What’s the Difference Between a Financial Planner, Financial Advisor and Investment Advisor?
Once you’ve decided it’s time to get some professional financial help, you may be asking yourself: “Which type of financial professional is best for me?” From a financial advisor to an investment advisor to a financial planner, it’s helpful to know the differences between each category of financial experts before committing to a long-term engagement. According to the CFP Board, “consumer use of financial advisors has increased significantly in the last five years,” going up approximately 10 percent in the span of just five years.1
When advisors were surveyed about the benefits of cash flow management and budgeting, nearly 100 percent of them stated that their clients became more confident and secure about their financial futures after utilizing the service.2 However, “consumer use” does not necessarily mean every age group of consumers is jumping on the bandwagon. The Society of Actuaries found that “only 52 percent of pre-retirees and 44 percent of retirees consult a financial planner or advisor.”3 Before you make a final decision, we’ve rounded up some of the key differentiators between each group so you can sign your contract with confidence.
Term #1: Financial Advisor
The most used term, a financial advisor is someone who helps you with different aspects of your financial life. This might include planning for and transitioning to retirement, investment advice, life insurance, 401(k) plans, IRAs, budgeting and more. Every financial advisor is different in what specific areas they specialize in and what services they provide, so if you are looking for help in one particular area, it is always best to ask.
Financial advisors can be compensated in a variety of ways – they can be commissioned- based, fee-only, or charge a percentage based on your total AUM (assets under management).
Term #2: Investment Advisor
An investment advisor is a professional who focuses on just that – your investments. An investment advisor will manage your portfolio with the goal to get the highest rate of return that you can over the long run. Before they begin designing your portfolio, investment advisors should evaluate your current financial picture, as well as determine your optimal risk tolerance, which may involve you filling out a questionnaire.
After discussing your needs and goals with your advisor, they typically will then present an investment strategy tailored according to the unique aspects of your life. Some investment advisors actually manage your money and do the investing for you, other simple “advise” on what you should do, leaving you to implement the strategies on your own.
Term #3: Financial Planner
With more money comes more responsibility, and financial planners’ duties are catered specifically to those who have a desire for a holistic approach to organizing and managing their finances. These professionals not only develop a plan for your financial independence, they will actively partner with you to help you do the work, including providing ongoing consultations and managing your investments, to ensure that you achieve your financial goals.
Keep in mind, many firms may categorize their own business under more than one of these labels (they might say they are a “financial advisor” as well as a “wealth advisor”. Of course, the best course of action is always to contact any financial professional you are interested in working with directly and learn more about their business model and what services they provide to their clients.