Financial Advisor
Financial Advisor | Image for Illustration Purposes Only

Who is a Financial Advisor?

A common question that often arises concerns the role of a financial advisor. Broadly speaking, these experts assist individuals in managing their finances, encompassing areas such as investments and various financial strategies.


  • A financial advisor’s role extends beyond mere market transactions on behalf of their clients.
  • They leverage their expertise to create tailored financial strategies designed to realize their clients’ specific financial objectives.
  • These strategies encompass not only investments but also encompass savings, budgeting, insurance, and tax planning.
  • Moreover, advisors maintain ongoing communication with their clients to continually assess their evolving financial circumstances and adjust their plans accordingly.
  • It’s essential to note that the benefits of financial advisor services are not exclusive to individuals of high net worth; anyone can benefit from their expertise and guidance.

Diverse Responsibilities of a Financial Advisor

A financial advisor serves as your strategic partner in financial planning. Suppose you have aspirations like retiring comfortably in 20 years or funding your child’s education at a private university in 10 years. Achieving these goals may necessitate the expertise of a qualified professional with the appropriate licenses, and this is where a financial advisor plays a pivotal role.

Working in collaboration, you and your advisor will address a range of crucial subjects. These include determining the optimal savings targets, selecting the most suitable account types, identifying necessary insurance coverage (such as long-term care, term life, and disability insurance), and devising effective estate and tax plans.

Furthermore, the role of a financial advisor extends to that of an educator. One of their primary responsibilities is to empower you with a comprehensive understanding of the strategies required to attain your future objectives. This educational journey may commence with foundational concepts like budgeting and saving at the outset of your partnership. As your financial understanding grows, your advisor will guide you through more intricate subjects, encompassing investments, insurance intricacies, and complex tax considerations.

What Financial Advisors Do for You

What Financial Advisors Do for You

Financial advisors offer a range of services to help clients with their finances. Whether it’s giving advice on investments or helping you save for a college fund, here’s a list of the most common things financial advisors do:

  • Investment Guidance: Financial advisors suggest investments that match your preferences, goals, and how comfortable you are with taking risks. They also create and adjust investment plans as needed.
  • Managing Debt: Advisors develop plans to help you pay off your debts and avoid getting into debt in the future.
  • Budgeting Help: Financial advisors offer tips and strategies to make budgets that help you achieve your short-term and long-term goals.
  • Saving for College: They can help you set aside money for your child’s education as part of your budgeting strategy.
  • Planning for Retirement: Advisors create savings plans designed to meet your needs as you prepare for retirement.
  • Estate Planning: They assist in deciding who should inherit your assets when you pass away and create a plan to ensure your wishes are fulfilled.
  • Long-Term Care and Insurance: Financial advisors find the best insurance options and long-term solutions that fit your budget.
  • Tax Planning: Regarding taxes, financial advisors can help you prepare your tax returns, maximize your deductions, schedule security sales for tax advantages, optimize capital gains tax rates, and plan for tax efficiency during retirement.

The Financial Well-being Assessment

A financial advisor will collaborate with you to gather a comprehensive overview of your financial situation, encompassing assets, liabilities, income, and expenditures. Within the questionnaire, you’ll also detail future income sources and pensions, forecast retirement requirements, and outline any long-term financial commitments. You’ll catalog all existing and anticipated investments, pensions, gifts, and income streams.

The investment aspect of the questionnaire delves into more subjective elements, including your comfort level with risk and your capacity for risk tolerance. Your grasp of risk is instrumental in guiding your advisor’s decisions regarding allocating your investments. This phase also allows you to communicate your investment preferences.

The initial evaluation may also examine additional financial management aspects, such as insurance considerations and tax status. Your advisor will require insight into your current estate planning and any other professionals involved in your financial planning, such as accountants and attorneys. Once you and your advisor comprehensively understand your present financial state and future outlook, you can collaborate on a plan to realize your life and financial objectives.

Financial Advisor Roles

The Financial Strategy

The financial advisor consolidates this initial information into a comprehensive financial strategy as a navigational guide for your financial journey. It commences with a concise summary of key insights from your initial questionnaire. It presents an overview of your current financial standing, encompassing net worth, assets, liabilities, and available liquid capital. Furthermore, the financial plan encapsulates the objectives you and your advisor deliberated.

Within this extensive document’s analytical section, you’ll find a more detailed exploration of various topics, such as your risk tolerance, estate planning particulars, family dynamics, long-term care considerations, and other pertinent current and future financial matters.

Drawing from your projected net worth and anticipated retirement income, the plan generates simulations of potential retirement scenarios, ranging from the most favorable to the least favorable. This includes addressing concerns about potentially outliving your financial resources with strategies to mitigate that risk. The plan also examines sustainable withdrawal rates during retirement from your investment portfolio. Moreover, if you are in a marital or long-term partnership, it accounts for survivorship considerations and financial scenarios for the surviving partner.

Following a thorough review of the plan with your advisor and any necessary adjustments, you are well-prepared to implement the plan.

Financial Advisors and Investment Strategies

It’s essential for you, as the consumer, to understand what your planner recommends and why. You should not follow an advisor’s recommendations unquestioningly; it’s your money, and you should know how it’s being deployed. Keep a close eye on the fees you pay to your advisor and any funds bought for you.

Ask your advisor why they recommend specific investments and whether they receive a commission for selling them. Be alert for possible conflicts of interest. The advisor will allocate an asset that fits your risk tolerance and capacity. Asset allocation is a rubric to determine what percentage of your total financial portfolio will be distributed across various asset classes. A more risk-averse individual will have a greater concentration of government bonds, certificates of deposit (CDs), and money market holdings.

In contrast, an individual more comfortable with risk may decide to take on more stocks, corporate bonds, and perhaps even investment real estate. Your asset allocation will be adjusted for your age and for how long you have before retirement.

💡 Important

Every financial advisory firm must adhere to legal regulations and its internal investment policy when acquiring and disposing of financial assets.

A commonality among firms is that financial products are selected to fit the client’s risk profile. Suppose, for example, a 50-year-old individual has already amassed enough net worth for retirement and is predominantly interested in capital preservation. They may have a conservative asset allocation of 45% in stock assets (including individual stocks, mutual funds, and/or exchange-traded funds (ETFs)) and 55% in fixed-income assets such as bonds.

Alternatively, a 40-year-old individual with a smaller net worth and a willingness to take on more risk to build up their financial portfolio may opt for an asset allocation of 70% stock assets, 25% fixed-income assets, and 5% alternative investments.

While considering the firm’s investment philosophy, your portfolio will also fit your needs. It should be based on how soon you need the money, your investment horizon, and your present and future goals.

Keeping an Eye on Your Finances Regularly

After your investment plan is established, your advisor will send you regular statements that provide updates on your portfolio. They will also schedule regular meetings to discuss your objectives, track your progress, and address any further queries you might have. Remote communication tools such as phone calls or video chats can facilitate more frequent interactions.

Furthermore, reaching out to your financial advisor is vital when anticipating a significant life change that could affect your financial situation. These changes might include marriage, divorce, welcoming a new child into your family, buying or selling a home, altering your employment status, or receiving a job promotion.


~The typical base income for a financial advisor, as reported on Indeed.

Indications That Suggest You Might Require Financial Advisor

Regardless of age or life stage, anyone can collaborate with a financial advisor. You don’t need to possess significant wealth; you must find an advisor who fits your circumstances.

The choice to seek professional assistance with your finances is profoundly personal. However, if you ever feel overwhelmed, perplexed, stressed, or anxious about your financial situation, it’s a good moment to consider consulting a financial advisor. The Financial Planning Association might offer pro bono volunteer support if you cannot afford such services.

It’s also perfectly acceptable to engage a financial advisor when you feel financially stable but desire someone to confirm that you’re on the right financial path. An advisor can propose potential enhancements to your plan to help you achieve your goals more efficiently. Lastly, if you lack the time or inclination to manage your finances, that’s another compelling reason to enlist the services of a financial advisor.

These are some broad reasons why you might require professional assistance from an advisor. Now, let’s delve into some more specific ones.

You haven’t invested your savings, or you’re unsure how to..

Inflation erodes the value of cash and low-interest accounts over time. To see your money grow and secure your retirement, investing is essential. For the majority, investing is the path to building a sufficient retirement fund, especially without an exceptionally high income.

You’ve made investments, but you’re consistently experiencing losses..

Even the most skilled investors face losses during market downturns or when their decisions don’t go as planned. However, in the long run, investing should substantially boost your net worth. If it’s not doing so, engaging a financial advisor can identify your mistakes and guide you back on track before it’s too late.

You Haven’t Set Up a Recent Estate Plan

A financial advisor can assist in creating an estate plan to ensure your assets are managed in line with your posthumous preferences. Additionally, a financial advisor can provide guidance if you lack adequate insurance coverage (or are uncertain about your insurance needs). A fee-only financial advisor may offer a more impartial perspective than an insurance agent.

Selecting the Right Financial Advisor

Follow these straightforward steps to select the ideal financial advisor who offers strategies and services tailored to your goals and requirements:

  1. Interview several advisors and assess their services, approach, and fees. Prepare a questionnaire to help determine if they are a suitable match.
  2. Seek an advisor who prioritizes education. A valuable financial advisor should do more than promote their services; they should equip you with the knowledge and resources to become financially literate and self-reliant, enabling you to make informed decisions independently.
  3. Choose a well-informed advisor who stays updated on financial trends and developments across various domains. They should be capable of addressing your inquiries on various financial topics.
  4. Opt for an advisor whose approach aligns with your values and beliefs and understands your emotional factors. A good advisor should be attuned to your risk tolerance and guide you toward prudent decisions.

The Expenses Associated with a Financial Advisor

A Department of Labor (DOL) proposed a regulation aimed to mandate that all financial professionals dealing with retirement plans or offering retirement advice prioritize the client’s best interests (known as the fiduciary standard) rather than merely providing advice that is suitable for the client (the suitability standard). While the rule was initially passed, its implementation was postponed, and ultimately, a court invalidated it.

However, during the approximately three-year period between President Obama’s proposal of the rule and its eventual demise, the media shed more light on the various practices of financial advisors, their fee structures, and how the suitability standard may not be as advantageous for consumers as the fiduciary standard. Some financial advisors proactively transitioned to the fiduciary standard voluntarily, or they emphasized their existing adherence to it.

Certain professionals, such as Certified Financial Planners™ (CFPs), were already committed to this standard. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that the fiduciary standard wouldn’t have applied to non-retirement-related advice even under the DOL rule.

On Commission-Basis Model

Financial advisors often earn commissions from the products they recommend to clients within the suitability standard. Consequently, clients may receive an invoice from someone other than the financial advisor. However, this arrangement can lead to clients purchasing financial products with higher fees than similar alternatives. These particular products may also yield substantial commissions for the advisor.

Fee-Based Model

Within the fiduciary standard, advisors employ two common fee structures: charging clients based on hourly rates or as a percentage of their assets under management (AUM). A standard AUM fee is typically 1%, while hourly financial advice rates usually range from $120 to $300, with fees varying based on factors such as location and the advisor’s level of experience. Some advisors may offer reduced rates to assist clients who are initiating their financial planning journey and have budget constraints.

Typically, financial advisors provide an initial consultation at no charge. This consultation allows both the client and the advisor to assess if they are a good match for each other.

Hybrid Fee and Commission Structure

Financial advisors can also receive a combination of fees and commissions, and it’s important to distinguish between fee-based and fee-only financial advisors.

A fee-based advisor may charge a fee for creating a financial plan and earn a commission for selling specific insurance or investment products to you.

In contrast, a fee-only financial advisor does not receive any commissions.

In April 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) introduced its fiduciary regulation, better known as Regulation Best Interest. While this rule was seen as somewhat less stringent than the DOL’s fiduciary rule, it also aimed to address specific concerns raised by critics of the DOL rule. Notably, the SEC’s rule had a broader scope as it applied to a more comprehensive range of investments beyond retirement accounts.

How Different Types of Financial Advisors Get Paid

Payment Scheme

Fee-Only Fee-Basis Commission-Basis
Generates income when you purchase particular investments No Yes Yes
Generates income when you purchase a particular insurance product No Yes Yes
Generates income based on the performance of your investment portfolio Yes  Sometimes No
Faces a potential conflict of interest No Yes Yes

Exploring the Option of a Robo-Advisor

Financial Robo Advisor

A digital financial advisor, commonly called a robo-advisor, is a service some companies offer. Robo-advisors utilize computer algorithms to manage your finances, guided by your responses to questions about your financial objectives and risk tolerance. They have a low initial investment requirement and charge lower fees than human financial advisors. Notable examples include Betterment and Wealthfront. These services can save you time and potentially reduce costs.

However, a robo-advisor cannot provide personalized advice on strategies to reduce debt or fund your child’s education. It also cannot offer emotional support to deter impulsive investment decisions based on fear or assist you in constructing and overseeing a portfolio of individual stocks. Robo-advisors typically invest client funds in a diversified portfolio of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds that mirror stock and bond markets. Additionally, it’s important to note that you may require the tailored guidance that only a human advisor can provide for complex estate or tax matters.

What Kind of Financial Advisor Is Right for You?

Different Types of Financial Advisors

Human Advisor Robo-advisor Digital Advisor
Support Comprehensive financial guidance, covering budgeting, estate planning, and investment strategies Advice solely focused on investments Service levels tailored to your managed assets
General Fee 1% 0.24% to 0.50% 0.89%
Expertise Individuals seeking face-to-face meetings with their advisor; clients facing intricate situations; clients with substantial wealth Individuals who favor a completely automated online experience without consultations; clients with straightforward financial situations; clients with modest net worth Individuals seeking a predominantly automated digital experience but with the option to consult with an advisor online or via phone

What Is the Role of a Financial Advisor?

A financial advisor’s role extends beyond investment management. They can assist you in various areas, such as savings strategies, retirement planning, estate planning, and more. If your sole requirement is discussing portfolio allocations, they can also accommodate that, typically for a fee.

How Much Do You Pay a Financial Advisor?

Financial advisors can receive compensation through various methods. Some operate on a commission-based model, earning a percentage of their recommended products. This approach has faced scrutiny because advisors may prioritize commissions over your best interests. Many financial advisors work on a fee-based model, charging a percentage fee based on the assets they oversee. Others, such as hedge funds, may earn a percentage of your profits.

Are Financial Advisors Free?

Financial advisors typically come with associated costs. While there may not be upfront fees, advisors often earn a percentage based on your assets, commissions from product sales, and, occasionally, a portion of your gains. Exceptionally, high-net-worth individuals may receive what seems like ‘free’ advisor services. Still, these advisors frequently guide individuals toward products or services advantageous to their institution. This doesn’t necessarily disadvantage the client, but the advisor and their employing entity usually find avenues for compensation.

In Conclusion

Not all financial advisors possess identical training or provide equivalent levels of service. Therefore, when selecting an advisor, conducting your research is essential to confirm they can effectively address your financial planning requirements.

Examine their certifications to ensure you comprehend, concur with, and can manage their fee arrangement. Additionally, investigate their regulatory track record through your state regulatory agency, FINRA’s BrokerCheck, and the SEC’s Investment Advisor Public Disclosure database.

So, Finding an advisor whose personality aligns with yours is crucial for establishing a prosperous, enduring partnership.

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