Whether you’re growing your family, starting a business, or preparing for retirement, you might have considered seeking financial help from a professional. As you begin researching, you’ll probably realize you have many options, but not all financial planners are created equally. When you choose a financial planner, you’ll put your money, family’s security, and future financial goals on the line. It’s also realistic to consider that you’ll spend years or decades of your life with a planner once you find one you like and trust. So, how do you begin to choose the right one?
Advisors generally fall into two categories: fee-only and fee-based. Each of these planners has a significantly different client philosophy, approach to service, and payment model. The key difference is ultimately based on how the planner is compensated:
- A fee-only financial planner, also referred to as a registered investment advisor (RIA), CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, or CFP® professional, is only paid by clients, in the form of a flat rate, hourly charge, or percentage of assets under management.
- A fee-based financial planner, also known as a broker, dealer, or registered representative, may receive payment from clients, as well as bonuses and commissions from an employer or product provider based on the services and products recommended to clients. Note: some fee-based planners may still be CFP(R) practitioners even though they are not fee-only.
We’ll explain why this distinction drives the three reasons you should choose a fee-only financial planner.
The Fiduciary Model
Fee-only financial planners are required by law to put their clients’ interests first. This is called a “fiduciary responsibility.” In comparison, fee-based planners can provide recommendations that are “suitable” for their clients (but not necessarily in the client’s best interest), which is defined at the discretion—and interpretation—of fee-based planners. Although standards are starting to change, historically they have no legal responsibility to tell you if their suggestions will positively affect their paycheck or genuinely help you reach your financial goals. As a result, the fiduciary model produces fewer conflicts of interest and more transparency in the client-advisor relationship, fee disclosure, and transaction process.
Advice-Focused, Not Sales-Focused
Wouldn’t it be disheartening if every question you asked your financial planner ended with them giving you a sales pitch? You want to work with someone who will provide trusted guidance even when a sale isn’t on the table.Without the incentive of a commission or bonus, fee-only planners can focus on providing objective advice rather than pitching products. When fee-only planners do recommend products, since they aren’t earning commission for them, you can feel confident they align with your goals and not their compensation.
With a simple payment structure, fee-only planners can concentrate on your long-term success. With your interests in mind, a fee-only planner can touch multiple areas of your life, from saving for your children’s college education and purchasing a new home to starting or ending a business and achieving retirement security. It’s also not uncommon for a trusted advisor to assist multiple generations within a family. With a lifetime of milestones at stake, it’s beneficial to know your finances and sensitive family matters are in reliable hands.
As you narrow down financial planners and wealth management companies, we hope you consider these different approaches and the key benefits of working with a fee-only financial planner. You can also check your advisor’s credentials by visiting the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) website. At CCMI, we provide fee-only financial planning and investment management services to individuals, families, and business owners. Learn more about the fiduciary philosophy and how we help our clients make the best-informed decisions for themselves and their families.
CCMI provides personalized fee-only financial planning and investment management services to business owners, professionals, individuals and families in San Diego and throughout the country. CCMI has a team of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professionals who act as fiduciaries, which means our clients’ interests always come first.
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