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.
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.
However, as of June 2018, the fiduciary rule is effectively dead. After President Trump took office, he delayed the rule’s implementation due to resistance from the financial industry. Opponents argued that the rule would make it more expensive for advisors to manage smaller accounts, in turn making it harder for lower-income investors to get financial advice.
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.
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.
Before hiring a planner to help with your finances, make sure to understand what you are paying for. Question the planner about his or her specific training and qualifications, fee structure, and services the professional will provide. Consider developing a list of questions when vetting a financial planner. Finally, check the disciplinary record and references for the planner to make sure you’re receiving the best quality financial guidance.
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.
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.
A financial planner is a qualified investment professional who helps individuals and corporations meet their long-term financial objectives. Financial planners do their work by consulting with clients to analyze their goals, risk tolerance, and life or corporate stages, then identify a suitable class of investments for them. From there they may set up a program to help the client meet those goals by distributing their available savings into a diversified collection of investments designed to grow or provide income, as desired.