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Stockbroker vs. Financial Advisor

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A stockbroker and financial advisor working together

The choice between engaging a stock broker or a financial advisor can be a question occupying your mind as you embark on organizing and growing your finances. Making informed decisions about your financial management requires understanding the distinguishing aspects of these two roles. Both professionals have different responsibilities, qualifications and payment methods. A financial advisor is going to offer you a full financial plan and big-picture planning for your future. 

What Is a Financial Advisor?

Financial advisors extend a wide array of services that typically cover financial planning, retirement advice, tax planning, estate planning and more. Their role is comprehensive and they offer insight into various financial aspects. They serve individuals who desire a holistic approach to financial management with an emphasis on long-term strategy. They can also form deeply trusted partnerships with their clients, engaging in a spectrum of discussions concerning their financial future.

Imagine, for instance, receiving a substantial inheritance and seeking guidance on effectively managing these funds to enhance growth. In such cases, a financial advisor’s expertise proves indispensable. They can curate a strategic plan accounting for your financial goals, current financial situation and risk tolerance. A novice or someone preferring a hands-off approach can find the full range of a financial advisor’s services highly beneficial.

What Is a Stock Broker?

Stockbrokers primarily manage the buying and selling securities on behalf of clients. Unlike financial advisors, their role hinges on specific investments rather than creating or updating an encompassing financial plan, focusing more on transactional engagements. Stock brokers serve individuals who actively participate in the stock market and aim to capitalize on current and emerging market trends.

Consider someone striving for active involvement in buying and selling stocks to leverage market trends. This person might find a stock broker’s timely advice on when to buy or sell, based on expert comprehension of market movements, incredibly advantageous.

Differences Between Financial Advisors and Stock Brokers

A financial advisor working on investments

To make an informed decision about which professional you need, you must grasp the distinguishing facets between financial advisors and stock brokers. An excellent starting point is understanding their primary roles, before venturing into the specifics concerning payment methods, fiduciary duties, regulations and daily responsibilities.

How Each Is Paid

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) reveals that financial advisors are typically paid via fees, such as a percentage of the assets they manage, while stock brokers often earn commissions on executed trades. This disparity in their payment structure subtly influences their recommendations and priorities. Although one method doesn’t necessarily outrank the other, different clients might have a preference.

Fiduciary Duty

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires financial advisors to abide by a fiduciary duty, meaning they must – at all times – always act in the best interests of their clients. On the other hand, stock brokers are obligated to ensure that investments are suitable for each client. This variance in responsibility can influence their approach and the advice they deliver. For instance, the fiduciary duty of a financial advisor may resonate more with those desiring in-depth financial planning.

How Each Is Regulated

While both professions fall under the purview of the Securities and Exchange Commission, financial advisors are also obliged to abide by the Financial Planning Association’s rules. Meanwhile, FINRA regulates stock brokers. These regulatory structures primarily safeguard investor interests.

Day-to-Day Responsibilities

Financial advisors typically spend their time meeting clients and chalking out holistic financial plans. In contrast, stock brokers are frequently immersed in executing trades and deciphering market trends. 

For example, consider the market experiences a quick rise or fall. A stock broker could rapidly react and leverage the opportunity, whereas a financial advisor might help you navigate such volatility as part of a longer-term strategy.

How to Find the Right Advisor

When deciding between a financial advisor and a stock broker, consider factors like your investment goals, financial situation, preference level of involvement in investment decisions and comfort with risk. Examining these dimensions can guide you toward a decision that complements your priorities. 

Whichever choice you make, remember that seeking advice from either of these professionals can help you circumvent potential pitfalls and ensure your investment decisions align with your personalized financial goals and plans.

Bottom Line

A stockbroker monitoring specific securities for a client

So, should you choose a financial advisor, a stockbroker or perhaps both? This decision is contingent on your unique financial goals and needs. By understanding each one’s roles, payment structures, fiduciary duties, regulations, qualifications and responsibilities, you will be better equipped to make the right choice. Also, this doesn’t have to be an either-or decision. They can complement each other as they work to advance your goals.

Tips for Financial Planning

  • If you’re looking for help in creating a financial plan or determining how much you need to retire, then you may want to enlist the help of a financial advisor. They are experienced in helping you better understand your finances and plan for the future. 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
  • Creating a financial plan is possible on your own, but not advised if you’re not well experienced in financial matters. A professional can help you think through things you may not consider.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Eva-Katalin, ©iStock.com/Arsenli Palivoda, ©iStock.com/aquaArts studio

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