In addition to providing you with general financial planning services, many financial planners are also registered as investment advisers or hold insurance or securities licenses that allow them to buy or sell products. Other planners may have you use more specialized financial advisers to help you implement their recommendations. With the right education and experience, each of the following advisers could take you through the financial planning process. Ethical financial planners will refer you to one of these professionals for services that they cannot provide and disclose any referral fees they may receive in the process. Similarly, these advisers should refer you to a planner if they cannot meet your financial planning needs.
Accountants provide you with advice on tax matters and help you prepare and submit your tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service. All accountants who practice as Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) must be licensed by the state(s) in which they practice.
Estate planners provide you with advice on estate taxes or other estate planning issues and put together a strategy to manage your assets at the time of your death. While attorneys, accountants, financial planners, insurance agents or trust bankers may all provide estate planning services, you should seek
an attorney to prepare legal documents such as wills, trusts and powers of attorney. Many estate planners hold the Accredited Estate Planner (AEP) designation.
Many financial planners have earned the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification, or the Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) or Personal Financial Specialist (CPA/PFS) designations. Financial planners can take you through the financial planning process.
Insurance agents are licensed by the state(s) in which they practice to sell life, health, property and casualty or other insurance products. Many insurance agents hold the Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation. Financial planners may identify and advise you on your insurance needs, but can only sell you insurance products if they are also licensed as insurance agents.
Anyone who charges a fee to provide advice must be properly registered as an investment adviser with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or relevant state securities agencies, depending on the amount of money he or she manages. Because financial planners often advise people on securities-based investments, many are registered as investment advisers.
Also called registered representatives, stockbrokers are licensed by the state(s) in which they practice
to buy and sell securities products such as stocks, bonds and mutual funds. They generally earn commissions on all of their transactions. Stockbrokers must be registered with a company that is a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and pass FINRA-administered securities exams.