Financial Advisor FAQs

  • Introduction

    There are many titles for financial professionals, so it's challenging to track what each one means. A financial advisor is probably the term you've heard most often. Financial advisor is a broad term for a professional who helps individuals or companies manage their finances, including investment choices. There are over 100 certifications that financial advisors can obtain.

    • Financial planners, wealth managers, and investment advisors are all financial advisors with different focus areas.
    • A financial planner helps an individual or a company make a plan to achieve long-term financial goals.
    • A wealth manager helps individuals maintain their wealth through various disciplines and services, such as taxes, estate planning, and investment advice.
    • An investment advisor offers investment advice and recommendations to individuals or organizations.
    There’s a misconception that you have to be extremely wealthy to use a financial advisor. In reality, they can be beneficial for people from any income level. Keep reading to find answers to the most commonly asked questions about financial advisors, so you know which type can fit your specific needs.

  • Are financial advisors worth it?

    Whether or not a financial advisor is worth it depends on your personal situation. If your finances are fairly straightforward, then you may be better off handling it on your own. But if you have substantial assets or a complex investment portfolio, then hiring someone to handle it for you can be well worth the cost.

  • How much money do I need to work with a financial advisor?

    There’s no specific income level you need in order to work with a financial advisor, but there may be a minimum investment amount for certain types of services. Some financial advisors won’t manage your money unless you have $100,000 or more to invest, but this isn’t the case with financial coaches or robo-advisors.

  • What does a financial advisor do?

    Financial advisors can have many types of specialties. Generally, a financial advisor advises on or helps to execute a financial plan. Some examples include assisting people with getting out of debt, building out an investment portfolio, and handling taxes.

  • What does a financial coach do?

    Financial coaches focus on improving your financial literacy and money management skills. For example, they can help you figure out how to pay down your student loans or decide how much money to put away for retirement. They usually charge by the hour and don’t offer asset management services or investment advice.

  • When should I use a financial advisor vs. doing it myself?

    Smart money management can give you freedom and comfort. Being responsible with your money makes it possible to meet goals and pay for major expenses. A financial advisor is trained and can offer you expertise that would otherwise take years to learn. They know how to save you money and make it go further.

  • How do I know if my financial advisor is trustworthy?

    There are multiple ways you can know if your financial advisor is trustworthy. Checking if they are licensed is one. There is no single organization that regulates financial advisors. However, their ability to market certain products is determined by institutions like FINRA. For instance, an advisor looking to market stocks and packaged securities must obtain a Series 7 license. This comes from passing a FINRA-administered exam. A financial advisor is also credible if they are registered with the SEC, which is required if the total value of their assets under management reaches over $110 million.

  • What's the difference between a financial advisor and a financial planner?

    The term financial advisor is a broad phrase that encapsulates many specialties, including financial planner. It's similar to how doctor applies to different physicians, while a cardiologist is a specialty doctor. A financial planner helps their client plan to achieve long-term financial goals, such as saving for a house or retirement.

  • Are financial advisor fees tax deductible?

    Until 2018, financial advisor fees were tax deductible as a miscellaneous expense. However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act elimited that deduction until at least 2025.

  • What is a financial consultant?

    A financial consultant and a financial advisor are essentially the same. In recent years, financial consultant has become a less popular term, with financial advisor being much more common. Sometimes, the financial professional may opt for the term consultant when offering services to a business rather than an individual.

  • What makes someone a fiduciary?

    Fiduciary is a legal term for a person who has a legal or ethical responsibility to act in your best interests. For example, a trustee and a beneficiary. A financial advisor may have a fiduciary obligation to make financial choices that are best for you, even if it means they earn less in commissions or fees.

  • What is a robo-advisor?

    A robo-advisor is essentially an algorithm that manages your investment portfolio for you. Because their services are automated, you’ll pay less than you would for a human advisor — often between 0.25% and 0.50%. They don’t require large initial investments either, making them a popular choice for entry-level investors. However, you won’t get the same level of advice that you would get from a personal financial advisor.

  • How often should I meet with my financial advisor?

    After your initial meeting, you may only need to check in with your financial advisor on a quarterly or annual basis. Ask them in advance how often you can expect to hear from them, and whether they offer in-person, phone, or virtual meetings.

  • Should your financial advisor be a fiduciary?

    It’s important to understand that only some — not all — financial advisors have a fiduciary obligation to their clients. Always ask your financial advisor if they’re bound by fiduciary duty. If not, it’s possible that they’ll push products or services that earn them the highest commission, not necessarily what’s best for you. Opt for a financial advisor bound by fiduciary duty whenever possible.

  • Can my financial planner help with taxes?

    Financial advisors aren’t necessarily accountants or tax preparers, so don’t expect them to prepare your taxes for you. However, they may be able to provide tax-related advice to help you optimize your returns and deductions. If you need an advisor who can file your taxes, look for one who is also a CPA (Certified Public Accountant).

  • Do I need a financial advisor?

    Ask yourself if a financial advisor can fill a need or solve a problem you can’t easily handle on your own. They can be helpful in a wide variety of ways, such as building budgets or financial plans, finding ways to save money on taxes, creating an investment portfolio, or offering investment advice.

  • What experience should I look for in a financial advisor?

     If you have specific goals or a unique financial situation, look for a financial advisor with expertise in that area. For example, some financial advisors specialize in working with millennials or focus on socially responsible investing.

  • How do financial advisors get paid?

    Clients pay to work with a financial advisor whether it’s through fees, commissions, or salaries. If they’re paid by client fees or commissions, their salary is tied to how much business they bring in. The harder they work, the more they make. In comparison, a salaried employee is guaranteed their wage no matter how many clients they have.

  • How much does a financial advisor cost?

    A financial advisor’s costs depend on their fee structure. Some advisors charge a fee — either hourly or a percentage of the client assets under management. Another common option is to charge a commission on the products sold or investments made.

  • Should I hire a financial advisor before buying a house?

    While not always necessary, a financial advisor could help you decide how large of a mortgage to apply for, how much money to put down, and how to balance the purchase with other savings and investment goals.

  • How many financial advisors are there in the U.S.?

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s estimated that there are 218,050 financial advisors. California is the state with the highest employment of financial advisors across the nation.

  • Do banks offer financial advisors?

    Yes, many banks have financial advisors on staff. Your bank may also offer incentives to work with their financial advisors, such as lower fees or free accounts. However, it's important to note that many of the bank's financial advisors don't have a fiduciary obligation and might prioritize the bank's products above all else. There is a cost when working with your bank's financial advisor.

  • Should I hire a wealth manager?

    A wealth manager can help offer complex financial planning services, including tax guidance, estate planning, and legal assistance. While you don't have to be a high-income earner to benefit from a financial advisor, a wealth manager is typically for those that have a high net worth. However, many people build wealth and need a wealth manager later on in life.

  • Is wealth management worth it?

    Wealth management is typically worth it for those who need help with multiple endeavors or comprehensive financial situations, such as charitable contributions or investment portfolio management, or want to protect their assets. A wealth manager can also offer you guidance if you’ve been neglecting your finances or making poor judgements.

  • How can you tell if a financial advisor is bad?

    Your relationship with your financial advisor is a very personal one, as you’re trusting them with your wealth and future. Some general signs that your financial advisor is bad include:

    • They can’t answer your financial questions
    • You have worked with them for a while but haven’t seen a financial improvement
    • They don’t provide you with progress reports
    • They don’t check in with you

  • What do you need to be a financial advisor?

    As mentioned, there are over 100 types of certifications for financial advisors. The training or experience you need will depend on which specialty you want to pursue. Generally, financial advisors need to have:

    • A Bachelor’s degree
    • A General Securities Representative license (Series 7 license)
    • A Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification isn’t mandatory but is often preferred

  • Where do financial advisors work?

    Where a financial advisor works will depend on what type of financial advisor they are. Financial advisors can work at a variety of places, including:

    • Securities and commodity brokers
    • A bank
    • A credit union
    • Independently
    • Insurance companies
    • Financial investment firms
    • Small investment advisory firms

  • How much do financial advisors make?

    In 2019, the national average salary for a financial advisor was $87,850. However, it’s important to note the average salary varies from state to state and the different focus areas — an investment advisor may make a lot more than a financial planner. Lastly, salary can depend on how the individual is getting paid. Financial advisors can be paid by client fees, commissions, or salaries.

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