Where do you go for financial advice?
April 20, 2005 8:05 PM   Subscribe

In the UK we have what are called Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs) who, funnily enough, give independent financial advice, either for a fee or commission. Collectively the IFAs run ads in the major papers and have a website where you can find those local to you - you can go and see a few if you want, getting a second or third opinion. I now live in California - is such a service available here, and if not, how do you guys go about getting trusted advice on major financial decisions?
posted by forallmankind to Work & Money (6 answers total)
Many times CPA's (certified public accountants) provide investment services for a fee. They often have different levels of qualifications, and in my experience make the best advisors.

As for finding the right one for you - the referral system often times is the best source for finding a quality one. Good luck!
posted by jazzkat11 at 8:24 PM on April 20, 2005

Here's the equivalent in the United States.

However, knowing someone is a financial planner (the generic US term for an advisor paid on a % of assets, as opposed to to being paid commissions by product providers) doesn't make them necessarily right for you, and neither does their being geographically close. jazzkat11 is right: ask around. A personal referral is always going to be your best shot, and advisors know this -- it's the primary way they try to build their business.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:36 PM on April 20, 2005

I would recommend looking into a CFP (Certified Financial Planner) instead of a CPA. You can find fee-only financial planners in almost every state. They make their money offering advice, not selling products. I used to work for a firm that was fee-only and we offered training for financial planners looking to transition from sales.

Google will turn up quite a few. I know several in CA, but I don't know your region. My e-mail is in my profile, if you'd like to know more.
posted by blackkar at 5:45 AM on April 21, 2005

There's no lack of independent financial advisers.

Some things to keep in mind:

While the CFP is a useful indicator, it isn't a particularly difficult credential to obtain. You shouldn't rule out advisers without one and you DEFINITELY shouldn't assume that someone with a CFP is competent and trustworthy.

Most competent investment advisers -- independent, and with major brokerage -- target people with investment portfolios of at least $100,000. If you've got a smaller portfolio, you're going to be looking at hourly fees of $150 or more, because a percentage of assets approach just doesn't work.
posted by MattD at 6:50 AM on April 21, 2005

In the US, CPAs (of which I am one) are a fairly diverse lot. (I believe the equivalent in the UK is a chartered accountant.) Some of them do personal financial planning as a specialty, and others know very little about it. I would recommend that you find either a CPA who is also a CFP, or just find a CFP who comes highly recommended. In general, you will get advice that is more independent if you pay an hourly fee rather than a commission.

Of course, it depends on the nature of advice you're looking for. Most CPAs who focus on individual taxation are accustomed to fielding general financial questions from their clients, and many financial situations have a strong tax component. So many CPAs without specific CFP credentialing will be perfectly competent to give general advice and recommend general investment strategies. They typically will not, however, be willing or competent to recommend individual investments.
posted by anapestic at 9:49 AM on April 21, 2005

I would seek out a fee-based financial planner-- someone who charges a fee upfront rather than makes a commission off the services he/she recommends.

More information is available from the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. NAPFA's members are fee-only planners.

By the way, beware insurance agents masquerading as financial advisers.
posted by Sully6 at 2:02 PM on April 21, 2005

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