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Breaking Down the Roles of Key Financial Advisors

Breaking Down the Roles of Key Financial Advisors

| February 11, 2019

The finance industry can be a very confusing place when trying to figure out who does what.

Financial advisors guide you through personal money choices that impact your short-term wellbeing and long-term goals. They can be critical for helping you achieve lifetime milestones and laying a foundation for future generations. With such high stakes, a plan and personal relationship are imperative.

The umbrella term “financial advisor” encompasses a wide range of specialized roles, including financial planner, investment advisor, stockbroker and accountant, among others. Yet with so many experts at your disposal, how do you know which financial professional is needed during each phase of your financial journey?

Financial Planner

Financial planners are experts who take a big-picture approach to your finances, regardless of how many assets you have. They view your money goals within the context of the larger market by examining ways to protect investments and constructing pathways to build wealth and achieve milestones over time. Financial planners help you lay out and execute a comprehensive financial roadmap, taking into account numerous facets of your financial journey, including retirement planning, estate planning, tax efficiency planning, emergency planning, insurance needs and more. In addition, they can provide support along the way as you implement this plan. Financial planners are a wealth of information and often fulfill the roles of other financial advisors as you work toward your goals.

It’s important to point out that not all financial planners receive the same education and training. Seek out a designated CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ to ensure you’re working with a highly qualified professional who serves as an honest, trustworthy fiduciary with your best interests at heart. Additionally, when evaluating a potential relationship with a CFP®, be sure in inquire whether he/she provides holistic guidance and support, or if the focus is solely on investment advising and management.

Items to discuss with a financial planner include:

  • When retirement is realistic based on existing resources and goals
  • How to plan for your children’s future, including higher education
  • Laying the foundation for large purchases, such as homes or even a trip around the world
  • How to create a charitable legacy with your wealth
  • Planning for a transition with your business, such as a sale, exponential growth or succession
  • A multifaceted illustration of your entire financial structure through data gathering (this framework is indispensable in making future money choices)
  • A thorough flowchart to illustrate where assets will go after death, detailing what amounts will be allocated to beneficiaries, trusts, charities or taxes

Investment Advisor

The process behind choosing and managing investments can be intimidating — this is why people with all types of financial portfolios reach out to investment advisors for guidance. These financial professionals recommend assets — including mutual funds, stocks and bonds — to buy and sell according to your financial goals, and how to best accumulate and protect wealth over time.

Some investment advisors take a holistic approach to your finances (and can have some overlap with a financial planner), while others focus specifically on certain assets, such as mutual funds. Keep in mind that investment advisors may have fiduciary responsibility to you, but it may only be specific to the assets they manage for you.

Items to discuss with an investment advisor include:

  • Guidance on what investments are appropriate for your goals and risk tolerance
  • Information on securities, ranging from stocks and bonds to exchange traded funds
  • Expected rate of return based on your portfolio
  • How to adjust your investments to reduce taxable income

Registered Representatives of Investment & Insurance Companies

There are additional advisors who represent financial institutions, including insurance and investment companies. They are highly trained in the advantages of their respective companies’ financial products and services. It’s important to keep in mind that these advisors may not take a holistic approach with their recommendations. Generally, a representative’s primary role is to sell you their company’s products and services. With that said, they may have a place in your financial journey. For instance:

  • You know that you want to purchase a specific financial product that they represent
  • You want to learn more about a specific financial product, but also have access to comparative, objective guidance from another advisor who takes a holistic approach


A stockbroker is essentially a stock market expert who buys and sells securities on a stock exchange on behalf of clients. These professionals constantly monitor the ups and downs of the market, buying and selling stocks according to their client’s risk tolerance. In addition, stockbrokers will be able to determine potentially beneficial investment opportunities. An effective stockbroker offers personalized guidance and knowledge when it comes to the complexities of the stock market, yet keep in mind the position doesn’t carry a fiduciary responsibility.

Items to discuss with a stockbroker:

  • How to weigh decisions within the stock market according to changes within the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ
  • Taking advantage of beneficial investment opportunities, in addition to guidance on when to buy and sell stocks
  • Direct and personalized guidance on how to benefit from the stock market, given your risk tolerance


At its core, an accountant is a tax professional. Accountants assist individuals with short-term financial goals — most commonly taxes. Accountants can assist in filing your state and federal taxes, budgeting for the following year and preparing your tax returns. They provide business owners with additional guidance on cash flow, compliance, inventory management, pricing, financing and much more.

To guarantee the highest level of service, we recommend getting in touch with a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). A CPA is a licensed professional who must adhere to certain practice and technical standards that aren’t required for a general accountant. A trusted CPA will help you understand your current financial situation, mitigate tax liability and how to best manage your money in future.

Items to discuss with a CPA include:

  • How to complete and individual or company’s state and federal taxes, in addition to preparing and reviewing financial statements, especially if you have multiple incomes
  • Organizing and keeping track of tax forms and liabilities, possibly with a balance sheet, as to avoid anything unexpected

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Your financial questions can be answered by our team of trained financial professionals. We understand that not everyone’s finances look the same, so we take a nuanced and personalized approach to each portfolio.