Finding the Right Financial Advisor
With so many names, titles and designations to sift through, how do you find the right financial advisor for you?
Financial Advisor. Investment Advisor. Financial Planner. Wealth Manager. Certified Financial Planner™. Financial Consultant. Registered Representative. Certified Public Accountant. Personal Financial Specialist. And the list goes on…
All of the choices and terms can be overwhelming. What do they mean, why are they important, how do I use them choose the right financial advisor for me?
Imagine you have a health issue. Let’s assume you broke your ankle and need to get to a doctor. “Doctor” is certainly a broad designation. There are hundreds of specialties and there are two different licenses (MD or DO), which highlight differences in training and philosophy. So how do you choose? I imagine you are not going to visit your general practitioner in this case. You might first consider a podiatrist because they deal with feet, right? But in reality, your best option is an orthopedic doctor. Then you can narrow your scope further and visit, for example, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports injuries. Finally, you need to decide whether the distinction of MD or DO is important to you.
Believe it or not, choosing a financial advisor is not all that different.
Using the example above, a financial advisor can be likened to the broad category of “doctor.” It is really just a catchall phrase for any financial professional and can include planners, investment advisors, tax professionals, estate planning professionals, insurance professionals, etc.
Identifying Your Financial Needs
Your first step then is identifying your financial “pain” point.
- Do you simply have questions about your tax situation or perhaps need to file a return?
- Do you wish to invest your money?
- Do you have a risk you would like to insure against?
- Do you have bigger picture questions you would like answered such as:
- “How will I fund college for my children?”
- “When will I be able to retire?”
- Perhaps you have more specific questions like:
- “When should I collect social security?”
- “Should I take my pension as a lump sum or an annuity?”
Once you have a general idea of what you are looking for, you can begin focusing your search to the broader categories of financial planner, investment advisor, accountant, insurance specialist, etc.
Checking A Financial Advisor’s Qualifications
Now you want to start thinking about specialization, philosophy, and training.
It is important to understand that anyone can hold himself out as a financial planner. Recently, I spoke to someone who told me he was a financial planner, and I asked: “Oh, what kind of planning do you do?” His response: “I sell annuities.” As a Certified Financial Planner, ™ my heart sank. In my mind, selling financial products does not in any way count as “financial planning.”
The CFP® is the gold standard in personal financial planning. It requires not only rigorous training and significant experience, but is also holds the professional to the highest of standards including the role of a “fiduciary.” If you are looking for someone who will look at your whole situation and make big picture recommendations for you, who will help you implement and monitor your plan and who will put your interests ahead of their own, then you will likely want to seek out a Certified Financial Planner. ™
There are many designations for financial advisors. Frankly, some of them mean very little. Be sure to do your research and don’t assume that someone carrying a long list of letters after their name is going to be the right fit for you!