Whether you work in finance or not, chances are you need the financial advice of a professional. But with so many specialties out there, it can be difficult to know whom to contact. This helpful guide outlines nine types of financial professionals you’ll want to know.
In a way, the financial planner is like your family doctor or general practitioner. This is the person who can help you develop an overall financial plan or goal. Anyone can call themselves a financial planner, but it is best to look for a CFP (certified financial planner), CFA (chartered financial analyst), or PFS (personal financial specialist). It is important to know how the financial planner earns their money; fee-only planners give advice based on an hourly or project rate while fee-based planners make typically a percentage commission or other investment-based compensation.
A stockbroker is essentially a licensed middleman you go through to buy and sell stocks. They typically work for a stock brokerage (Merrill Lynch, Charles Schwab, etc.) and are a salesperson. As such, choose a stockbroker in a similar way that you would choose to do business with a salesperson. Look for people who have longevity in the position and have long-term clients that trust them. Also be clear of their fees for things like purchasing or trades. (Note: online brokerage-free options also allow people to buy stock without a stockbroker though they are relatively new. Make sure you research a website before giving sensitive personal data or money to it!)
It is easy to want to ignore debt. The reality is, however, most Americans have debt and it is important to face it head on. A debt counselor may specialize in certain types of debt. For instance, if you have a housing issue, look for an HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development)-certified counselor. Otherwise you may choose someone specializing in student loans, medical bills, or whatever the focus of your debt is. You can get a referral from your financial planner to ensure your team is on the same page.
Accountants are most associated with preparing your taxes, but can be helpful in other areas as well, in particular beneficial for small business owners. Accountants can help you save time, money, stress, and even potential legal issues related to your taxes and financial records. CPAs (certified public accountants) are professionals who have maintained the certification and taken the courses, tests, and ongoing education required to be up-to-date on tax laws.
While an accountant may perform duties of a bookkeeper, it is still important to know the distinction between these roles. One way to look at it is that the bookkeeper’s duties are objective while the accountant performs subjective duties. A bookkeeper produces invoices, records financial transactions, does payroll, and maintains the general ledger. You do not need a CPA to enter your transactions into a computer program like QuickBooks. An accountant will analyze the bookkeeping data and some financial firms offer bookkeeping and accounting services since they are complimentary.
We have therapists dedicated to the physical and emotional aspects of our lives, so why not therapists for the financial aspects as well? Financial Therapy is a field with a strong academic backbone and seeks to take a combined approach that intertwines financial and psychological well-being. We generally seek to better our finances to improve our overall well-being, and a financial therapist can help in that regard. To learn more about Financial Therapy and how to find a Financial Therapist, visit this website: https://www.financialtherapyassociation.org/
We might associate the term agent with a professional athlete or other famous people. But most of us have agents–insurance agents. In essence, insurance agents are selling you insurance products like life insurance, long term care insurance, and other types of insurance for your personal or business life. Because different agents sell insurance from different companies with different coverage, it’s important to shop around for different policies at different companies and to really understand what your policies do and don’t cover.
Real Estate Agent/Realtor
We put these two terms together here–but they are not synonyms. It is important to know the difference. In short, realtors are real estate agents held to higher standards. Realtors belong to the National Association of Realtors, and as such there is more accountability. Here is a helpful blog that goes into detail outlining the differences. Real estate agents can help understand the value or even potential earning power of a piece of property, which is often the largest financial decision most people make.
Most people have a good understanding of what a lawyer is and does. We include lawyer on this list mostly to remind you that the other financial professionals are not your lawyer. If you get into a legal entanglement–which many well-intentioned people can do unintentionally–it is important to contact and seek counsel from the appropriate lawyer. Your lawyer works in partnership with the other financial professionals in your life to give you sound advice so you can make good decisions.
In conclusion, when looking for advice or services from a financial professional, be aware of whose skills and certifications are appropriate for which duties. This can save you time, money, and headaches in the long run!