Financial advisors come in many shapes and sizes. Look for the service model that matches your needs.
- If you want to trade stocks, a good stock broker can help you quickly and efficiently. If speculation is your hobby, then the right stock broker could prove valuable. However, the advice is often limited by incomplete information about your financial situation.
Good fit: The do-it-yourself investor who wants to bounce ideas off someone.
- Most investment advisors focus on investing and usually employ mutual funds. They can answer market questions, conduct research, design portfolios, advise on investment strategies and formulate an investment plan. The service may include retirement projections. Objectivity can be challenging when commissions vary by product and transactions are the lifeblood of the business.
Good fit: Investors seeking mostly investment advice.
Fee-Only Investment Advisor
- The conflicts of interest with commissions mentioned above can be eliminated by hiring a fee-only advisor
. A fee-only advisor
receives no commissions. Fees are ongoing and based on the value of the assets managed or perhaps hourly. This does not remove conflicts of interest entirely - for example, adding to your investment portfolio is more beneficial to a fee-only advisor
than paying off your debt. However, it is widely viewed as an improvement on previous models.
Good fit: Those seeking ongoing investment advice on a fee basis.
- After many years in the industry, some "investment advisors" expanded services beyond investment advice and are now joined by a new generation of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals. These professionals provide investment advice under one of the models described above. To differing degrees, however, they believe investment advice should be provided within the context of an overall financial plan. Therefore, they have expanded to a financial planning service model. Financial planning
services vary greatly by firm (examples: estate planning, income tax planning, insurance planning, retirement planning, cash flow planning, debt management). The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc.
continues to increase public awareness of the financial planning profession
through the "Let's make a plan" initiative.
Advice: Review the description of services and ask questions.
Good fit: Investors willing to explore additional areas of their finances to provide context for investment decisions and/or to leverage the benefits of investment advice.
Financial "Life Planners" - Some financial planners have expanded services to include a heavy emphasis on discovering your unique values, life goals and purpose. George Kinder is considered the pioneer of financial life planning. To varying degrees, financial planners may integrate aspects of life coaching or delve deeper into the personal meaning of your financial plan to enhance the benefits of the financial planning process.
Good fit: Investors willing to explore "purpose" to enhance the investment advice and financial guidance.