To determine whether a recommendation is suitable, these professionals must consider your financial situation, goals and risk tolerance. Additionally, they must ensure that you won’t incur excessive costs and that excessive trades won’t be made. However, they may still suggest products that aren’t necessarily in your best interest or that benefit them more than they do you.

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.


If you make it this far, you are clearly serious about your endeavor. Now it's time to make your quest a daily habit. Subscribing to the The Wall Street Journal will give you a daily overview of the issues impacting global business operations. The WSJ also has a great "Money and Investing" section. Barron's is another fine publication read by many professionals in the financial services industry. There are many other top-quality publications dedicated to various aspects of the financial services world. Find one that matches your interests and read it.
 Broker-dealers are regulated by the SEC, but they are not required to be fiduciaries. Rather, they are held to the “suitability standard”—they only have to prove that an investment is suitable for their client at the time of its purchase, not that the advice was in the client’s best interest. Broker-dealers typically earn a commission on sales of investments.
 Investment advisors who work with retirement accounts are now held to the Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary standard. These advisors must disclose all fees and conflicts of interest. They cannot recommend products that represent a conflict within retirement accounts. In other accounts, RIAs can recommend products that represent a conflict as long as they disclose the conflict first.
 Broker-dealers are regulated by the SEC, but they are not required to be fiduciaries. Rather, they are held to the “suitability standard”—they only have to prove that an investment is suitable for their client at the time of its purchase, not that the advice was in the client’s best interest. Broker-dealers typically earn a commission on sales of investments.
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.
Under this provision, prospective fiduciary advisors can outline all of their qualifications that relate to meeting the criteria described above in written form, in the interest of providing employers with the necessary information with which to properly select a candidate. This includes the past performance of client investments, within certain guidelines.

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.
When you’re working with a financial professional, it’s key to find out if he or she follows the fiduciary standard. A fiduciary has different obligations than someone bound only by the suitability rule. Fiduciaries must always act in their clients’ best interest – and if they don’t, you have legal options to pursue. Ultimately, when it comes to choosing someone to manage your money, you should find someone you can trust.
Google and other search engines let you hone in on specific topics, and many mutual fund companies and financial services firms offer a wealth of free information. A visit to their websites can offer everything from general education on a wide array of products to economic forecasts and economic insights from professional market-watchers. With a just a little effort, you can identify and follow comments from your favorite economists, investment strategists, portfolio managers, or other experts.
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.
This market will continue to grow rapidly as firms abandon traditional defined-benefit plans in favor of defined-contribution plans or other cheaper alternatives, such as stock option plans. Furthermore, mandatory automatic enrollment in the employer's retirement plan will keep bureaucracy and paperwork to a minimum for the advisor, who is only responsible for the actual advice given on an individual basis, as opposed to the overall plan assets and their composite performance.
You should also request a copy of a financial advisor’s Form ADV and Form CRS, which is paperwork the SEC requires advisory firms to file. This will provide information about an advisor’s business, pay structure, educational background, potential conflicts of interest and disciplinary history. That information is also available online through the SEC’s Investment Advisor Public Disclosure (IAPD) tool. You should also request a performance record and list of client references to contact.
In this environment, there is always something new to consider, something old to revisit and something interesting just beyond the horizon. Keeping up with the industry is an important part of a financial services professional's life, and continuing education is required for many of these experts to maintain their credentials. What this means for the self-taught expert is that you will always have an opportunity to add to your body of knowledge.
You might also encounter financial planners who cater exclusively to the rich and refuse clients with less than $250,000 to invest. Don’t take it personally—hugely successful planners would just prefer to deal with big accounts rather than beginner clients. You want a planner who’ll make the time to focus on your concerns and is interested in growing with you.
Employers will also be required to conduct periodic in-house reviews of the fiduciary advisor to ensure that the advisor continues to adhere to the initial criteria the advisor had met when he or she was hired. In fact, the PPA Act allows for an exception to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rule that prohibits advisors from using historical investment results for clients in written literature or advertising of any kind.
When you’re working with a financial professional, it’s key to find out if he or she follows the fiduciary standard. A fiduciary has different obligations than someone bound only by the suitability rule. Fiduciaries must always act in their clients’ best interest – and if they don’t, you have legal options to pursue. Ultimately, when it comes to choosing someone to manage your money, you should find someone you can trust.
Investment advice can range from a general recommendation as to what type of asset allocation model you should follow, to specific recommendations on which investments to buy and sell. Some financial planners also offer investment advice and investment management services in addition to financial planning. Ask a potential financial planner if they give specific investment advice or only offer planning services.
Choosing a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional is as important as choosing a doctor or lawyer; it's a very personal relationship. Many CFP® professionals specialize in working with certain types of clients, such as small-business owners, executives or retirees. Some specialize in certain areas of planning such as retirement, divorce or asset management. We recommend you interview at least three CFP® professionals to find the right one that best serves your needs.
The CFA program is an extremely well-regarded curriculum, and the CIPM program "is the investment industry's only designation dedicated to investment performance analysis and presentation." If articles with titles like "Evaluating Portfolio Performance" by V. Bailey, Thomas M. Richards, and David E. Tierney, and "Investment Performance Measurement: Evaluating and Presenting Results," Philip Lawton and Todd Jankowski, eds. (Wiley 2009) capture your interest, the CFA institute has a reading list that you are sure to like.
You might also encounter financial planners who cater exclusively to the rich and refuse clients with less than $250,000 to invest. Don’t take it personally—hugely successful planners would just prefer to deal with big accounts rather than beginner clients. You want a planner who’ll make the time to focus on your concerns and is interested in growing with you.
×