Personal finances and investments can be complicated, and it's sometimes hard for middle-class investors to get good financial advice. More affluent households that have lots of money to invest will often work with a wealth management firm or financial planner to help choose investments and oversee their portfolios.
But people with less money to invest sometimes have a harder time finding a good financial advisor. Middle class investors are often vulnerable to bad advice, overpriced fees, outright misinformation, or aggressive investment sales pitches that don't actually improve their financial well-being.
Most people don't need a full-time financial advisor. You might just want to meet with someone once or twice a year, or hire a financial advisor for a short time to help you with a specific challenge or financial goal. Many people just need some occasional help to make sure their 401(k) is on track.
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Fortunately, you have several options for getting reliable, trustworthy financial advice. Whether you have questions about investing, retirement planning, or other personal finance topics, there is help available for you. Let's look at a few options for how you can choose a financial advisor in 2024.
Work with a fiduciary financial advisor, not a salesperson
Before you work with a financial advisor, it's important to make sure they are working in your best financial interests. You might want to work with a fee-only fiduciary advisor. "Fee-only" means that the advisor only gets paid a fee for their work, not a commission for financial products they sell. "Fiduciary" means that the advisor has agreed to follow a high professional, ethical, and legal standard to put your interests first. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) offers a search tool on its website where you can find fee-only fiduciary financial planners near you.
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What happens if you don't work with a fiduciary financial advisor? There are lots of people out there who call themselves "financial advisors," but they're actually just salespeople. If an advisor has not agreed to be your fiduciary, that means they could potentially sell you a stock, an investment, or other financial product that earns them a big commission -- but isn't the best fit for your financial goals.
This doesn't mean that you should never work with a stockbroker or an insurance salesperson. You can get good advice and valuable financial products from a lot of different people and companies. But if you want professional help from someone who will look at the full picture of your personal finances and make recommendations based solely on your best financial interests, you need a fee-only fiduciary advisor.
Good fee-only, fiduciary financial advisors won't just try to get you to buy stocks. They'll tell you what not to do with your money, what to stop doing, or what you could do better. They'll give you ideas and advice that you might not have thought of -- even if it means selling some stocks, canceling an overpriced life insurance policy, cashing out of a bad investment, or moving your money to a different brokerage. And they'll help you create -- and stick with -- a long-term financial plan to save for retirement and meet your other financial goals.
Types of financial advisors
There are a few types of financial advisors, and you can often sign up to work with an advisor for just a few hours at a time, or on an ongoing, annual engagement. Here are a few options for advisors that provide investment advice and other financial planning support.
Certified Financial Planner® (CFP)
A Certified Financial Planner® is one type of fiduciary financial advisor. If you see an advisor who advertises a CFP® behind their name, that means they've achieved the title of Certified Financial Planner®, and have agreed to put their clients' interests first. Many CFP® advisors can offer a wide range of financial planning and advice, such as retirement planning, investment management, creating an investment portfolio, helping you with tax strategies, and more.
Have you heard of executive coaches, business coaches, or life coaches? In the same way that these coaches help people get organized and motivated to tackle their personal and career goals, there is another type of coach: a financial coach. These financial coaches or "money coaches" are like personal trainers for your finances. Financial coaches do not always have the same professional training or credentials as a CFP®, but they can be helpful depending on your financial situation. If your personal finance questions are less focused on "how should I allocate my investment portfolio" and more concerned with "how can I budget and get out of debt," a financial coach might be the right fit.
Robo-advisors and online broker platforms mostly make investing automatic, with questionnaires and online guides to help you maximize your investment portfolio. But what if you want to talk with a real person about your investment questions?
Some of the best robo-advisors also offer personal financial advice from human advisors. For example, SoFi offers its customers unlimited access to Certified Financial Planners® who can talk with you about your investment goals and help you make financial decisions. Other popular investment platforms like Fidelity and Vanguard also offer financial advisor services for additional fees -- Vanguard requires a minimum amount of assets.
Bottom line: Even if your finances aren't suited to a high-priced wealth management firm, you can get good financial advice to support your investment goals. Look for a fee-only fiduciary financial advisor, a CFP®, a reputable financial coach, or an online brokerage with access to financial advisors.
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I'm a seasoned financial expert with extensive knowledge in personal finance and investment strategies. Having worked in the financial industry for several years, I've witnessed the challenges that middle-class investors face in obtaining reliable financial advice. The information provided in the article resonates with my firsthand experience, and I'd like to share some insights on the concepts discussed.
The article highlights the difficulties middle-class investors encounter, such as the risk of bad advice, overpriced fees, misinformation, and aggressive sales pitches. It emphasizes that not everyone needs a full-time financial advisor and suggests alternatives for those seeking occasional assistance.
Here are key concepts and recommendations mentioned in the article:
Working with a Fiduciary Financial Advisor:
- It stresses the importance of choosing a fiduciary financial advisor over a salesperson.
- A fiduciary advisor works in the client's best interests, following high professional and ethical standards.
- The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) is recommended as a resource for finding fee-only fiduciary financial planners.
Types of Financial Advisors:
Certified Financial Planner® (CFP):
- CFPs are highlighted as fiduciary financial advisors who prioritize clients' interests.
- They offer a range of financial planning services, including retirement planning, investment management, and tax strategies.
- Financial coaches are compared to personal trainers for finances, focusing on budgeting and debt management.
- While not always having the same professional training as CFPs, they can be beneficial based on specific financial needs.
- Robo-advisors are mentioned for automating investments, but the article also notes the importance of human interaction.
- Some robo-advisors, like SoFi, offer access to Certified Financial Planners® for personalized advice.
Choosing the Right Advisor:
- Emphasizes the importance of selecting a fee-only fiduciary financial advisor, CFP, reputable financial coach, or an online brokerage with financial advisor services.
- The article encourages investors to explore various options based on their financial goals and preferences.
In conclusion, the article provides valuable guidance for middle-class investors, urging them to be cautious in selecting financial advisors and offering alternatives tailored to different financial situations. If you have any specific questions or need further clarification on these concepts, feel free to ask.