Advisors, Counselors, and Planners…Oh My!

One of my least favorite tasks as a homeowner is vetting and hiring contractors for a project. Like many others, I start out by asking friends in the area. I feel pretty good when I receive consistent opinions, but when the opinions differ, I reluctantly turn to Google; hoping to find reliable and legitimate information to help with my decision.

Unfortunately, many folks face a similar dilemma when trying to choose the right financial professional. We often receive suggestions from friends and family; however, many financial professionals have specific focus areas or only offer certain services, making the decision very personal. The following will briefly summarize each type of financial professional, and hopefully, help to narrow down your options.

  • Financial Advisors – generally speaking, Financial Advisors are found locally, work at for-profit financial institutions, and are licensed to buy/sell financial products (i.e., stocks, mutual funds, insurance, etc.). Financial advisors can be an option for individuals who prefer a little extra assistance with their finances, and they can be vetted here.
  • Financial Counselors – Financial Counselors often work at universities, non-profit organizations, and/or government agencies. Financial counselors tend to focus on financial education and behavioral changes, empowering the client to make her/his own informed decisions. Accredited Financial Counselors can be found here.
  • Financial Planners – Financial Planners typically bring the highest level of experience and education to the table. They often have experience as a Financial Advisor/Counselor, may still work for a larger financial institution, or an independent firm, and typically offer the most comprehensive list of services. Certified Financial Planners can be found and vetted here.

One final note..…financial professionals can hold dual-certifications, specialize in numerous areas of personal finance, and have varying compensation structures (i.e., commission-based, fee-only, salaried, or charge asset under management [AUM] fees) – adding to the complexity – but many offer free consultations to see if the service they provide is a good fit. Our Extension Financial Educators also offer free, confidential, and unbiased consultations!

Ryan Stuart

Ryan is a Human Sciences Specialist in Family Wellbeing and an Accredited Financial Counselor®. He focuses on educating and empowering all Iowans to independently make positive financial decisions throughout their life course.

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