Typically, financial planners earn their living either from commissions or by charging hourly or flat rates for their services. A commission is a fee paid whenever someone buys or sells a stock or other investment. For reasons we’ll explain later, you may want to avoid financial planners who rely on commissions for their income. These advisers may not be the most unbiased source of advice if they profit from steering you into particular products.
This is a broad term for a professional who helps manage your money. You pay the advisor, and in exchange, they help with any number of money-related tasks. A financial advisor might help manage investments, broker the sale and purchase of stocks and funds, or create a comprehensive estate and tax plan. If the advisor is working with the public, they must hold a Series 65 license. In addition to that license, there are many other financial advisor credentials the advisor might hold, depending upon the services that are provided.
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.
The financial services field is constantly evolving and changing. Recent decades have seen the rise of unified managed accounts, the development of exchange traded funds (ETF), the evolution of annuities and insured investment products, and a host of other developments. Change is par for the course as the industry adapts to dynamic economic conditions and changes in what investors want and how they wish to deploy their assets.
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.
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.
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.