What is a Financial Planner?

Managing your money can sometimes feel like navigating a boat across turbulent and unchartered waters.

That is where having a financial planner can be helpful.  Think of a financial planner as the boat’s captain, who is much more knowledgeable about these waters and can help you navigate to your destination in a better way.

What Does a Financial Planner Do?

Financial planners work with both individuals and business owners to help them achieve their financial objectives. They do this by meeting and consulting with such clients to assess their goals, tolerance for risk, and other factors that will drive recommendations for action. From there, the financial planner will analyze different financial strategies and determine which ones may be best to present to the client.

Usually, such recommendations will require assessment and advice around asset allocation and investment strategy, but can also involve estate and tax planning, retirement needs, insurance and education planning, or other expected lifetime needs.

Not all Financial Planners Are Created Equal

It can get confusing for people who need help with their money matters because, in the U.S. alone, over 200,000 people call themselves financial advisors.[1] Also the terms “financial planners” and “financial advisors” are often used interchangeably. With all this confusion, it may not be obvious how to differentiate among them.

There are a few ways to narrow your scope when selecting a financial planner:

  • First, look for a planner that uses the Certified Financial Planner®, or CFP®, designation. Only about 1 out of 5 financial advisors in the U.S. use this designation[2] because it requires completion of financial planning coursework through a CFP® Board-registered program, which includes passing a six-hour exam. In addition, CFP® candidates must have at least 6,000 hours of professional financial planning experience or complete 4,000 hours of apprenticeship experience[3].
  • Second, ask whether your financial planner is a “fiduciary”. A fiduciary is an entity or individual who has a legal obligation or “fiduciary duty” to act in your best interests. Investment advisers registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or state regulators must act as fiduciaries according to the law. Both org and the SEC adviser search tool provides a database of financial advisors who are also fiduciaries.
  • Consider whether your financial planner is “fee-only” or “fee-based”. Fee-only financial planners receive their compensation through a fee (often a percentage of assets under management) for their ongoing advisory services. In contrast, a fee-based financial planner can receive commissions from financial products they sell. Modera Wealth Management is a fee-only firm because it believes this model best aligns our interests with those of our clients.

Do You Need a Financial Planner?

You may wish to consider using a financial planner as your income and wealth grows, or as the complexity of your financial situation increases. A life change — such as a large inheritance, a marriage, or a new child — can often be a catalyst to discuss your situation with a financial planner.

Whether you have never worked with a financial planner or already have one, Modera Wealth Management stands ready to discuss your financial planning needs.

About Us: Modera is proudly a fee-only and independently owned financial planning firm that acts as a fiduciary for our clients. We have built our organization to put our clients’ interests first.

Call Modera Wealth Management and our Atlanta financial advisors to learn more and set up an initial meeting with our team.


Modera Wealth Management, LLC (“Modera”) is an SEC-registered investment advisor with places of business in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Modera may only transact business in those states in which it is registered or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration requirements. SEC registration does not imply any level of skill or training.  For information pertaining to our registration status, fees and services, please contact us or refer to the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure web site (www.adviserinfo.sec.gov) to obtain a copy of our disclosure statement set forth in Form ADV Part 2A. Please read the disclosure statement carefully before you invest or send money.

This article is limited to the dissemination of general information about Modera’s investment advisory and financial planning services that is not suitable for everyone. Nothing herein should be interpreted or construed as investment advice nor as legal, tax or accounting advice nor as personalized financial planning, tax planning or wealth management advice. For legal, tax and accounting-related matters, we recommend you seek the advice of a qualified attorney or accountant. This article is not a substitute for personalized investment or financial planning from Modera. There is no guarantee that the views and opinions expressed herein will come to pass, and the information herein should not be considered a solicitation to engage in a particular investment or financial planning strategy. The statements, information and opinions expressed in this article are subject to change without notice.

[1] https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132052.htm

[2] https://www.cfp.net/knowledge/reports-and-statistics/professional-demographics

[3] https://www.cfp.net/get-certified/certification-process