Investment professionals are advisors who help manage financial risk and build wealth over time. They support you in achieving your financial goals. Much like medical professionals who specialize in specific areas, investment advisors come from different backgrounds and offer a wide range of services.
Investment advising involves all aspects of wealth creation and preservation, including tax issues, business ownership, and legacy issues. In this section, we will introduce you to a range of professionals who support building and preserving wealth. These professionals come for specialties including: finance, tax preparation, legal, and estate planning.
Stockbrokers are responsible for accepting orders from investors who are looking to either buy or sell stock. As we’ve learned, stocks are bought and sold through stock markets, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and NASDAQ. In order to purchase or sell shares of a stock, the average person needs a stockbroker to execute or set up a trade on their behalf.
If we can imagine going to a restaurant and being seated at a table, generally, there is a server who accepts the food order and sends it to the kitchen to be prepared. The server will confirm the details of the food order, and in many cases, act as “middleman” between the chef and customers.
Stockbrokers serve a similar role to a server in a restaurant. The stockbroker will accept an investor’s order and send it to the market to be executed. Stockbrokers will always walk through orders with investors to confirm the details are accurate before delivering them to stock exchanges.
Stockbrokers almost always work with brokerage firms and are required to pass the General Securities Representative Exam, commonly known as the Series 7 exam, administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
To take this exam, a person must be sponsored by a FINRA member firm (broker-dealer) or a member of a similar self-regulatory organization (SRO) within the United States.
Stockbrokers help investors:
- Learn about stocks that are available for investment
- Open new accounts and process transactions to buy or sell stocks and/or bonds
- Determine if a particular investment is suitable based on information shared with the broker
Stockbrokers generally do not provide specific advice and are paid through a commission per transaction.
Robo Advisors are a new way of receiving investment advice through a computer with no human interaction that were created after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. Robo advisors use algorithms to mimic the relationship an investor has with a human financial advisor. Often, investors will complete online questionnaires based on a number of investment scenarios. Based on the answers provided to the Robo advisor, the investor will be provided with a portfolio recommendation.
Robo advisors are a service that is offered by many brokerage firms including:
- Fidelity Investments
- Charles Schwab
Financial Advisors are held to high legal standards. In the United States, financial advisors must always put clients’ needs ahead of their own financial gain – this is known as fiduciary duty. Financial advisors work with clients to create:
- An entire wealth management framework;
- Tax, estate, and mortgage planning;
- Retirement planning and cash flow.
Some financial advisors hold no additional credentials or designations beyond licenses, while others may have attained what seems like alphabet soup after their name. The following certifications are some of the most recognized in the financial services industry:
- Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is a globally-recognized professional designation given by the CFA Institute, and it measures and certifies the competence and integrity of financial analysts. Candidates are required to pass three levels of exams covering areas such as accounting, economics, ethics, money management, and security analysis. The CFA is the only globally recognized designation across financial services.
- Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) is a formal recognition of expertise in the areas of financial planning, taxes, insurance, estate planning, and retirement (such as with 401(k)s). Owned and awarded by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc., the designation is awarded to individuals who successfully complete the CFP Board’s initial exams, then continue ongoing annual education programs to sustain their skills and certification.
- Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC®). In 1982, the ChFC designation was introduced as an alternative to the CFP designation. It is awarded by the American College of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. The ChFC is less known than the CFP, but still stands as a distinguished certification in financial planning. An advisor with either designation can certainly give thorough advice. The biggest difference between the two is the process of becoming certified.
- Certified Public Accountant (CPA). A certified public accountant (CPA) is a designation given by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) to individuals who pass the Uniform CPA Examination and meet the education and experience requirements. The CPA designation helps enforce professional standards in the accounting industry. Individuals who hold a CPA designation help investors with tax reporting with regard to capital gains and losses.
- Personal Financial Specialist (PFS). The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) grants the Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) credential only to certified public accountants (CPA) with significant personal financial planning education and experience. Individuals pursue the PFS credential because they want to display their expertise and knowledge as it relates to all aspects of financial planning.
Regardless of a financial advisor’s ability to attain credentials, their main goal must always be to do what’s in the best interest of their client, regardless of commissions or financial gain to the advisor.
Financial advisors specialize in looking at an investor’s “big picture” and applying an investment strategy that considers life events, such as job loss, new home, or a growing family.
Tax Advisors have advanced training and knowledge of tax law. Tax advisors can include:
- Certified Public Accounts (CPAs)
- Tax attorneys
- Enrolled agents
- Financial advisors
The service of a tax advisor is usually retained in order to minimize tax liability while remaining compliant with the law in complicated financial situations. Tax advisors and preparers are regulated but not licensed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Tax advisors understand the laws regulating individual and business taxes and guide taxpayers on how to comply with federal, state, and local tax rules. Advisors are required to stay up-to-date on the latest federal and state tax requirements to be effective when providing advice on current tax topics.
Depending on the taxpayer’s situation, the advice and services a tax advisor provides will differ. For example, an individual planning for retirement will get different advice from an entrepreneur looking to start a business, just as a real estate investor will probably have a different tax need from a commodity trader.
Investors may feel a similar benefit from working with a tax advisor as they would with an attorney on an estate plan when it comes to protecting wealth and assets over the long term.
Real Estate Brokers work to negotiate and arrange real estate transactions. In many states across the United States, real estate brokers are interchangeable with agents. In this section, we will consider them the same for the purpose of identifying professionals who help investors within the overall real estate industry. Licensed real estate brokers help investors with:
- Advising seller on property valuation;
- Overseeing transactions for sales and purchasing activities on homes, land and commercial properties;
- Finding buyers and sellers to match transactions in exchange for a commission;
- Negotiating offers to try and execute a purchase contract with a buyer;
- Working on the seller’s behalf in coordinating the transaction process;
- Delivering and explaining all documents, such as submitting and explaining all offers
- Writing contracts on real estate properties;
- Working with the seller through the closing and their move-out from the home.
Often, real estate brokers have relationships with financial institutions to help investors with either accessing capital for investment purposes through lending facilities or direct cash
investment. Regardless of how an investor chooses to pay for a real estate investment, an attorney is almost always involved.
Attorneys work closely with clients to help preserve wealth that has been accumulated over time. Attorneys also help to dispose of investments in a way that is based on the wishes of the original investor. This is known as an estate plan. Estate plans are legally drafted by attorneys, and often with the help of financial advisors, for the benefit of a mutual client.
When it comes to investing, attorneys will help investors create a:
- Living Will
- Health Care Proxy or Healthcare Power of Attorney
- Durable Powers of Attorney for financial decisions
Sometimes this important financial plan is overlooked because of lack of awareness or information. Like all financial plans, having something in place for financial plans is important. This can lead to larger estate taxes for heirs and reduce the amount of wealth that is preserved across generations.
Estate planning is a big topic, and in relation to investments, it is important to identify what will happen to your investments if something should happen to you. Many attorneys put on seminars to help people learn more about estate planning or creating a trust, so attend a seminar to find out how you can prepare for the future.
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