When choosing a financial planner, it's important to understand the financial planning landscape. According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), almost anyone can claim to be a financial planner and might come from many different backgrounds. Financial planners might be brokers or investment advisers, insurance agents, practicing accountants, or individuals with no financial credentials. That is why the consumer must perform his or her due diligence before turning their money over to any sort of financial advisor. Here are some differences between the two terms.
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In legal terms, a fiduciary is an individual or organization that has taken on the responsibility of acting on behalf of another person or entity with utmost honesty and integrity. For example, bankers, attorneys and officers of public companies are all fiduciaries, meaning they must act in the best interest of their customers, clients or shareholders. If they don’t, they are legally liable. Similarly in the investment world, fiduciary financial advisors manage client assets with the clients’ best financial interests in mind. Therefore, be sure to limit your search for a financial advisor to only fiduciary advisors in your area.

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.
The terms "financial planner" and "financial advisor" typically mean the same thing, but certainly, not all financial planners or financial advisors are alike. The level of education, training, and experience that a professional has will make a big difference in the quality of the advice you receive. Some people do their own financial planning, and others look for professional assistance. An experienced financial planner can usually help improve the quality of the financial decisions you make. 
In legal terms, a fiduciary is an individual or organization that has taken on the responsibility of acting on behalf of another person or entity with utmost honesty and integrity. For example, bankers, attorneys and officers of public companies are all fiduciaries, meaning they must act in the best interest of their customers, clients or shareholders. If they don’t, they are legally liable. Similarly in the investment world, fiduciary financial advisors manage client assets with the clients’ best financial interests in mind. Therefore, be sure to limit your search for a financial advisor to only fiduciary advisors in your area.

Trying to reach your financial goals might seem like an intimidating task. But the good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. There are many successful people out there who are kind enough to share the steps they took to become financially free. Here are five accomplished individuals who are experts when it comes to saving money, paying down debt, and creating sustainable wealth.
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.
Of course, the fiduciary advisor will have to meet the professional standards of prudence, loyalty and adequate asset diversification, as well as compliance with all ERISA regulations. The clients' best interests must always come first when making any recommendation, although possible benefits to the fiduciary advisor and/or the employer may also be considered, as long as they are subordinate to the needs of the employee.
Some financial professionals such as investment brokers and insurance agents aren’t bound by fiduciary duty. Instead, they’re only required to fulfill a suitability obligation. While fiduciaries must put their clients’ best interests before their own, financial professionals who adhere to the suitability standard must only provide suitable recommendations to their clients.

 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.
Compensation: The employer must consider the compensation arrangement required by the advisor. Will the advisor charge hourly or annual retainer fees, or commissions, or some combination thereof? Will compensation for all services be the same? May the fiduciary advisor charge a flat fee for offering retirement plan advice, and then make a commission on the sale of long-term-care insurance to the same employee?
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.

Choosing a fiduciary financial advisor can give you greater peace of mind. With a fiduciary financial advisor, you’ll know that the person managing your money must make decisions in your best interest. In general, fiduciary financial advisors tend to have fewer conflicts of interest, and they’re required to disclose any potential conflicts of interest that they have. Financial professionals who earn commissions may be incentivized to sell their own products even if there are comparable products available at a lower cost. Fiduciaries must seek the best prices and terms for their clients. Thus, if you work with a fiduciary you’re more likely to end up with the product or recommendation that’s truly right for you.


There is a growing community of financial advisors in the United States who believe strongly in the power of the fiduciary standard, and who choose to their clients’ interests above all else. The advisors who embrace the fiduciary standard represent the future of financial advice, where people can rest assured that their advisors always put their best interests first.
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.
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.
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