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Each week some of you write to us asking for help with your personal finance challenges. And this week, Louis Barajas joins us to talk about your personal finance questions. He's a certified financial planner and a tax specialist.

Maria from Cincinnati, Ohio, is looking for a financial planner, but has been frustrated with her search. She works as an executive at an educational nonprofit -- though she doesn't make an executive-level salary. However, her organization offers executive-level incentives. But she doesn't have enough wealth to actually work with high wealth investment planner specialists.

"Your frustration is a frustration I hear throughout the country," says Barajas. "The problem is that most people think that financial planners are for helping the rich. Absolutely not. [They're] for helping everyone. The problem is that most consumers really relate to financial planning as being very product driven. So you're saying, I don't have enough wealth, that's why this certain financial planning firm won't take me on. There are a lot of financial planners out there that are process driven, that do not sell products, that will sit you down with you and guide you thorough."

Barajas says consumers just have to know where to look for them. Barajas says in the industry of financial planning, there are three ways people are compensated: commission, fee-based, and fee-only. The type of financial planner Maria needs is fee-only.

"They do not sell any products, do not earn any commission, cannot get referral fees for referring you to an insurance agent and these are the people who do not have any conflict of interest," says Barajas.

Barajas says Maria needs to go to NAPFA to find a local fee-only financial planner. He says Maria should also make sure the financial planner she chooses is certified and that he or she is a registered investment adviser. Lastly, he says that she can check out different financial planners at FINRA.org, the largest independent securities regulator in the U.S. He says Maria should do a broker check at the site by entering the financial adviser's name, and seeing if they have had an compliance issues.

For more advice on what happens when you experience mandatory 401(k) and IRA withdrawals, click play on the audio player above.

About the author

In more than 20 years in public radio, Barbara Bogaev has served as the longtime guest host of NPR’s flagship program Fresh Air with Terry Gross, as well as host of APM’s news and culture magazine, Weekend America and the weekly national documentary series, Soundprint.

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