Hiring a financial advisor could be one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make.

Hire the wrong one, and you could be living like a pauper in your old age–even if you save diligently during your working lifetime.

Hire the right advisor, and you could enjoy the growing fruits of your labors for a long time after you’ve stopped working full-time.

But most people don’t give the responsibility of hiring an advisor the respect it deserves. You can’t afford NOT to be picky.

Your bank may be filled with advisors. Your friends might recommend one. You might fall for a “cold caller” wanting to manage your money.

But may I suggest an acid test?

This might sound culturally taboo, but it shouldn’t be. Use the same strategy you’d use if you were hiring a photographer to record your wedding, or hiring a builder to build your home. You’d want to see their work, wouldn’t you?

So ask this: show me your portfolio and the transactions you made over the past ten years. Don’t go with some young buck who hasn’t been investing his/her own personal money for less than a decade because you want to see how their personal accounts handled bear markets and bull markets, and you don’t want somebody cutting their teeth on your portfolio.

And if their own portfolios haven’t flourished, how do you expect them to work miracles with yours?

If they have tracked their returns and transactions, then they’re the sort to hold themselves accountable for their own success or failure. And if they aren’t willing to show you their personal accounts and transactions, as well as a performance comparison relative to, say, a balanced portfolio of index funds (if you’re looking for a balanced account) then move on.

This is also a great way to discourage “cold callers”, charlatans and pure salespeople.

Looking for an advisor? Don’t look to their potentially debt-laden lifestyle of fine clothes, nice cars, fancy house and jewelry. Those aren’t the trademarks of success–just exuberance.

Ask them to show you their money and historical transactions, and compare it to a relatively balanced benchmark.