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How to Find a Financial Advisor Near Me
All Americans can benefit from a financial advisor in some capacity or another. In fact, not understanding the ins and outs of personal finance costs the average person in America at least $1,200 every year. Even if you have a solid grasp of your finances, you may still be missing a critical component that could make a huge difference in your financial wellbeing. Finding a good financial advisor can help save you money and allow you to focus on your life and your future.
Financial advisors aren’t just for the wealthy these days. Experienced financial planners and advisors are helpful guides for people just like you. They can help you get your finances on track and work toward long-term financial goals. Here are some things to consider when you’re searching for the right financial advisor near you.
Where Do You Need Financial Guidance?
Before you start searching for the ideal financial advisor, pause for a moment to think about what aspects of your life could benefit from professional financial advice. It’s important to understand that a great financial planner or advisor does more than just give advice. They can help you think about your goals for the future and find a path to help you pursue those financial goals.
Now, depending on your situation in life, you may not need intensive financial planning. For example, if you’re young without a family or excessive debt, you may only need a retirement planner. Whereas someone with a lot of credit card debt and bad credit may need help with debt consolidation on top of retirement investment advice.
People with more complex needs require more involved financial planning. These people may include those who want to build college funds or trusts for their children and grandchildren, solve complex tax problems, or focus on long-term health care options.
Whatever your financial needs, you’ll want to find personal financial advisors suited to handle the task.
Recognize the Different Types of Financial Planners & Advisors
Many people who call themselves financial advisors don’t actually have your best interests at heart. This is why finding a great advisor in the financial industry can be so challenging. To learn about the different types of certified financial planners, you must first have the basic knowledge of the meaning of fiduciary duty.
A financial or wealth manager bound by fiduciary duty means that they legally must work in your financial best interests. Others who may call themselves financial advisors and are only held to a suitability standard will only suggest financial products and financial services suitable for you, even if they are more expensive and earn them a bigger commission.
It’s vital to understand how financial and investment advisors earn their money. Here are the different types of financial advisers and what you can expect.
Commissions Based Financial Advisors
Some financial planners and advisors make money by offering third-party products and services for commissions. They may advertise themselves as being “free financial advisors” because they don’t charge fees for financial advice. Others may charge fees and only earn a portion of their income from commissions. In either scenario, if a financial advisor earns some or all of their income from pushing specific financial products then you need to be wary.
Commission-only advisors are not generally fiduciaries. Think of them more as salespeople for investment or insurance brokerages. However, commissions aren’t always a red flag or a negative thing. There are some financial products that are mostly sold based on a commission model: life insurance, for example.
Fee-Only Financial Advisors
A fee-only financial advisor earns their money from the fees you pay for their service. This fee may be based on a percentage of assets under management, as a flat rate, or as an hourly rate. Nearly all fee-only financial advisors are fiduciaries. Working under the fee-only model reduces the potential for conflicts of interest. The fee-based structure allows them to focus on the plans, services, and products that work best for their client without having to worry about upselling them to make their money.
Some advisors will be a blend of the two, commission-based and fee-based.
Robo-advisors provide low-cost automated investment advice with most specializing in helping people invest for their long-term goals. Some people turn to robo-advisors for basic retirement planning needs. However, people with more complex needs will be better off going through a conventional financial advisor.
Registered Investment Advisors
Registered Investment Advisors, RIAs, employ Investment Advisor Representatives, IARs. RIAs are companies that focus on providing fiduciary financial advice and their IARs are bound by fiduciary duty. IARs may be fee-only or fee-based. They may have credentials including Certified Financial Planner, CFP, and others. The CFP designation means that the financial advisor or planner has passed industry exams that span over investment, real estate, and insurance planning. Many CFPs also can help manage outstanding debts, estate planning, and other complex financial situations.
Choose the Financial Services You Want and Need
Different financial advisors offer different services and specialize in different areas. However, here’s a general look at the services you may expect to see from a financial advisor.
- Budgeting Assistance – Help crafting budgets to assist you in pursuing your financial goals.
- College Planning – Help make a plan to save for a loved ones’ education.
- Debt Management – Help create a plan for debt consolidation or managing existing debt including student loans, credit cards, car loans, mortgages, medical bills, etc.
- Estate Planning – Help you set up the transfer of wealth to the next generation including family, friends, or charities.
- Insurance Coverage – Review current policies to look for coverage gaps or recommend new or replacement policies including travel insurance, renters insurance, homeowners insurance, disability insurance, life insurance, long-term care coverage, etc.
- Investment Advice – Provide different investment options to build an investment portfolio within your risk tolerance.
- Retirement Planning – Create and manage a retirement plan to grow your retirement funds and keep your money safe as you near retirement.
- Tax Planning – Creating strategic ways to decrease taxes. (Not all financial planners are tax experts and planning for taxes is different than tax preparation).
A great financial advisor will also offer support and perspective during the most volatile economic times.
Researching Financial Advisors
Many financial advisors offer a variety of fee structures to make financial planning more accessible to people at all stages of life. Understand how they’re paid, what you get for the money, and how they can help you work toward your goals.
Keep in mind that it may take a while to find the right financial advisor for you. Don’t wait until you’re in a rush to find one as they are not all the same and you don’t want to be forced into a situation where you have to choose an advisor without the proper research.
Remember, it’s your money and your future. You want the person guiding your financial decisions to be capable and trustworthy. Review credentials, research backgrounds, understand fee structures. Above all else, exercise caution.