000. The planner said my husband authorized everything, but I always paid the bills through 40 years of marriage. My husband made the money and I managed it. So this does not seem right to me. I recently asked him for an updated financial statement of my assets, and he said not to worry, my accounts are doing fine.
I read your column every month and I don’t know where to turn. I do not think I have much left after this person’s management, so I don’t want to spend a lot of money. Can you help?”
(Name and state have been
withheld for Reader

A: Dear Flummoxed: We  suggest that you start by calling your state’s Attorney General’s Securities Division and tell them your story. They will not charge you a fee. Also, most states have a Senior Citizens Protective Services Division. These agencies can talk to your so-called financial advisor. A good way to pick a financial planner is by asking your friends whom they use. If they trust them, you may as well. Also, consider using a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®).

A CFP is on top of any mandated securities licensing agreements, has taken extensive classes, proctored examinations and a two-day comprehensive exam that only has a 57% pass rate. The CFP® marks are awarded to individuals who have met the CFP Board’s rigorous certification standards. That does not mean you will get along with every CFP® or that they will have expertise in your area of concern. Be careful. We have heard complaints that brokers are using the CFP® marks without actually completing the course involved. To see if your planner or broker is a CFP®, call 800-487-1497 or go online at

Here is a list of popular designations. Certified Senior Advisor (CSA), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), Registered Financial Consultant (RFC), Certified Estate Planner (CEP), Certified Life Underwriter (CLU) and Life Underwriters Training Council Fellow (LUTCF).

The Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) designation is also well known and requires additional study courses. Some designations are considered complimentary, either because they are relatively easy to obtain or, in the instance of CLU or LUTCF, are concentrated in one area. In their cases, it’s life insurance. As Dan’s first grade teacher used to say, “Never, ever be afraid to ask for help.  All smart people do.” So thank you for asking. Until next time, your money matters.  

Dan Searles and John Stohlman, owners of Medallion Financial Group, are CFP®’s, financial planners and Registered Representatives with over 25 years of experience in the financial services industry, offering securities and advisory services through National Planning Corporation (NPC), member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser.  Medallion Financial Group and NPC are separate and unrelated companies. They manage over $250 million of client assets. For further info, questions or comments regarding this article, Dan and John can be reached at 301-990-9704 or 1-800-878-9704 or

*National Planning Corporation does not endorse the opinions expressed in this column. The information here is not to be considered as financial, tax or legal advice. As with any financial, tax or legal matter, consult your qualified adviser before taking action. No investment strategy can ensure a profit or protect against a loss. As always, past performance is not indicative of future results.


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