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    Get control of your money

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    When he lectures on the topic of money management to colleagues at professional meetings, Belleville, NJ, dermatologist Joseph S. Eastern, M.D., says that he wouldn't say that some financial planners lie, but, "They just seem to have an uncanny ability to know which parts of the truth to leave out." During his presentation at the November 2008 American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery meeting in Las Vegas, he said that there are 10 things you should know that financial planners rarely share with their clients.

    1 "I DON'T HAVE ANY QUALIFICATIONS FOR THIS JOB."

    Anybody can claim to be a financial planner, Dr. Eastern explains. "There is no educational experience or ethical requirements and there is no government agency that regulates planners, as planners. A lot of them come out of the banking and insurances industries and those are regulated but, as planners, they are not regulated," he says.

    Dr. Eastern reported in late 2007 that there were some 250,000 people that called themselves planners; however, less than 40,000 have even minimum legitimate credentials. The minimum legitimate credentials include the basic 3-year certified financial planner, the charter financial consultant (the banking industry's version) and the personal financial specialist (the insurance industry's basic designation).

    "Now, just because they have those credentials after their name doesn't mean that they're an expert at anything but it does mean that they've taken the minimum courses and they're not just somebody who says yesterday, 'I want to be a financial planner,'" he says.

    2 "I HAVE NO OBLIGATION TO PUT YOUR INTERESTS AHEAD OF MY OWN."

    Financial planners, according to Dr. Eastern, are salespeople who are in the business of selling investments. If generating commissions is the top priority, then doctors who work with these planners are likely to be offered financial investments that are in the salespeople's best interests — not necessarily in the physician-client's best interests.

    "Those of you from the East Coast will recognize the Brooklyn Bridge. This is pretty much the only thing that they can't try to sell you, and believe me, if they could, they'd try," he says.

    Dr. Eastern recommends that colleagues go with fee-only planners, the largest group of which is the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors ( http://www.NAPFA.org/). Fee-only planners charge flat fees and, therefore, have no financial interest in which investments clients buy. Physicians and others who work with financial planners should ask for the Form ADV, a form filed with the Securities Exchange Commission. Among other things, it tells clients if financial planners accept fees, commissions or both.

    "Some of them are really shady and will take your fee and a commission," Dr. Eastern says. "[The form] also includes any disciplinary actions that have been filed against them. This is an important form to ask for, no matter who you choose."

    3 "I DON'T KNOW WHAT RETIREMENT MEANS TO YOU."

    "It never ceases to amaze me that when you talk to your planner and say, 'I want this much for retirement...' that they never ask what you mean by retirement," Dr. Eastern says.

    Retirement means different things to different people. Some plan to quit completely, while others want to work part-time or volunteer. "I know a dermatologist...who, until the beginning of this year, worked from 4 a.m. until 7 p.m., seven days a week. This year, he says, he retired. I say: 'Tell me what that means?' and he says: 'I see patients from 4 a.m. to noon and no Sundays.' He's putting in more hours now, retired, than I am full time," Dr. Eastern says. "You need to...think about what you intend to do when you retire."

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    Lisette Hilton
    Lisette Hilton is a writer in Boca Raton, Fla., who heads up her company, Words Come Alive.

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