The life insurance/mutual fund people who have finished the financial planning courses offered through their professional organizations can call themselves Certified Financial Planners. No one else can use that CFP designation.
CSI offers a professional financial planning designation, those certified use the PFP acronym.
Accountants can offer financial advice too. CGA, CPA, CMA are all designations that require a huge commitment to achieve.
The stuff you read about written by analysts are usually from people who have achieved the Financial Analyst designation through CSI.
Realtors tout themselves as financial advisors when it comes to that forced savings plan that is your mortgage/house.
So with all the different designations, who do you get your advice from?
The best analysis I've read about financial advice is you get what you pay for. Now most advisors/planners don't actually charge you anything at all. Instead they get commissions on products they sell or deals they broker. So in this case are you really getting advice? I'll say yes and no. You get some advice, but that advice isn't always given without an attempt to influence you in a direction which you may not choose if you got that advice for a fee.
The accountants in this world charge you a fee before dishing out advice. So when they speak up, I usually listen. And today they spoke up. Loud.
Bold was me. So let's see: housing prices went up, which means equity and savings should have gone up, but we spent more, saved less, and basically looked this economic boom gift horse in the mouth. Do you think that may have been because we listened to people who were rewarded not for dishing out advice but for dolling out products?
- Canadians are in debt denial
- a quarter of those who answered didn't think an interest rate hike would hurt them financially
- one in five said they wouldn't be able to handle an unforeseen expenditure of $5,000
- Canadians are increasingly relying on borrowed money to finance day-to-day living expenses
- Debt levels have risen by an average of 5.9 per cent a year since 2000, the report said
- But only 14 per cent of Canadians reported their own debt levels had gone up significantly over the past three years Me thinks someone's fibbing here, eh?
- 20 per cent were raiding their RRSPs before retirement — mainly to pay for daily living expenses
Remember I'm not a financial advisor. But I will tell you what I plan to do very soon now that I'm working again: pay a fee for service planner or accountant, even just once, to review our economic situation and recommend a plan to achieve our economic goals.
I should add that not all FAs, CFPs and Realtors are shyster salespeople. Nothing could be farther from the truth. But very few can claim to have universal access to products and none can claim to give unbiased advice truthfully. That said, I'd happily recommend people I know in all three designations to my friends and family. But that won't prevent me from getting a truly unbiased opinion.
UPDATE: want more reading on designations and how they glean their incomes? Check out this article from the Van Sun, Oct 19, 2007.