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The Differences Between Financial Professionals

When it comes to your health, finding the right doctor can be a daunting task. You’d obviously prefer an MD to someone who has taken a few medical classes in college. You want to make the best choice possible to ensure you stay in good condition, so why should the health of your finances be any different? It shouldn’t, which is why it’s so important to understand what the driving force behind the financial “expert” you’re turning to for advice can really offer you. Here are four common professionals, often referred to as “experts,” who most people approach when seeking financial recommendations.

Insurance Agents 

While being well-versed in the insurance world is a plus it’s not a requirement, because companies offer a variety of trainings to get agents where they need to be. Furthermore, a bachelor’s degree is nice, however, not required…a high school diploma is sufficient to help clients meet their needs. Since strong sales skills will likely be at the top of the list on an insurance agent's job description, you can most likely suspect your bottom line isn’t their bottom line. The main goal for most agents is to service your need with a product that will make their company money and put commissions in their own pocket. (For related reading, see: What Your Insurance Agent Makes—on You.)


Everyone has one and needs one, so it makes perfect sense that they are a top choice when searching for guidance on your finances. They offer basic products necessary to create depository accounts that allow them to produce loans; lending money is a main source of their income. The more money they have on deposit, the more money they can lend and earn interest from. While degrees in finance, accounting, economics or business administration are preferred, they aren’t necessary. Every bank trains employees based on their own product offerings, which may help you achieve some financial success. However, your comprehensive planning goals are typically not at the forefront of their sales process. (For related reading, see: How Do Commercial Banks Make Money?)

Financial Advisors

This is a broad term encompassing different types of finance expertise not found in the other categories. Most will have a degree of some sort and be a money manager. Advisors often still fall into the category of product-based sales positions. Many will work at larger firms that buy and sell stock. They may buy at $15 a share, then turn around and sell it for $30 a share, but have promised you $20 a share, thereby making the company more money than you. So while they are managing your money and hopefully making you more of it in the process, their priority will be to make money for their company.

Certified Financial Planners (CFPs) 

Those falling into this category have taken their expert knowledge of finances a step further than all the others. CFPs are required to not only have a four-year degree, but must also be tested and approved by the governing board of certified financial planners. They are not just money managers, rather wealth managers, knowledgeable in a plethora of subjects, helping you make the best decisions possible to reach your ultimate goals. By taking a holistic approach to achieve a goal, they can help you determine the right path with your finances to accomplish a specific purpose in the most tax-efficient way. Simply put, they aren’t just selling you a product, they are helping you attain your greatest desires.

Now that you know a little about the most common financial experts, the big question is what do you want your money to do for you? And whom do you want to trust to get you where you want to be?

(For more from this author, see: You Can't Afford Not to Hire a Financial Planner.)

Disclaimer: Heritage Investors, LLC, 11470 Parkside Dr Suite 201, Knoxville, TN 37934, (865) 690-1155, is registered as an investment adviser with the State of Tennessee. Heritage Investors only transacts business in states where it is properly registered or is excluded or exempted from registration requirements.