Personal Financial Advisors - What They Do
Personal financial advisors assess the financial needs of individuals and assist them with investments, tax laws, and insurance decisions. Advisors help their clients identify and plan for short-term and long-term goals. Advisors help clients plan for retirement, education expenses, and general investment choices. Many also provide tax advice or sell insurance. Although most planners offer advice on a wide range of topics, some specialize in areas such as retirement and estate planning or risk management.
Personal financial advisors usually work with many clients and often must find their own customers. Many personal financial advisors spend a great deal of their time marketing their services. Many advisors meet potential clients by giving seminars or through business and social networking. Finding clients and building a customer base is one of the most important aspects of becoming a successful financial advisor.
Financial advisors begin work with a client by setting up a consultation. This is usually an in-person meeting where the advisor obtains as much information as possible about the client's finances and goals. The advisor creates a comprehensive financial plan that identifies problem areas, makes recommendations for improvement, and selects appropriate investments compatible with the client's goals, attitude toward risk, and expectation or need for investment returns. Advisors sometimes seek advice from financial analysts, accountants, or lawyers.
Financial advisors usually meet with established clients at least once a year to update them on potential investments and adjust their financial plan to any life changes—such as marriage, disability, or retirement. Financial advisors also answer clients' questions regarding changes in benefit plans or the consequences of changing their job. Financial planners must educate their clients about risks and possible scenarios so that the clients don't harbor unrealistic expectations.
Many personal financial advisors are licensed to directly buy and sell financial products, such as stocks, bonds, derivatives, annuities, and insurance products. Depending upon the agreement they have with their clients, personal financial advisors may have their clients’ permission to make decisions regarding the buying and selling of stocks and bonds.
Private bankers or wealth managers are personal financial advisors who work for people who have a lot of money to invest. Because they have so much capital, these clients resemble institutional investors and approach investing differently from the general public. Private bankers manage portfolios for these individuals using the resources of the bank, including teams of financial analysts, accountants, lawyers, and other professionals. Private bankers sell these services to wealthy individuals, generally spending most of their time working with a small number of clients. Private bankers normally directly manage their customers' finances.
Personal financial advisors usually work in offices or their own homes. Personal financial advisors usually work standard business hours, but they also schedule meetings with clients in the evenings or on weekends. Many also teach evening classes or hold seminars to bring in more clients. Some personal financial advisors spend a fair amount of their time traveling, to attend conferences or training sessions or to visit clients.
Private bankers also generally work during standard business hours, but because they work so closely with their clients, they may have to be available outside normal hours upon request.
A bachelor's or graduate degree is strongly preferred for personal financial advisors. Employers usually do not require a specific field of study for personal financial advisors, but a bachelor's degree in accounting, finance, economics, business, mathematics, or law provides good preparation for the occupation. Courses in investments, taxes, estate planning, and risk management are also helpful. Programs in financial planning are becoming more available in colleges and universities.Certifications Needed (Licensure)
Personal financial advisors who directly buy or sell stocks, bonds, insurance policies, or specific investment advice need a combination of licenses that varies based upon the products they sell. In addition to those licenses, smaller firms that manage clients’ investments must be registered with state regulators, and larger firms must be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Personal financial advisors who choose to sell insurance need licenses issued by State boards. State licensing board information and requirements for registered investment advisors are available from the North American Securities Administrator Association.Other Skills Required (Other qualifications)
Personal financial advisors need strong math, analytical, and interpersonal skills. They need strong sales ability, including the ability to make a wide-range of customers feel comfortable. Personal financial advisor training emphasizes the different types of investors, and how to tailor advice to the investor’s personality. They need the ability to present financial concepts to clients in easy-to-understand language. Some advisors have experience in a related occupation, such as accountant, auditor, insurance sales agent, or broker.
Private bankers may have previously worked as a financial analyst and need to understand and explain highly technical investment strategies and products.