What Does a Financial Planner Do?

When I tell people I am a financial planner, I often get a friendly head nod with not much else.  On a few occasions people will ask ok, but what do you actually do? 

A recent Northwestern Mutual survey revealed that while 68% of people do not have a professional adviser, 45% do not even know where to get the help they need as they move through life's stages and need different financial solutions. And who can blame people when the financial service industry is riddled with jargon and three-letter acronyms that can make access to financial advice complicated and confusing.

I think then the real question that needs to be answered is - what can a financial planner do for you?

1.      Get Financially Organized

It might not sound exciting, but in order to know where you stand financially it’s important to organize and access your entire financial picture. A financial planner is either going to give you the tools to get financially organized or they will literally sit with you to sort through your financial life and create an organizational system that will work for you. From there, a financial planner can clearly see your entire financial picture – all your assets, debts, savings, investments, and anything else.

2.      Build a Financial Plan Around Your Goals and Values

Once a financial planner has a clear window into your financial reality, the conversation shifts from where you are today to what’s possible. A financial planner can help you better understand why money is important to you and help you align your wealth with your values. The financial plan created with you is more than numbers and recommendations, it is a series of thoughtful conversations that ultimately translates into a plan that details what is important to you and how your wealth is going to support your life.

3.      Help You Make Smart Choices with Your Money

A financial planner’s job is ongoing. Beyond helping you get financially organized and clear about what you want your money to accomplish in your life, a financial planner champions smart financial choices by working with you on an ongoing basis and keeping you on course. Creating a budget or a cash flow system is just one way that a financial planner helps you to get into good financial habits so that you spend less time worrying about money and more time simply enjoying life.  

4.      Manage Investments

A financial planner can go beyond recommendations and manage your investment accounts. From setting up accounts to monitoring performance, rebalancing and sharing quarterly reports, a financial planner is on your team to keep an eye on your investments and alert you to any adjustments or opportunities that may make sense to help you reach your goals.

5.      Maintain Accountability

A financial planner helps to hold you accountable, as well as himself. Through close monitoring of your financial accounts, a financial planner makes sure that you remain on track financially. A good financial planner will always be working behind the scenes to maintain your financial plan. A financial planner will have a close and open relationship with you so that he can adjust your plan according to any new life circumstances that may impact your plan’s effectiveness. By monitoring your progress, a financial planner can help you manage any financial issues that may arise – planned or unplanned, whether it’s personal life circumstances or market conditions and the economy.

These are a few examples of what financial planners do for their clients. I guess you could summarize all this by simply saying that they try to help people live the best life possible.

To read more about how to select the right financial professional for you, check out this article by Wall Street Journal Reporter Jason Zweig.