How to Choose
a Financial Advisor

Choosing the 'right' financial advisor is a crucial decision that can significantly impact your financial well-being and future. Whether you're planning for your family's future, or simply seeking to optimize your financial portfolio, finding an advisor who aligns with your needs and goals is essential.

Introduction to Choosing a Financial Advisor

This guide dives into the process of understanding what criteria is important when selecting an advisor, exploring how to verify an advisor's credentials, and the steps necessary to eventually start interviewing the advisor(s) you find suitable for your needs.

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Ok, let's get back to what you're here for: Choosing a Financial Advisor ⬇️

Step 1: Decide Why You Need A Financial Advisor

Before meeting a financial advisor, consider what areas of your finances require the most help.
This will help you explain your specific needs during the initial consultation, whether it’s buying a house, saving for college expenses, or something else.

Remember, financial advisors do much more than just provide investment advice. The ideal advisor works with you to create a roadmap for your entire financial journey, encompassing everything from retirement planning and debt management to insurance recommendations and estate planning. This is called a financial plan.

Depending on your life stage, your need for comprehensive financial planning may vary. If you're young, single, and debt-free, your primary focus might be totally different than someone who is married with older children. Conversely, individuals with complex financial situations like college fund planning, intricate debt repayment strategies, or complex tax issues may require more extensive support. 

Financial advisors offer different services. Identify your specific needs beforehand to ensure you choose an advisor who aligns with your requirements. For a complete list of the services financial advisors provide, click here.

Step 2: Understand the Different Types of Financial Advisors

Choosing a financial advisor can feel overwhelming, especially with numerous options available.

a graphic with text that reads, "solo vs team based financial advisor". the image shows a financial advisor looking over a city skyline on one half, and the other half shows a group of advisors sitting at a conference room table with laptops

Here's a breakdown of three common types to help you navigate your decision:

1) Solo Financial Advisors: these financial advisors own and operate their independent firm and they typically cater to smaller clientele. Their service offerings are limited to what they can provide alone.

2) Financial Advisors Associated with Larger Firms: these financial advisors look like they own their own firms, but they’re affiliated with a larger firm that will typically help with back-office operations and compliance. These advisors may have a larger menu of services they can provide.

3) Financial Advisors Associated with Very Large Firms or Banks: these financial advisors work under a very large firm with thousands of advisors. They have the support of a large organization, which includes dedicated investment teams or other specialized teams who focus on one key area like insurance or trusts.

Note: Financial advisors who are affiliated with banks or financial institutions may offer traditional banking services alongside financial planning.

Step 3: Choose What Kind of Financial Help You Need

Services offered by financial advisors vary from advisor to advisor, but they may provide financial advice on any of the following topics:

  • Investment Advice: Financial advisors help research different investment options and make sure your portfolio is aligned with your needs.
  • Debt Management: Create a strategic plan to pay off debt, tackling high-interest obligations first and establishing a sustainable repayment roadmap.
  • Budgeting & Goal Setting: Develop personalized spending plans aligned with your goals, ensuring your income covers your expenses and leaves room for saving and investing.
  • Tax Planning: Although not tax preparation, advisors can suggest strategies to potentially minimize your tax burden through legitimate means like retirement contributions and charitable giving. They can also guide you toward qualified tax professionals when needed (CPAs).
  • Retirement Planning: Craft a plan to accumulate wealth for your future retirement, ensuring a comfortable and financially secure post-work life.
  • Estate Planning: Facilitate the smooth transfer of your assets to beneficiaries upon your passing, minimizing potential legal complexities and fulfilling your wishes.
  • College Planning: Develop a customized strategy to save for your children's or loved ones' higher education, navigating options like 529 plans and education savings accounts.

Additional Support:

  • Insurance Review: Evaluate your current insurance coverage and recommend appropriate options to address potential gaps, ensuring you have adequate protection for yourself and your family (e.g., disability, long-term care).
  • Emotional Support: Financial advisors can provide guidance and reassurance during periods of economic uncertainty, helping you navigate market fluctuations and make informed decisions based on your long-term goals.

Remember, this list is not exhaustive, and the specific services offered by an advisor may vary. It's crucial to discuss your individual needs and expectations with a potential advisor to determine if they are the right fit for your financial journey.

a sample user interface layout of the advisorfinder search filters showing "What do you need help with" and a list of options to choose from: saving up for a house, managing debt, equity compensation, single parent finances, divorce, inheritance, education cost planning
sample user interface from AdvisorFinder

Step 4: Decide What Criteria To Look For

Choosing the right financial advisor involves identifying the criteria that are most important to you. This step is crucial in narrowing down your options to find an advisor who can meet your unique needs and goals. Here are key criteria to consider, each of which is detailed on AdvisorFinder profiles to aid in your selection process:

Services Offered

Financial advisors offer a range of services. Some may specialize in investment management, while others focus on financial planning, including retirement planning, tax strategies, or estate planning. Determine what services you need to achieve your financial goals. AdvisorFinder profiles provide a clear overview of the services each advisor offers, helping you match your needs with their expertise.


Advisors often have areas of specialty that can significantly impact your decision-making process. Whether you're looking for someone with expertise in navigating the complexities of small business ownership, understanding the nuances of healthcare planning, or managing the financial challenges of expatriation, the right advisor for you should have a proven track record in your area of interest. 


Financial advisors typically work with a specific type of client, such as high-net-worth individuals, families, retirees, or young professionals. Understanding the clientele an advisor is most experienced with can give you insight into whether they're likely to understand your financial situation and goals.

Fee Structure

Understanding how an advisor is compensated is critical. Advisors may operate on a fee-only basis, charge a percentage of the assets under management, or use a commission-based structure. Each of these models has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on your preferences and financial situation.

Credentials and Experience

Credentials such as CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) professional or Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) indicate a level of professional education and commitment to ethical standards. Experience, on the other hand, can provide context to an advisor's ability to manage various financial situations and market conditions. 

Philosophy and Approach

The philosophy and approach toward financial planning and investment management can vary widely among advisors. Some may adopt a more aggressive investment strategy, while others prefer a conservative, long-term approach. Understanding an advisor's philosophy and how they approach client relationships can be pivotal in establishing a productive, long-term partnership. 

By taking the time to consider these criteria, you can significantly refine your search for a financial advisor. AdvisorFinder is designed to make this process as informative and straightforward as possible, providing you with the tools and information needed to choose an advisor that is uniquely right for you.

sample user interface of an advisorfinder profile, displaying a sample financial advisor's profile picture, name, introductory paragraph, services provided and pricing models
sample advisor profile from AdvisorFinder

Step 5: Research Financial Advisors

Navigating the world of financial advice can feel overwhelming, with various professionals offering diverse services. It's crucial to conduct thorough research to ensure you partner with a trustworthy and qualified advisor who aligns with your needs. Here are effective strategies to find the right fit:

1) Seek recommendations: Leverage your network of friends, family, and colleagues for trusted advisor referrals.

2) Explore online resources: Utilize databases and directories like AdvisorFinder to help you find an advisor.

When researching advisors, be sure to consider their credentials as well as research their backgrounds and fee structures, which can all be found on each advisor's AdvisorFinder profile.

You can view disciplinary information and complaints filed against financial advisors using FINRA’s BrokerCheck and check their form ADV if necessary. Not sure what a form ADV is? Learn more here.

Questions To Ask When Choosing a Financial Advisor

Q: What experience do you have with clients like me?
Asking about their experience with clients like you ensures the advisor is familiar with your specific financial situation and needs, increasing the likelihood of tailored, effective advice.

Q: What is your communication style and frequency?
Understanding an advisor's communication style and frequency helps set expectations for how often and through what means you'll receive updates and consultations, ensuring it aligns with your preferences.

Q: Should I be aware of any conflicts of interest?
Inquiring about conflicts of interest is crucial to determine whether the advisor's recommendations are made with your best interests in mind or if they are influenced by external incentives.

Q: Are you a Registered Investment Adviser or Broker-Dealer?
Knowing whether they are a Registered Investment Adviser or Broker-Dealer clarifies the legal obligations they have towards you, including the level of fiduciary duty to act in your best interest.

Q: How will we set goals and adjust as we grow?
Discussing how goals will be set and adjusted over time ensures that your financial planning is dynamic and can evolve in response to changes in your life or financial situation.

Q: What certifications and/or designations have you earned?
Asking about certifications and/or designations helps assess the advisor's level of professional education and expertise, ensuring they have the knowledge necessary to provide high-quality advice.

📖 Find out more key questions to ask a financial advisor.

Make sure you take your time and research any referred financial advisors.

There’s no need to rush right into a relationship, and you can interview multiple advisors to get a feel for what you like and dislike.


If you have any questions or still need help, we are here to offer you support in your search for a financial advisor. For questions related to this article please ask us via the live chatbot.

For questions related to using AdvisorFinder, please contact our support.

If you are looking for a financial advisor, visit the AdvisorFinder marketplace.

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