Wealth management is an investment-advisory discipline which incorporates multiple skills of financial planning, investment management, tax planning, estate planning and behavioral coaching to optimize all aspects of a client family’s financial life.
Financial planning is a process of comprehensive evaluation of an investor's current and future financial state by using currently known variables to predict future cash flows, asset values and withdrawal plans. Most individuals work in conjunction with a financial planner and use current net worth, tax liabilities, asset allocation, and future retirement and estate plans in developing financial plans. These metrics are used along with estimates of asset growth to determine if a person's financial goals can be met in the future, or what steps need to be taken to ensure that they are.
Investment advice – also referred to as investment management, money management, portfolio management or private banking – covers the professional management of different securities and assets, such as bonds, shares, real estate and other securities. Proper investment management aims to meet particular investment goals for the benefit of the investors. Investment management services include asset allocation, financial statement analysis, stock selection, monitoring of existing investments and plan implementation.
Tax planning is the analysis of a financial situation or plan from a tax perspective. The purpose of tax planning is to ensure tax efficiency. Through tax planning, all elements of the financial plan work together in the most tax-efficient manner possible. Tax planning is an essential part of a financial plan. Reduction of tax liability and maximizing the ability to contribute to retirement plans are crucial for success. Tax planning covers several considerations. Considerations include timing of income, size, and timing of purchases, and planning for other expenditures. Also, the selection of investments and types of retirement plans must complement the tax filing status and deductions to create the best possible outcome.
Estate planning is the preparation of tasks that serve to manage an individual's asset base in the event of their incapacitation or death. The planning includes the bequest of assets to heirs and the settlement of estate taxes. Most estate plans are set up with the help of an attorney experienced in estate law.
Estate planning involves planning for how an individual’s assets will be preserved, managed, and distributed after death. It also takes into account, the management of an individual’s properties and financial obligations in the event that s/he becomes incapacitated. Assets that could make up an individual’s estate include houses, cars, stocks, paintings, life insurance, pensions, and debt. Individuals have various reasons for planning an estate, such as preserving family wealth, providing for surviving spouse and children, funding children and/or grandchildren’s education, or leaving their legacy behind to a charitable cause.
Wealth advisors provide a high-level professional service that combines financial and investment advice, accounting and tax services, retirement planning, and legal or estate planning for one set fee. Clients work with a single wealth advisor who coordinates input from financial experts and can include coordinating advice from the client's own attorney, accountants and insurance agent.
A Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) refers to the certification owned and awarded by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. The CFP designation is awarded to individuals who successfully complete the CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements. Individuals desiring to become a CFP professional must take extensive exams in the areas of financial planning, taxes, insurance, estate planning and retirement. Attaining the CFP designation takes experience and a substantial amount of work. CFP professionals must also complete continuing education programs each year to maintain their certification status.
A Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®) is a professional designation given by the CFA Institute, formerly AIMR, that measures the competence and integrity of financial analysts. Candidates are required to pass three levels of exams covering areas, such as accounting, economics, ethics, money management, and security analysis.
An investment advisor is any person or group that makes investment recommendations or conducts securities analysis in return for a fee. Investment advisor were defined by the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 as any person or group that makes investment recommendations or conducts securities analysis in return for a fee, whether through direct management of client assets or via written publications. An investment advisor who has sufficient assets to be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is known as a Registered Investment Advisor or RIA. Investment advisors are also referred to as a "financial advisor" and could alternatively be spelled as "investment adviser" or "financial adviser." Mutual fund companies are generally included in the definition of investment advisors, but stockbrokers are not as they receive fees from commissions and not asset-based compensation. Most investment advisors charge either a flat fee for their services or a percentage of the assets being managed. Generally, there are very limited conflicts of interest between investment advisors and their clients, because the advisor will only earn more if the clients' asset base grows as a result of the advisor's recommendations and securities selection.
A fiduciary is a person who acts on behalf of another person, or persons to manage assets. Essentially, a fiduciary is a person or organization that owes to another the duties of good faith and trust. The highest legal duty of one party to another, it also involves being bound ethically to act in the other's best interests. A fiduciary might be responsible for general well-being, but often it involves finances — managing the assets of another person, or of a group of people, for example. Unlike broker-dealers, who only have to fulfill a suitability obligation, investment advisers are bound to a fiduciary standard that was established as part of the Investment Advisors Act of 1940. They can be regulated by the SEC or state securities regulators, both of which hold advisors to a fiduciary standard that requires them to put their client's interests above their own. The act is pretty specific in defining what a fiduciary means, and it stipulates that an advisor must place his or her interests below that of the client. It consists of a duty of loyalty and care, and simply means that the advisor must act in the best interest of his or her client. For example, the advisor cannot buy securities for his or her account prior to buying them for a client and is prohibited from making trades that may result in higher commissions for the advisor or his or her investment firm.
It also means that the advisor must do his or her best to make sure investment advice is made using accurate and complete information, or basically, that the analysis is thorough and as accurate as possible. Avoiding conflicts of interest is important when acting as a fiduciary, and it means that an advisor must disclose any potential conflicts to placing the client's interests ahead of the advisor's. Additionally, the advisor needs to place trades under a "best execution" standard, meaning he or she must strive to trade securities with the best combination of low cost and efficient execution.
Fee-only financial advisors are registered investment advisors with a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interests of clients at all times. They operate on a fee-only basis which means that only the client compensates the advisor for his or her services. Fee-only advisors don’t receive any fees, commission, referral fees, kickbacks or any other hidden forms of compensation. For this reason, fee-only advisors are able to offer advice with limited conflicts of interest.