Financial planners advise clients on how best to save, invest, and grow their money. They can help you tackle a specific financial goal—such as readying yourself to buy a house—or give you a macro view of your money and the interplay of your various assets. Some specialize in retirement or estate planning, while some others consult on a range of financial matters.
A good financial planner will not make recommendations until they understand your goals and have run a long-term financial plan for you. If you meet with someone who starts talking about a financial product right away, even if they call themselves a financial planner, they are more likely a financial salesperson. A good financial planner will want to gather account statements and data on all aspects of your financial life.
What services will the fiduciary advisor provide to employees? Will the advisor provide simple retirement plan advice, or will comprehensive financial planning also be included? Is it appropriate to also offer other financial products and services to employees; things like mortgage advice, income tax planning and preparation, and estate planning? If so, how will these services be charged for and compensated? Will the employer foot the bill for all services, or will some services be considered ancillary benefits that come at an extra cost to the employee?
Many financial advisors in Canada call themselves financial planners yet only hold licences to sell personal financial products (primarily investments and insurance), or use non-expiring qualifications with no monitoring or public accountability process (such as the Personal Financial Planner / PFP designation). There are only two publicly monitored and fully regulated financial planning designations outside of Quebec – the CFP (Certified Financial Planner) and the R.F.P. (Registered Financial Planner) designations.
While not all non-fiduciaries are necessarily bad actors, it’s easier to ensure that you’re working with someone who has your best interest if you opt to work with a fiduciary. Moreover, if you’re working with someone who doesn’t have a fiduciary duty to you, you have fewer legal options in the event that you discover your interests haven’t been served.
There are thousands of in-person and online courses available to help educate you about finance and investing. Many universities offer free or paid online courses you can take at anytime. We created the Investopedia Academy in 2018 to help people learn everything from investing, trading, and money management to personal finance. Check it out here and find the right course for you.
There are several resources available that can help you know if an advisor is a fiduciary. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) has an online search tool that makes it easy to find certified financial planners in your area. Every advisor in that system operates on a fee-only basis and promises to act as a fiduciary. Garrett Planning Network is another planner organization of fiduciary financial planners who charge an hourly rate. Additionally, the Certified Financial Planners Board has an advisor search tool. You can use it to look up a particular planner and see their experience and history.
A growing number of financial planners make money only when you pay them a fee for their counsel. These independent financial planners don’t get a cut from life insurers or fund companies. You might pay them a flat fee, such as $1,500, for a financial plan. Or you could pay an annual fee, often 1% of all the assets—investment, retirement, college-savings and other accounts—they’re minding for you. Others charge by the hour, like lawyers.
It may sound crazy to give someone 1% of your annual assets to manage them, but you get a buffet of advice about almost anything related to personal finance. The price becomes sensible when you consider that you’re paying to establish a comfortable retirement, save for your child’s college or choose the right mortgage when borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars.