Financial planning is hot. The more people worry about their money, the more they look for experts to help them straighten things out. Supply is rising to meet demand. The planning process attracts not only young graduates and financial professionals, but a slew of career changers—business people, teachers with a knack for numbers and retirees. Certified financial planners number 50,377 today, up almost 40 percent in the past five years—and that’s just the serious side of the field. Plenty of phonies strut their stuff, sprinkling bad investments everywhere.
Imagine trusting your hard-earned money — such as your retirement savings — to a financial adviser only to lose it all in a fraudulent scheme. Obsessing about whether your money manager could be the next Bernard Madoff, the alleged mastermind of a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, isn’t going to do much good, but some healthy skepticism won’t hurt.