When making the decision to hire a financial advisor, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the massive amount of options in front of you. The truth is, “financial advisor” is an umbrella term, but not every advisor has the same expertise or is trained to handle exactly what you need.

Before choosing a financial advisor, make sure you know exactly what services you’re looking for, so you don’t go to an insurance salesman for investment advice.

Here are some of the major areas of expertise for financial advisors:

Money managers.

Some financial advisors are mainly investment advisors, meaning they only manage money. They will manage your portfolio—structure your investments and try to maximize growth—but they will not help you create a comprehensive financial plan.

Insurance salesmen.

Some advisors specialize in insurance and will help you navigate different options for life, disability and other insurance options. If you’re not looking for someone to build your wealth, but rather protect your family in the case of “what ifs,” this may be who you’d go to.

Retirement planners.

This is where it can get tricky, because there are two types of retirement planners: one who helps with retirement planning for individuals and families and one who is a retirement plan specialist who helps companies establish their 401(k) plans and pension benefits. If you’re looking for help planning your personal retirement income, make sure you don’t choose the wrong retirement planner.

Estate planners.

If you’re looking for someone to help with wealth transfers and estate planning, you actually should be looking for an attorney—specifically one who works with a comprehensive financial planner to include the estate in your overall plan.


While not all financial advisors can file taxes, there are some who are also CPAs. However, it may not be the best idea for your advisor to also be doing your tax returns.

If your advisor has a CPA designation and understand taxes, they can give you some advice throughout the year and at tax time, but there is a benefit to having two separate pairs of eyes on your tax return: one from a tax perspective and one from a planning perspective.

Business planning.

If you’re looking to start or grow a business, you’ll want a financial advisor familiar with business planning. Business planning may include various forms of consulting, executive and employee benefits, succession planning and planning for mergers or acquisitions.

Comprehensive financial planners.

You may find yourself needing financial planning help, but not really knowing which category or specialty you need. A comprehensive financial planner can incorporate the different aspects of financial life to identify the key services that you need. Once you know what you need, he or she can refer you to different specialists who can work under the planner as your advisory team.

The Lesson:

There are different reasons people need financial advisors—and those reasons aren’t always clear. If you don’t know what you need help with most but know that you want to start taking control of your financial future, starting with a comprehensive financial planner will get you moving in the right direction (whichever direction that may be).

Securities offered through Kestra Investment Services, LLC (Kestra IS), member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Kestra Advisory Services, LLC (Kestra AS), an affiliate of Kestra IS. Brotman Financial Group, Inc. and BFG Financial Advisors are not affiliated with Kestra IS or Kestra AS.

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