Financial Advisors and Financial Planners: Not the Same

Financial Advisors and Financial Planners: Not the Same

At the Pasadena, CA offices of Western International Securities, dozens of broker dealers and financial advisors can be found hard at work on any given day. Some of those advisers are also financial planners, but that is not true of all of them. How can that be? Because financial advisors and financial planners are not always the same thing.

It is important for consumers to understand the difference between financial advisors and planners before they start looking for someone to work with. Whomever a consumer chooses needs to have experience and certifications in the appropriate areas. Otherwise, the best advice may not be forthcoming.

What is a financial advisor?

The term ‘financial advisor’ is a very broad term that encompasses a lengthy list of financial experts. Anyone who might help you manage your money and/or investments would technically be considered a financial advisor. But advisors can work in hundreds of different capacities. For example, your advisor might also be a broker who facilitates equities transactions. In a broad sense, financial advisors include:

  • Life insurance agents
  • Stockbrokers
  • Estate planners
  • Money managers.

The one thing all financial advisors have in common – at least the ones that act as investment advisors to the general public – is licensing. All such advisors must possess a Series 65 license to operate in most states. Getting a license is a matter of passing an exam consisting of 130 questions that must be completed within three hours.

In addition to the Series 65 license, financial advisors may also earn certifications in areas they want to specialize in. At the current time, there are more than 100 different certifications listed by the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.

What is a financial planner?

As previously stated, some of the financial advisors at Western International are also financial planners. They may specialize in one or more areas including investments, estate planning, taxes, etc. Each specialty comes with its own certification.

As a matter of clarification, a financial planner is a financial advisor specializing in areas relating to financial and estate planning for individuals. Again, it boils down to certifications. Some of the more common examples include:

  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
  • Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA)
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).

A certified financial planner may be a person who renders advice to consumers looking to establish a financial plan that will help them reach their retirement goals. That planner may or may not be a licensed broker. The lack of a broker’s license does not negate the individual’s certification as a financial planner.

How are financial advisors and planners employed?

One last thing to note is that financial advisors and planners have multiple options for employment. Many of them are independent, self-employed professionals who work with companies such as Western International Securities for the purposes of clearing their transactions and meeting fiduciary responsibilities. Others are employed by broker-dealer firms like Western International. Still others work as independent contractors via multiple broker-dealer firms.

How a financial advisor or planner is employed should not have a tremendous impact on the kind of advice they offer. Rules surrounding the fiduciary responsibilities of advisors are such that they need to be careful to give the best possible advice at all times. Some advisers might push specific products based on how their transactions are cleared, but they are not supposed to sell based on their own capacity to earn.

Now you know the difference between a financial advisor and a financial planner. Remember that all financial planners are also financial advisors, but not all advisors are necessarily financial planners.


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