Financial Advisor

What it is:

A financial advisor (also spelled financial adviser) is an educated investment professional who helps people and businesses set and meet long-term financial goals.

How it works/Example:

A financial advisor is similar to an investment advisor, financial planner, investment manager, or investment consultant.

A financial advisor analyzes a client's current financial status and helps the client set reasonable, achievable financial goals. He or she can address a broad array of questions competently. Financial advisors also make investment recommendations, provide objective advice and help clients weigh the financial consequences of life decisions. They also help clients stay organized.

Financial advisors must have expertise in tax planning, asset allocation, risk management, retirement planning and estate planning in order to help clients at all stages of life and in a variety of circumstances. In some cases a client will let his or her financial advisor act as a fiduciary, meaning that the client gives the financial advisor permission to make decisions on the client's behalf without consulting the client for approval beforehand. Financial advisors often either charge by the hour or they charge the client a percentage of the assets under management.

Why it Matters:

Financial advisors help millions of people get financially organized and help them make educated life decisions.

In most states, anyone can call himself a financial advisor because there are few licensing requirements and little regulation. There are several credentials that financial advisors can obtain, however, and the most common is the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation. An advisor must pass the CFP test, have an appropriate level of prior education, sign a code of ethics, and have several years of actual planning experience before obtaining the right to use the CFP designation. CFPs must also obtain a certain number of hours of continuing education every year to keep the designation.

Several organizations help people find qualified financial advisors, including the National Association of Financial Advisors (NAPFA), the Financial Planning Association (FPA) and the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.

Best execution refers to the imperative that a broker, market maker, or other agent acting on behalf of an investor is obligated to execute the investor's order in a way that is most advantageous to the investor rather than the agent.