What is a NAPFA Registered Financial Advisor?

fee-only napfa financial plannersToday many consumers are faced with a tough choice when it comes to who will manage their money.

This choice is made harder with the plethora of financial advisors out there. Some of these people, posing as financial advisors, give you an overload of information as well as a sales pitch for a product that may not be for your benefit.

These “self-serving” advisors that are out for their own interest is why NAPFA was created.

NAPFA, which stands for National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, is a professional association for fee-only financial advisors. Founded in 1983, NAPFA has sought to help consumers seek conflict-free financial advice.

What is a Fiduciary?

These fee-only advisors serve in a fiduciary manor. “What is a fiduciary?”, you may ask. A  fiduciary is a person legally appointed and authorized to hold assets in trust for another person. The fiduciary manages the assets for the “benefit” of the other person rather than for his or her own profit (investopedia.com). This differs from a normal financial advisor in the fact that some advisers do not always invest for the benefit of the client. Most financial advisors are paid fully or partially by commissions, this means they have an incentive to promote products that maximize their income.

NAPFA prides itself in the fact that this association looks out for the best interest of the client. Saying this, NAPFA only takes advisors that meet their organizations highest standards. Those standards are:

  • They must meet stiff credentialing and educational requirements.
  • They must be primarily engaged as holistic financial advisors (rather than merely investment or tax advisors).
  • They must meet the most rigorous continuing education requirements in the industry.
  • They must submit to outside professional review, to ensure that they do not have the conflicts of interest that commissions bring.
  • They must submit a financial plan for review by peers, before they can be admitted.

Fee Only Financial Planner Definition

It’s these high standards that NAPFA-Registered Financial Advisors adhere to that is making people take notice.

What exactly defines that a financial planner is fee only?

These registered advisors do not sell any product on commission, and therefore have no outside conflict of interest. They are compensated directly from the clients.  NAPFA advisors have one common goal, to look out for their clients best financial interest.

One thing that I’ve noticed about NAPFA advisors is that they are very proud of their organization and take it very seriously.  A fellow blogger and CFP® professional, Roger Wohlner, is very active in the NAPFA community.   I asked him to share why NAPFA membership is so important to him.   Here’s what he had to say:

NAPFA is an organization of fellow fee-only advisors who are uniformly committed to doing what is best for our respective clients and each of us state this via signing a fiduciary oath which we reaffirm annually.

Moreover, the organization is made up of a very diverse group of advisors who have a wealth of knowledge and experience which they are willing to share with fellow members. If I have a question about a client issue, I frequently will post that question in the NAPFA discussion forum and will always receive a number of useful responses. In other cases I will contact a fellow member directly and have always found them to be generous with their time and expertise.

In short I find that my membership in NAPFA allows me to leverage the knowledge of my fellow members in order to benefit clients. This extra knowledge base is especially important for those of us who are solo practitioners.

You can see more about Roger on his blog Wohlner Financial or his firm Asset Strategy Consultants.

How to Find a NAPFA Advisor

Find an Advisor

If you’re interested in hiring a NAPFA advisor, the best thing to do is first visit their main site.  NAPFA.org.  From there you’ll see the Find an Advisor spot on the homepage (see above).  You can search either by address, zip code or name and after selecting “search” you’ll have a list of the closest NAPFA registered advisors in your area.

NAPFA Resources

On the NAPFA website, http://www.napfa.org, they have many helpful links and resources. They can help you locate a NAPFA qualified advisor in your area. They also have helpful educational materials to help you select the financial advisor that is right for you. NAPFA has educational webinars, from qualified advisors, on many different topics.

NAPFA also hosts educational conferences. These conferences have classes for advisors wanting to join NAPFA, as well as classes for advisors that want to refine their skills.

Through NAPFA and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, the website hosts free financial advise several times a year. You can check for upcoming dates or watch the live video chat through their website as well as NAPFA and Kiplinger’s Facebook page.

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