"People are scared to come in because they are chagrined to face up to their mistakes," Gordon says. "The truth is, well-trained financial planners will not respond with judgment. A financial planner whose heart and brain are in the right place just wants to help the client move forward in a positive way."
When you meet for the first time, pay attention to how the advisor helps you clarify your goals. If he or she readily interprets what you find hard to say, or asks you questions that help you better understand your own priorities, you will sense whether the planner is in sync with your personality. "If you say, 'I just want to be comfortable,' the planner should ask, 'What does 'comfortable' mean to you?'" Gordon says.
A very squeamish client can get accustomed to financial tell-alls by pairing up with a peer group for mutual coaching, House says. She likes the guidance provided by the Consumer Federation of America at americasaves.org. It can be reassuring to clarify your goals and get comfortable talking about your financial fears and foibles with a friend first. "You're not the only one who struggles with spending and with saving for retirement," she says.