Due to the financial industry’s ever-changing business models and regulations, its business titles are confusing.
But first: Be warned! Your “advisor” may hold multiple designations/titles. For example, your advisor can be both a broker and your investment advisor representative in the same meeting! Yet his or her business card may read, “financial planner” or “financial advisor.”
Here are some of the main financial planning titles you need to understand:
Financial Advisor or Financial Planner: Most any person who sells investment products or advises you in exchange for fees can have this title. Therefore, this title doesn’t help you distinguish much at all. Any of the below individuals, and others, can call themselves “financial advisors” or “financial planners.”
Investment Advisor Representative (IAR): These individuals have passed an exam and must be your fiduciary (meaning “look out for your best interests”) when providing you advice.
Certified Financial Planner: These individuals must pass a difficult test, have at least 3 years of experience, and meet other criteria required by an industry-specific governing body.
Broker: These individuals have passed exams that permit them to sell and receive commissions on securities products such as mutual funds, stocks, and other investments. Note: A broker’s business cards will likely read “financial advisor.”
Next time an advisor hands you his or her business card, I hope this writeup helps you understand what he or she really does. Also, you can check FINRA’s (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) broker check website to find your investment counselor’s designation.