If you’re starting out and don’t have a trove of assets, an planner who charges by the hour could be the best fit. These planners are best for when your needs are fairly simple. Typically, hourly planners are just building their practice, but that usually means they’ll take the care to get your finances right. After all, they’re relying on your recommendation to grow their business. Finally, many experienced advisers do hourly work because they enjoy working with younger clients who can only afford to hire someone at that rate.
Financial planners advise clients on how best to save, invest, and grow their money. They can help you tackle a specific financial goal—such as readying yourself to buy a house—or give you a macro view of your money and the interplay of your various assets. Some specialize in retirement or estate planning, while some others consult on a range of financial matters.
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 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.
Many RIAs are fee-only advisors, meaning they can’t work off commission or sell a client any investment products that aren’t in the client's best interests. Financial planners don’t have to be RIAs to work under this business model. Fee-only financial planners generally make money via an hourly rate, an annual fixed retainer, or as a percentage of the investment assets they manage on behalf of their clients. They also have a fiduciary duty to their clients over any broker or dealer.