How to Choose a Financial Advisor

Financial advisors are everywhere. The challenge is how to pick the right advisor from the herd.

Aspiring clients will rarely have a problem finding a financial advisor.

Instead, the challenge is deciding what kind of advisor to work with. There are myriad types of advisors, fee structures and services on offer from money professionals using the “financial advisor” title. Sorting through those differences can be a challenge.

Traditional financial advisors. These advisors offer the most opportunity to build a personal relationship. “A traditional advisor should be able to navigate more complex situations and provide more holistic advice in a broader range of areas,” Regilio says.

Traditional advisors also typically have access to a sophisticated team of financial specialists – such as estate planners, retirement specialists and debt consolidation and restructuring specialists – they can enlist as needed, says Andrew Crowell, vice chairman of wealth management at D.A. Davidson & Co. in Los Angeles. Of course, not all advisors have access to the same array of services and professionals, so it’s important to thoroughly understand any limitations in advance.

“Another benefit of the human advisor is the history they build with an investor over time and how this knowledge and continuity can help inform and anticipate the changing needs of an investor as life moves forward,” he says.

But all this comes at a cost. Human advisors are typically the most expensive type of advisor, Regilio says, but “the advice you receive should be more specific to you and your goals.”

Robo advisors. Likely the most low-cost option, robo advisors are perhaps the easiest type of financial advisor with which to work, given their 24/7 access and low or no account minimums. Robos generally “offer automated investment solutions and models, which are designed to help take the emotional ups and downs out of investing and help keep the investor on track with their financial plan,” Crowell says.

But this advice is often high-level and typically can’t take into account all the moving parts of your situation, Regilio says. This can become detrimental as your life progresses and financial situation becomes more complex.

You’ll also get the least personal interaction with a robo advisor and aren’t likely to talk with the same person each time you reach out, she says. “It could be challenging to even connect with an actual person at times.”

For these reasons, robo advisors are usually best for someone who is just starting out or who has no desire for more than a bare-bones investment management approach.

Hybrid advisors. These advisors aim to provide the best of both worlds: a low-cost, automated investing platform that comes with access to human advisors who can help address life’s complexities. These solutions can be a good option for investors whose situations are too advanced for a robo advisor but who don’t feel they’re at the level to warrant a traditional financial advisor, Regilio says.

“A hybrid solution may help an investor stay on track with their plan through the inevitable ups and downs of the market cycles as the human advisor offers perspective during these emotional times, whereas the robo’s virtual hand-holding may not be sufficient,” Crowell says.

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