"It's still the Wild West for IRAs," said Hauptman of the Consumer Federation of America. "We get protections in phases."
To be sure, you need to perform your own due diligence on your financial advisor.
Look him or her up on BrokerCheck, a site maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and the advisor page of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Ask the following questions.
Are you a fiduciary? Find out immediately if your advisor is acting in your best interest. Get the point across with this fiduciary oath from The Committee for the Fiduciary Standard. It's best to ask this question in writing.
"If you deliver the questions orally, you get a wishy-washy answer," said Scott Puritz, managing director of Rebalance IRA. "Send an email and request that the answer come back in writing."
How are you paid for your services? Ask whether you're paying a fee for your advisor's help, be it hourly, as part of a subscription or based on assets he or she manages for you. Find out whether your advisor receives a commission for the sale of mutual funds, insurance and annuities.
Where do you keep your assets? Some large broker-dealer firms will hold your assets in custody because you have a brokerage account with them. If you're using an independent fee-only advisor, he or she will likely hold your assets at a custodian, such as TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab or Fidelity.
"Don't let your advisor take your money and move it to their account," said David J. O'Brien, principal at Evolution Advisers in Midlothian, Virginia. Be sure to match the statements you get from your custodian and the statements your advisor provides you.
What are your qualifications? There's an alphabet soup of different designations for financial advisors, but keep an eye out for the best-known credentials: certified financial planner, chartered financial analyst and certified public accountant. Though each of these designations correspond to different specialties, all three of them require study and practical experience.