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Understanding Fiduciary and Financial Advisers


If you’re in search of financial assistance, you’ve likely come across the terms fiduciary and financial adviser. While these terms are often used interchangeably, they have distinct differences.

What is a Fiduciary?

A fiduciary is a person or organization that acts on behalf of another person, prioritizing their client’s interests over their own. This involves a legal and ethical commitment to act in the best interest of the client. The responsibilities of a fiduciary can range from managing finances and investments to overseeing the general well-being of another person.

What is a Financial Adviser?

A financial adviser refers to a broad range of professions that provide financial guidance to their clients. These services can include retirement planning, investment management, budgeting and more. Financial advisers are responsible for creating and implementing strategies to manage their client’s portfolios.

While some financial advisers are also fiduciaries, this isn’t always the case. When seeking a new financial adviser, it’s important to consider if they operate as a fiduciary and prioritize their clients’ best interests.

Types of Fiduciary Advisers

Fiduciary advisers come in various types, including:

  • Registered Investment Advisers (RIAs): RIAs are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and are required by law to act as fiduciaries for their clients.

  • Certified Financial Planners (CFPs): CFPs are certified professionals who have completed extensive training and adhere to strict ethical standards. While not all CFPs operate as fiduciaries, many do.

  • Trustees: Trustees are individuals or entities appointed to manage assets on behalf of another person or entity. They have a legal duty to act as a fiduciary.

Whether you choose an RIA, CFP or trustee as your fiduciary adviser, it’s crucial to work with someone who has your best interests at heart.

Types of Fiduciary Financial Advisers

Are you in the market for a financial adviser? If so, it’s important to understand the different types of fiduciary financial advisers.

Discretionary Fiduciary Investment Adviser

Non-Discretionary Fiduciary Financial Adviser

This is also a fiduciary role, but the adviser must receive permission from the client before transacting. This type of financial adviser is rare and almost never done as it requires the adviser to call and talk to the client each time they make a trade.

Retirement Plan Fiduciary Adviser

A retirement plan fiduciary is responsible for managing investments in a 401(k) or employer-sponsored retirement plan. They help with investment selection and management of employee assets in the investment plan.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to start planning for your financial future. Seek out a fiduciary financial adviser who has your best interests at heart.

# Different Types of Financial Advisers

When it comes to financial advisers, the term can be vague and apply to a variety of professions. In fact, virtually anyone can call themselves a financial adviser. It’s important to look at someone’s specific designation to help determine their qualifications and specialty before hiring them to assist with your finances.

Investment Advisers

Investment advisers primarily focus on investing and do not typically mix in financial or tax planning. Their only focus is the investment performance and usually just the one account they’re managing, which is not a holistic approach.


Brokers essentially facilitate transactions and sometimes provide guidance on transactions, but not always. “A broker is someone that is compensated on the brokering of the buy and sell transaction of any asset. This can mean stocks and bonds or even real estate,” says certified financial planner Joe Favorito.

Brokers do not have a fiduciary responsibility to their clients, so it’s crucial to make sure there’s a clear understanding of their role before working with them.

Keeping these differences in mind will help you determine which type of financial adviser is best suited for your needs.

Understanding Financial Professionals: CFP and Financial Consultant

If you are looking for someone to help with your finances, it’s important to understand the different types of financial professionals out there. Two common roles you may come across are Certified Financial Planners (CFP) and Financial Consultants.

Certified Financial Planners (CFP)

A CFP is a financial professional who has passed a rigorous certification exam and is trained in various areas of financial planning such as retirement, insurance, and taxes. They are held to high ethical standards and are required to have ongoing continuing education. When working with a CFP, they are obligated to act as fiduciaries which means they must act in their clients’ best interests.

However, it’s important to note that when a CFP describes themselves as a fiduciary, it is a professional standard of fiduciary care and not a legal standard. On the other hand, Registered Investment Advisers (RIAs) are legally bound to the fiduciary role as they are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission or a state’s security agency.

According to Eric Ross, a CFP at F2 Wealth, it’s important for an adviser to be both a registered investment adviser and a CFP. While being a CFP is necessary, it’s not sufficient proof of competency.

Financial Consultant

This is a broad term which can be used by anyone in the financial industry. A financial consultant may offer services such as financial planning, investment management, or financial coaching. It’s important to carefully review their qualifications and experience before deciding whether they are the right fit for your needs.

If you’re looking for a financial adviser who is also a fiduciary, there are tools available to match you with someone who may meet your requirements.

Understanding Financial Professionals

When choosing a financial professional to work with, it’s important to understand the different titles and roles in the industry. Here are a few common types of financial professionals you may come across:

Financial Adviser/Consultant

This is a broad term that can encompass many different types of financial professionals. According to Wealth Advisor Laura Favorito, it generally refers to someone who provides investment guidance along with retirement planning advice. Some financial advisers also hold the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation, which requires rigorous education and experience requirements.

However, there is no universal standard for the title of financial adviser/consultant, and some professionals may have different designations or certifications.

Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)

Similar to a CFP, a ChFC is a professional designation that requires extensive education and experience in financial planning. ChFCs also have a fiduciary duty to their clients. However, the term “financial consultant” is not always used to specifically describe this type of professional.

Financial Coach

Unlike advisers or consultants, financial coaches typically focus on behaviors and accountability surrounding money. They help clients better understand financial planning concepts and teach them how to make positive changes in their financial habits. However, financial coaches may not be licensed to provide specific investment advice.

Portfolio Manager

A portfolio manager is responsible for making investment decisions on behalf of their clients. They develop investment strategies tailored to their clients’ goals and risk tolerance. Certified Financial Planner Alvin Carlos notes that portfolio managers are not typically involved in other areas of financial planning, such as tax or estate planning.

By understanding the different roles and titles in the financial industry, you can make an informed decision when choosing a professional to work with.

Understanding Your Financial Advisor: A Guide

When it comes to managing your wealth, it’s important to understand the different types of financial advisors out there, and what services they offer. Here’s a breakdown of three common types:

Investment Managers

Investment managers oversee their clients’ investment portfolios, though they may also offer investment advice that registers them as investment advisers. While the line between the two can be blurry, it’s worth checking whether your investment manager is also qualified to offer advice.

Wealth Advisors

Wealth advisors take a more holistic approach to managing their clients’ finances than investment managers. Rather than focusing exclusively on investment portfolios, wealth advisors may also offer guidance on taxes, insurance, estate planning, and other financial issues. As Alana Benson of NerdWallet notes, they tend to work with very wealthy clients who have a minimum investment in the millions.


For those who prefer a hands-off approach to wealth management, robo-advisers offer automated investment portfolio management with minimal fees. While these platforms lack the personalized advice and human touch that wealthier investors may require, they can be an economical choice for those with fewer assets.

Whatever type of advisor you choose, it’s important to do your research and choose one who can meet your individual needs.

Fiduciary vs Financial Adviser: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to managing your finances, you may have come across the terms “fiduciary” and “financial adviser”. But what do they really mean?

A fiduciary is someone who has a legal obligation to act in their client’s best interest above their own. On the other hand, a financial adviser may or may not be a fiduciary. It all depends on their credentials and the services they offer.

According to financial expert Favorito, “If the financial adviser is also a CFP or they are a registered investment adviser, they are expected to be acting in a fiduciary capacity. If they are a financial adviser that simply works for a broker-dealer and is not a CFP, they can be held to what is called the suitability standard, which means the advice they give must be suitable but not necessarily the best advice.”

How to Find a Fiduciary Financial Adviser

If you’re looking for a financial adviser who is also a fiduciary, you’re in luck! There are tools available that can match you with an adviser who meets your needs.

Common Licenses and Registrations

Financial advisers may have different credentials depending on their area of expertise. Some of the most common licenses and registrations include:

SEC registration

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires firms and practitioners who provide securities investment advice to register with them. This ensures that financial professionals follow certain regulations designed to protect investors. To verify a financial professional’s credentials and registration status, you can check the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure site operated by the SEC.

Series 7 license

The Series 7 license is a qualification that allows financial professionals to sell securities products. It requires passing an exam and is often obtained by those who work for broker-dealers.

Licenses and Memberships for Financial Planning Professionals

Aspiring financial planning professionals must take several certification exams and earn various licenses before they can become securities agents, Investment Adviser Representatives (IARs) and offer investing advice to clients. Here are some of the key licenses to consider:

Series 7 License

Series 65 or 66 Licenses

Advisers who intend to offer investing counsel to clients must sit for either the Series 65 or 66 exams. The Series 65 exam, also known as the Uniform Investment Adviser Law Exam, allows advisers to provide investment and general advice to their clients. Passing this exam qualifies individuals as IARs. The Series 66 license, on the other hand, requires a candidate to pass the Uniform Combined State Law Exam and the Series 7 exam before they can become licensed securities agents and IARs.

Membership in Trade Associations

Many professional organizations offer memberships for financial planning professionals, including the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), the Financial Planning Association (FPA), the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA), and the Society of Financial Service Professionals. Becoming a member of these organizations requires meeting specific requirements that provide Continuing Education Units (CEUs), networking opportunities, support, and relationship-building chances.

Look for a financial advisor who adheres to the fiduciary standard? With our tool, you can find an advisor who matches your unique needs and expectations.

Fiduciary vs. Financial Adviser: Which One to Choose?

When it comes to seeking financial advice, it is often assumed that all financial advisers adhere to fiduciary duty. However, that is not always the case. It is important to understand the difference between a financial adviser and a fiduciary adviser.

A fiduciary adviser ensures that you receive unbiased, independent financial or investment advice based on your needs and personal situation. “Why would you settle for anything but a true fiduciary adviser?” asks Maurice. But finding a fiduciary adviser is just the first step. It is important to seek out a fee-only fiduciary who is not bound by any sales goals from their employer.

The difference between fee-based advisers and fee-only advisers is an important one to consider. Some advisers are dually registered as non-fiduciary sales representatives and registered investment advisers or fiduciaries. This means that they may function as fiduciaries part-time and as sales representatives at other times. As a consumer, it can be difficult to understand this practice. That is why it is important to choose a fee-only adviser who has limited their role solely to that of fiduciary by refusing commissions for selling financial products.

Ultimately, the choice between a fiduciary and a financial adviser depends on your needs and personal situation. Do your research, ask “aha” questions that reveal revealing answers, and seek out a fee-only adviser to ensure you receive the best recommendations and service possible.

Estate Planning: Do You Need a Fiduciary or Financial Adviser?

If you are considering creating an estate plan, you may be wondering if you need a fiduciary or financial adviser to assist you. The answer depends on the complexity of your financial situation.

Attorneys and Estate Planning

By law, only attorneys can draw up legal documents related to estate planning. Additionally, attorneys are fiduciaries, which means they are legally bound to act in their clients’ best interests. However, paralegals and para-planners may help attorneys draw up simple wills.

Financial Advisers and Estate Planning

While a financial adviser can’t draft legal documents for your estate plan, partnering with one can be helpful. A fiduciary financial adviser can ensure that every aspect of your estate plan works in coordination with your financial plan. This helps to provide a unified story to your heirs about your wishes and intentions.

However, it’s important to note that a financial adviser shouldn’t act as your attorney when creating an estate plan. It’s still necessary to partner with an attorney to draft the legal documents.


In summary, while it’s not necessary to hire a financial professional to create your estate plan, it can be helpful if you have a complex financial situation. However, only an attorney can legally draft the legal documents for an estate plan. Consider partnering with both an attorney and a fiduciary financial adviser to ensure a comprehensive plan that meets your needs.

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