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Finding Your Financial Advisor

Feb. 22, 2013
Personal Finance
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What’s my niche?

Never make the mistake of assuming all financial advisers are the same. Not only do a host of different qualifications and levels of expertise exist, but financial advisers often specialize in working with certain client demographics as well. Many segments of the population may have different financial circumstances, and legal and tax situations than the general population, such as:

  • Small business owners and the self-employed
  • Divorcing couples
  • Recent widows and widowers
  • Military and ex-military personnel
  • Same-sex partners

Other advisers specialize in working with groups that may not technically have different needs, but instead have a different philosophy on financial advising, career trajectories, or unusual income levels, such as:

  • Ultra-high net worth individuals
  • Young professionals
  • Engineers or scientists
  • Entertainment industry, athletic or creative professionals

What’s the benefit of getting a specialized planner?

One part of finding the right financial adviser is making sure you are working with someone who can understand your holistic financial planning needs and be able to guide you through the different financial challenges of your life. Many financial advisers pick a population to specialize in because they are a part of that population themselves. Others take pride in advising with a certain personal approach.

Alexey Bulankov, certified financial planner at McCarthy Asset Management, advised clients at Merrill Lynch, Citigroup and other big banks, but now works for a smaller firm, where he can direct his own path to focus on work he finds more meaningful. “Our niche is retirement planning, not advising ultra-high net worth individuals,” Bulankov said. “That’s where we can add more value. Other firms might pick clients because they have $10 million, but we want to help clients preserve wealth and pass it on to the next generation.”

It’s clear financial advisers aren’t “one size fits all.” Even if every adviser had the same level of knowledge and skill on the technical aspects of their profession, it wouldn’t matter if you could not have good communication about your overall goals and situation. It’s important to think about what kind of person you want to be sitting across the table from and want to trust with your savings, goals and financial security. 

Adviser websites and online resources like NerdWallet’s Ask An Advisor platform can provide helpful information about each professional’s areas of focus and expertise. Don’t forget to do your homework!