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‘Advisor’ vs. ‘Adviser’: What’s the Difference?

A financial advisor goes over a retirement income plan with a client.

“Advisor” and “adviser” are two terms used interchangeably when referring to someone who gives financial advice. While the former is more commonly used, the federal law that established how finance professionals are regulated uses the latter spelling. Whether you spell it with an “e” or an “o,” a financial advisor can help you set goals, manage investments and plan for the future. 

When to Use Advisor or Adviser

“Adviser” is typically considered the older and more traditional spelling of the word. Legally, the term “investment adviser” is utilized by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for professionals regulated under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. The Act defines an investment adviser as any person or group earning a fee for making investment recommendations or conducting securities analysis.

However, “advisor” has been more widely adopted in the U.S. and is the more common spelling. In fact, this term is preferable in the financial services industry and has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its modern and professional implications. Major financial firms and industry professionals often choose “advisor” over “adviser”, aligning with industry familiar language.

Yet in the end, both spellings typically refer to the same type of financial professionals. 

What Do Financial Advisors Do?

Financial advisors guide clients in managing financial assets and achieving financial goals. They may assist with retirement planning, college savings, tax planning, estate planning, investment management and other areas by assessing the client’s financial needs and developing strategies to meet these needs.

Specifically, suppose a client wanted to plan for retirement. A financial advisor could assess their income, expenses and ideal retirement lifestyle to determine how much they need to save and how much income they’ll need to generate in retirement. They could then suggest appropriate investment strategies and regularly review the client’s plan to ensure they’re on track for a comfortable retirement.

Benefits of Working With an Advisor

A financial advisor shakes hands with a client at the end of a meeting.

Hiring an advisor is often beneficial when planning for retirement, managing a large inheritance, preparing for a major life change like marriage or starting a family, and when managing finances effectively seems formidable. 

Receiving professional financial advice can mitigate costly missteps by offering insights on market trends and financial tactics, potentially contributing to a person’s financial success. They can help clients comprehend complex financial concepts and make informed decisions aligning with their risk tolerance.

Working with an advisor can bring about personalized financial strategies, professional risk management and easy access to expert knowledge. However, it’s essential to acknowledge the possible challenges in this relationship. It requires trust and transparency and comes at cost. Financial advisors charge annual fees, often based on your assets under management. Further, even though an advisor’s expertise might potentially result in better returns, it shouldn’t be misconstrued as a guarantee for superior financial outcomes.

Reasons to Consider Hiring an Advisor

While some people prefer the DIY approach to managing their money, here are eight compelling reasons to consider hiring a financial advisor:

  • Expertise and experience: Financial advisors may bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table. They can help you navigate the complexities of investment options, tax planning and retirement strategies, potentially helping you align your financial decision with your goals.
  • Customized financial plans: Advisors can create a personalized financial plan tailored to your unique circumstances and aspirations. This individualized approach helps you set realistic goals and develop a roadmap to achieve them.
  • Risk management: Understanding and managing financial risks is crucial. Advisors can assess your risk tolerance and recommend investments that align with your comfort level, helping you strike the right balance between risk and reward.
  • Saving time: Researching and managing investments can be time-consuming. By delegating these tasks to an advisor, you free up your time for other important pursuits, while knowing that your finances are in capable hands.
  • Behavioral guidance: Advisors act as a buffer against impulsive decisions driven by market volatility or emotions. They provide rational, data-driven advice, helping you stay disciplined during turbulent times.
  • Tax efficiency: Advisors can help you optimize your tax strategy, potentially reducing your tax liability and increasing your after-tax returns.
  • Peace of mind: Knowing that you have a trusted advisor overseeing your financial affairs can provide peace of mind, especially during uncertain economic periods.
  • Long-term financial success: Ultimately, hiring a financial advisor is an investment in your long-term financial success. They can help you work toward your financial goals and adapt your plan as your circumstances change.

Tips for Hiring the Right Advisor

A financial advisor smiles while siting in her office.

When seeking an advisor, consider their qualifications, experience, fee structure and areas of expertise. You’ll also want to assess your own needs and make sure the advisor is equipped to meet them. 

Start by researching the advisor on their website to get a sense of the types of clients and services they specialize in. You’ll also check out their firm’s Form ADV and Part II brochure – both available through the SEC’s Investment Advisor Public Disclosure (IAPD) system.  By perusing the advisor’s website and reviewing their SEC records, you’ll learn about the services they offer and get a sense of whether they could be a fit for you. 

Also, be sure to verify an advisor’s credentials through relevant financial organizations and check disciplinary history through resources like FINRA’s BrokerCheck and the IAPD system. It’s imperative that the advisor’s firm is a registered investment advisor (RIA) and is registered with the SEC. That means their firm has a fiduciary duty to act in your best interests.

It’s also critical to balance their advisory function benefits with the prospective advisor-client relationship. To assess compatibility, you’ll want to have a consultation with the advisor. Consider how comfortable you are with the advisor’s communication style, their understanding of your goals and risk tolerance, as well as whether their investment philosophy aligns with yours. 

Bottom Line

Despite the different spellings, “advisor” and “adviser” both refer to the same type of financial professional who provides investment advice and other recommendations to clients. Working with a financial advisor can have many benefits, but it’s important to remember there are no guarantees when you enter into an advisory relationship. You’ll need to do your research and find an advisor who aligns with your needs. 

Tips for Finding a Financial Advisor

  • Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • It’s important to do your due diligence when hiring a financial advisor. Try to speak with at least three potential advisors and ask them these questions to get a sense of whether they’re a right fit for you.

Photo credit: ©, ©, © – Julia Amaral