The decisions you face as you transition into and through retirement are more complex, with higher stakes, compared to the saving and investing decisions you’ve had to make for retirement throughout your working years. The trouble is, usually you won’t get any “do-overs” with many of your retirement decisions. If you’re like most people, you’ll need professional help, since most likely you don’t have the training or experience you need regarding the critical issues that you face.

A well-qualified adviser can make a significant difference in your financial security in retirement, which should help you relax and better enjoy your retirement years. To help ensure success, put as much time and effort into shopping for an adviser as you might for other important purchases, such as shopping for a home or car, or planning a significant vacation.

To help you comparison shop, here are four questions you should ask potential retirement advisers, followed by two questions you should ask yourself.

Question #1 For Advisers: Do You Have The Training And Experience With The Critical Decisions I Face?

Be clear on the specific decisions for which you need help. Critical decisions for most pre-retirees include deciding when to retire, how to claim Social Security benefits, and how to deploy your retirement savings to generate lifetime retirement income. While many people confuse retirement planning with investing, note that the first two decisions don’t involve investing.

Then, look for advisers who have the relevant training, experience, and credentials to help with the decisions that will have the most influence on your financial security.

Question #2 For Advisers: Will You Act As A Fiduciary On My Behalf?

It’s generally recommended that your adviser serve as a fiduciary who makes recommendations and decisions that are only in your best interests. In other words, their recommendations shouldn’t depend on how much money they might make by recommending specific products. In addition, they should accept the responsibility to serve you with care and due diligence.

Some advisers adhere to a lower standard, making recommendations that might be suitable for you but aren’t necessarily in your best interests. Make sure to ask about the standards that a potential adviser might follow when serving you.

Question #3 For Advisers: How Are You Paid?

You’ll want to understand three basic ways that advisers can be paid:

  • They might earn a commission or fee that’s paid by the financial institution or insurance company that offers the products they recommend. They may claim there’s no direct cost to you, but that’s not quite right, since you’re paying indirectly for their services through the product you buy. This is the least favorable way to pay for financial advice, since an adviser might be influenced and biased by the amount of the commission or fee they might earn.
  • They might charge a percent of assets under management (aka “AUM”), which is a very common way to charge for financial advice. In this case, there is much less potential for bias compared to commissions, since you’re paying the adviser directly; they aren’t paid by a financial institution. However, there still can be the potential for some biases. For example, they might be hesitant to recommend strategies that reduce the amount of assets under management, such as devoting money to a Social Security bridge strategy or buying a low-cost annuity. A common percentage charge is 1% of assets, which seems like a small number, but it can add up if you stay with the adviser for many years.
  • They might charge by the hour or quote a fee for a specific project. This method can make sense if they’re helping you with one-time decisions, such as deciding when to retire or when to claim Social Security benefits. Their hourly charge or project quote might seem like a lot of money for a single fee, but it’s often much less than charging a percent of your assets year after year.

Ask any potential adviser to disclose the total amount of compensation they’ll receive from all sources, regardless of the method of payment.

Question #4 For Advisers: What Biases Do You Have?

Some advisers might have built-in biases, depending on how they’re paid, their training, or where they work. To determine this, ask a potential adviser if they have any biases for—or against—different methods of generating retirement income; examples include adopting a Social Security bridge strategy, investing and drawing down assets with a systematic withdrawal strategy, or buying a low-cost income annuity. Ideally, they would consider and explain the pros and cons of any recommendation that they might make.

Congratulations if you’ve asked these questions of any potential advisers you’re considering. But you’re not done yet! Here are two important questions you need to ask yourself:

Question #1 For You: Do You Understand Your Adviser?

Hopefully any adviser you consider would take the time to explain their recommendations in a way that you fully understand. Ideally, they wouldn’t try to talk over you or speak in a torrent of jargon and acronyms.

Question #2 For You: Do You Like Your Adviser?

You’ll be spending a lot time with your adviser, and you want to develop trust and confidence in them. Respect your gut reactions when it comes to potential advisers. If you’re feeling hesitant or unsure, keep looking.

Let’s be realistic—some of the advisers you find might not meet all the qualities described here. Try to check as many boxes as you can and understand the qualities that are most important to you.

Don’t be shy about asking these questions of potential advisers. It’s just common sense and good old American capitalism to ask about the features and price of any service you buy. After all, your financial security for the rest of your life is at stake.