You’re likely to encounter many people calling themselves “financial planners,” “financial advisors,” or “financial consultants.” No matter what they call themselves, they might be stockbrokers, aiming to sell you a stock or a mutual fund so that they can earn a sales commission.

In some cases, brokers play a vital role and truly earn their commissions. Before buying, though, you should evaluate the advisor’s approach. A genuine financial planner will begin by asking about your age, your financial situation, and your existing investment portfolio.

Once a financial planner knows about you as an individual, he or she will recommend an asset allocation. Out of all the money you have to invest, so much should go into stocks, so much into bonds, so much in cash, and so on.

Only after this allocation has been developed should you hear about specific investments. With a $200,000 investment portfolio, for example, and a suggested 60 percent allocation to stocks, the planner should recommend stocks or stock funds to bring you up or down to the $120,000 mark.