Once you have a solid understanding of the various aspects of the financial services world, it is time to spend some time talking to the experts. Financial services professionals make a living with their expertise and can help you learn about everything from mortgages and debt management to retirement and estate planning. Some of these topics are covered in seminars, others in one-on-one consultations. You can even pick up a thing or two just by having an informal conversation. Talk to a professional financial advisor, talk to your banker, talk to your accountant and your attorney. Then listen and learn as they share their knowledge.
Becca Stanek, CEPF® Becca Stanek is a graduate of DePauw University. Becca is an experienced writer/editor who serves as a retirement expert for SmartAsset. She's passionate about helping people understand the sometimes daunting ins and outs of personal finance. Becca is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®) and a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. Her work has also appeared at Time, The Week, Mic and The Washington Monthly. Becca grew up in the Midwest and now lives in New York City.
Fiduciary duty is a legal responsibility to put the interests of another party before your own. If someone has a fiduciary duty to you, he or she must act solely in your financial interests. A fiduciary cannot, for example, recommend a strategy that doesn’t benefit you but instead provides a kickback. You can think of it like the doctor-patient relationship, where one party has a duty to provide the best care it can to the other party.
Personal Capital funded a research study that found that nearly half of Americans erroneously believe all advisors are legally required to always act in their clients' best interest. Not only is this wrong, but it can also be damaging to the millions of savers and investors who unwittingly expose themselves to biased and potentially dangerous advice from advisors who can do what is best for themselves, at the expense of their clients.
Beware of market-beating brags. Warren Buffet outperforms the market averages. There aren’t a lot of people like him. If you have an initial meeting with an adviser and you hear predictions of market-beating performance, get up and walk away. No one can safely make such guarantees, and anyone who’s trying may be taking risks that you don’t want to take.
The most commonly held professional designation is the certified financial planner (CFP®), which is owned and issued by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc., a nonprofit certifying and standards-setting organization that administers the CFP exam. Certified financial planner is a formal credential of expertise in the areas of financial planning, taxes, insurance, estate planning, and retirement. The designation is awarded to individuals who successfully complete the CFP® Board’s initial exams, then engage in ongoing annual education programs to maintain their skills and certification.