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Differences Between a Financial Planner and Advisor

Our debt counselors know that the world of financial literacy can be confusing. You may have heard the terms, financial planner, and advisor, before. Maybe they’ve even been used interchangeably. And although most financial professionals can be considered advisors, not all financial advisors can be considered financial planners. Let’s learn the difference between the two titles.

ACCC explains the differences between a financial planner and advisor.

ACCC explains the differences between a financial planner and advisor.

Differences Between a Financial Planner and Advisor

Certified financial planners must be certified by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. You’ll often see this trademark, (CFP®), after their designation. They go through rigorous training and help companies and individuals meet long-term financial goals. A financial advisor is a broader term for any professional who helps manage your money. There are various subsets to both financial planning and advising.

Financial Planner

A financial planner is an advisor who helps you create a program to meet your financial goals. For instance, a planner can help you create a plan to get out of debt. They may have a specialty in investments, taxes, retirement, or estate planning. They may also hold various licenses or designations. The financial planner must complete a different set of education, examination, and work history requirements to obtain each license. They have to complete what the board calls “the four E’s”: education, examination, experience, and ethics. Financial planners have a fiduciary responsibility, which means they have to act in their clients’ best interest.

Financial Advisor

A financial advisor helps with any number of money-related tasks. On the other hand, a financial advisor is a broad term to describe a number of people who can help you manage your money. A financial advisor can help you manage investments, stocks, and bonds, help you create an estate plan, and more. If working with the public, they must hold a Series 65 license. This license is required by most U.S. states for investment advisors. Subsets of the financial advisor group might include stockbrokers, insurance agents, money managers, estate planners, bankers, etc.

Who should you choose?

To make it simple, every financial planner is a type of financial advisor, but not every financial advisor is a financial planner. Most people who need help with their finances will hire a financial planner. You need to understand the financial planning landscape. When vetting a financial planner, ask them about his or her training, qualifications, fees structure, and services. Make sure to check their disciplinary record and references to receive the best financial guidance! Evaluate your situation and needs to choose the right planner for you.

If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today. 


Madison is a Marketing Communications & Programs Associate at ACCC. She is excited to share her tips on saving money and being financially responsible here on the Talking Cents blog!

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