What Do Licensed Professionals Do for You?

There are many different kinds of professionals that can assist with retirement income planning out there, and just as many different titles. Advisor, planner, counselor, agent, certified, chartered, financial, insurance, legal . . . pick your combo, and you can probably find someone who goes by that label. A licensed professional may or may not have letters, like CFP or CFA, after his or her name. If he or she does, be sure to find out what they stand for and who issued them.

Here are a few types of professionals you might seek out and what they can do for you. Financial advisors come from a number of different backgrounds , and offer a variety of services, and can help you understand why retirement income planning is important. The generic term “financial advisor” can include (but is not limited to):

  • Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) manage the assets of high net-worth individuals and institutional investors, and sit on the buy side of the investment field. RIAs must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and any states in which they operate. Most RIAs are partnerships or corporations, but individuals can also register as RIAs.
  • Investment Advisor Representatives (IARs) work for investment advisory companies whose main responsibility is to provide investment-related guidance. According to regulations, IARs can only provide guidance regarding topics on which they have passed the appropriate examinations.
  • Registered Representatives work for a brokerage company that is licensed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and acts as an account executive for clients trading investment products such as stocks, bonds and mutual funds.
  • Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) provide assistance with tax-related issues.
  • Estate planners help you manage your assets in preparation for end of life.
  • Licensed insurance professionals can help you evaluate which insurance products are right for you. If you’re interested in buying an annuity, an insurance professional is the person to talk to; they’re licensed to sell them.
  • Certified Financial Planners (CFPs) have completed specific training, met certain standards, and are held to a specific code of professional ethics. They can help people with a variety of services, including tax preparation and retirement income planning.
  • Chartered Financial Analysts (CFAs) have gone through rigorous training and been certified by the CFA Institute. They have a high level of knowledge about investments, economics, portfolio management, and virtually all areas of personal finance.

Your Retirement Reality Tip

CPA, RIA, CFA, CTS, FP… The combinations of letters after financial, tax, and estate planners’ names make my head spin! So make sure you specifically ask the person if he/she is licensed to provide the type of guidance you’re looking for… and don’t be afraid to ask to see the license or certificate.


Depending on which kind of professional you hire, here’s what they can help you with:

  • Assessing your current financial situation
  • Setting up a budget and estimating future expenses
  • Setting up an investment portfolio
  • Purchasing annuities
  • Managing stocks, bonds, and mutual funds
  • Establishing sources of retirement income
  • Buying insurance

Before deciding on which type of professional you need, find out how he or she will get paid. Different types of licensed professionals are paid in different ways. Insurance professionals are paid through a commission for certain products they sell, such as life insurance and annuities where the commission is paid from the issuing insurance company.

With other financial advisors, they can be paid through fees paid by their clients. If their services are fee-based, it means they get paid by you based on a set percentage of the value of the assets they manage for you and by commission for the products sold. If they are fee-only, then they’re only paid by you based on a set percentage of the assets they manager for you and do not receive compensation based on the sale of a product. Fee-only can include a percentage, flat annual fee or an hourly rate. Ask a fee-only advisor whether he or she charges a percentage, fixed fee or by the hour, and what’s included.

With a licensed professional on board to help plan your retirement income you can help ensure that all your bases are covered, leaving you free to enjoy your golden years to the fullest.