Financial terms can be confusing to an individual interested in learning about investments and financial planning. Educating our clientele through our website, monthly newsletter and quarterly reports is important to us.Understanding a financial advisor's work experience is important when evaluating candidates. It is, however, not always as straightforward as reviewing the advisor's degrees and designations.
The first step is to read Form ADV Part Two, assuming the advisor is a Registered Investment Advisor. This will list past experience. If the advisor is a broker, ask to see a resume or curriculum vitae. Visiting the financial advisor's website can also provide a wealth of information.
Reviewing these documents may not answer all questions. For example, an advisor may state he has worked as a financial planner since 1975. Ask several questions. Did he meet with clients and develop comprehensive plans? Was he strictly performing a data entry function, inputting a client's information into a computer program? Understanding past duties can affect the decision to hire him as a financial planner.
Another person may claim he was an investment specialist working in the field since 1987. Did he have experience meeting with clients, determining risk/return characteristics, and building portfolios? Was he instead cold calling on the phone eight hours per day trying to sell the "investment of the week?" Again, it is important to know whether this individual has the experience needed to accomplish the objectives. Evasive answers to these questions should raise a red flag.
The designations below are well-known and respected within the financial community. The associated links will describe the requirements needed to take the exam, information on the exam, and list what is needed for the person to maintain his/her designation. Locating someone who has a different designation does not mean that advisor should be dismissed. There are numerous designations that may be appropriate for the type of service needed. Rather, check into the objectives and requirements for the designation to determine whether this person is the right fit.
- NAPFA-National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (PDF, 63.2 KB)
- CFP-Certified Financial Planner (PDF, 2.07 MB)
- CPA-Certified Public Accountant (PDF, 24.9 KB)
- NAPFA's “Pursuit of a Financial Advisor” (PDF, 4.21 MB)
- CFP Board's “Consumer Guide To Financial Planning” (PDF, 2.14 MB)
- Financial Glossary provides definitions of unfamiliar terms.
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