So you’ve been asking around—your friends, your co-workers–for referrals to planners they use and trust and you’ve got a list going–NOW, you need to know the 5 questions to ask fee only planning professionals.

“Fee-Only?” you ask your boss. “Why fee-only?” You’d then get a quick education into the equivalent of the Bill O’Reily “NO SPIN ZONE.” The same way that The No Spin Zone challenges the powerful to cut through the rhetoric and answer tough worldly issues, the “Fee Only Zone” challenges Wall Street to cut through its rhetoric and simply offer investors good advice.

The “Fee Only Zone” is your first step to being a Liberated Investor – wise to the games Wall Street plays.

When you enter the “Fee Only Zone” You’ll be entering a realm of investing where (ideally) no conflicts of interest exist, a land that requires Fee-only planners/advisors to forgo all commissions in lieu of just plain good advice. Doesn’t that sound nice? A planner telling you that you need to buy more life insurance (cha-ching, right? Wrong.) yet you know they have nothing to gain from the advice, because they earn nothing on the insurance sale—just your trust. NICE, welcome to the “Fee Only Zone.”

So, when you land in the Fee Only Zone, here’s what you ask…

1. How much do you charge and what types of investment products do you recommend?

KEY: Paying too much can account ofr over 20% of your accumulated wealth over your lifetime, so start watching your fees NOW. Not only will the planner charge you, but likely, if the planner recommends mutual funds, ETFs or annuities (beware!) there will be additional fees for you to monitor.

FIND: Keep all fees under 1.5% The planner will likely charge .50-1.50% per year, PLUS the investments could cost as little as .15% and as much as 2.5% per year.

2. Narrow your list to planners who manage the investments as well.

This will ensure continuity and accountability with your plan. NOW, ask: what investment methodology they subscribe to. It is important that you understand how, when and why they make the investment management decisions. Follow up the methodology question with a request of some sample performance and see if they are willing to share how their clients fared in 2008. And, A-hem, if they weren’t in the market in 2008, keep looking, experience is important.

KEY: 2008’s investment activity and returns will say a great deal about an investment advisor’s methodology. YOU ARE LOOKING FOR ONE THING HERE: Finding an advisor who steered their clients around the storm of 2008—YOU DO NOT and CAN NOT afford to endure 30% losses the next time market losses come our way.

FIND: A planner who DOES manage the investments, and one who doesn’t subscribe to a buy-and-hold (keeping your assets investments in the stock market when we are in a bear market….I call this LAZY) methodology. Select an advisor who can give you references to speak with that were invested with them in 2008.

3. Do they recommend annuities and why?

KEY: If they DO, as a fee only planner, how do they pass the “fee-only” test if they “sell annuities?” THEY CAN—but its important to discern if the planner is truly what they advertise; “FEE ONLY.” NOTE: Unless you are in the highest possible tax bracket, have 6 figures of disposable income to invest every year, then you probably don’t need an annuity. BUYER BEWARE.

FIND: A Fee-Only planner that offers NO-LOAD annuities and presents averse to annuities in general.

4. Will they share with you their FINRA Broker Check/their U4?

This is a bold question, but I can assure you that very few people anymore higher babysitters, employees or otherwise without background checks. This person will be managing your money–of all people who expect to be asked about their background, it’s us! If you knew that the advisor you were going to meet with is currently involved in a case whereby they are being accused of “unsuitable investments” in a real-live FINRA proceeding, would you re-schedule? Thought so.

KEY: Go here for the FINRA broker check.

FIND: “NO DISCLOSED EVENTS” on their Broker Check report/U4.

5. Back to planning: Ask them what their “sweet spot” is.

In other words, are most of their planning efforts for business professionals/entreprenuers, for union workers or for those with special needs children?

KEY: Decide what niche will best suit you and let their experience in YOUR “sweet spot” guide you as to where you need to be.

FIND: A planner/advisor that plays on your playground. Need to increase the list? Check for a fee-only planner in your area.

While there’s a boat-load of additional questions that you should ask your fee only planner/advisor, I feel its most important to recognize that you are already taking the best first step to being a Liberated Investor simply by narrowing the field of advisors to Fee-Only. Welcome to the “Fee Only Zone,” the land of Liberated Investors.