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Types of financial advisors

Your goals – our commitment 

When you choose Lincoln Financial Group for your insurance, investment or retirement needs, you get the full commitment of a market leader with over 110 years of strength, courage and integrity, rooted in our namesake’s ideals. Our affiliated advisors are dedicated to working on your behalf to help reach your goals through an independent relationship where your best interests are served.  

The right advisor for you

Unsure what type of advisor you should work with? We attract leading financial professionals and maintain an open professional network, Lincoln Financial Network®, to provide you with the greatest flexibility and choice. 

You can choose to work with one of our affiliated advisors, or find an advisor on your own. Here are some key points to consider: 

  • We have a strong network of financial professionals that can help you meet short- and long-term goals. Lincoln Financial Network advisors are dedicated to helping clients through all life stages leading up to and through retirement.
  • You can choose to work with an advisor registered with a broker-dealer firm of your choosing. Whether you select a large firm or a small one, ask your advisor how Lincoln Financial solutions can help you accomplish your financial goals. 
  • Not sure about an individual advisor? You can also check on a professional’s background and learn about any regulatory actions against them through BrokerCheck┬« , a tool provided by FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Qualifications and reputation matter

When selecting a financial professional, consider the four basic types and their defining characteristics. 

Type Also known as What to know FINRA Licenses/Professional certifications
Registered representatives
  • Stockbrokers
  • Investment representatives
  • Bank representatives
  • Financial advisors/planners
Paid commissions and/or fees to sell investment and insurance products; registered with a broker-dealer to conduct business
  • FINRA Series 6 (covers “packaged” investment products, e.g., variable annuities, insurance premiums, unit investment funds, mutual funds)
  • FINRA Series 7 (covers general securities including common/preferred stock, stock options, bonds)
Financial advisors/planners Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs); Investment Advisor Representatives (IARs)   Compensated with fees; financial fiduciaries who are held to the highest ethical standards in the financial services industry 
  • FINRA Series 65 (Uniform Investment advisor Law)
  • Others may include: Series 6, Series 7; Series 63
  • Consider CFP, CPA/PFS or ChFC-certified advisors/planners for more-specific financial needs

Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®)

A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ could be a good match if you are considering someone with holistic expertise covering budgeting, taxes, insurance needs, investments and estate planning. 

CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals hold what many consider to be the most prestigious comprehensive financial advisory certification. Every CFP® has passed a rigorous 10-hour exam covering their mastery of insurance, estate planning, retirement, taxes and investing. Additionally, they have met their governing board’s ethical requirements, and have at least three years of financial planning industry job experience, or a two-year apprenticeship under a CFP®

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

A Chartered Financial Analyst could be right for you if you need help with complex financial issues or specialized advice that exceeds standard personal investing, budgeting, insurance and estate planning.

Chartered Financial Analysts have completed three years of coursework, passed a demanding board exam, and gained deep working knowledge through at least four years of professional work experience. 

Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)

A Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) could be a good choice if you are looking for help in all aspects of your wealth.

PFS professionals are specialty credentialed Certified Public Accountants (CPA). The designation is given out by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and awards CPAs who help individuals manage their personal wealth. Every three years, PFS professionals must complete 60 hours of continuing professional education. Annually, they must pay a fee of several hundred dollars to continue using the designation. 

Enrolled Agent (EA)

An Enrolled Agent is a good fit if you are looking for help with basic tax preparation. Unlike CPAs, EAs don’t have expertise in accounting, auditing or bookkeeping. Therefore, if you have a complicated tax return, a business return, or need assistance in planning your estate in a tax-favorable way, then it makes more sense to work with a CPA.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

A Certified Public Accountant is useful if you need help with taxes or understanding investment-related tax implications. Look for a dual CPA/PFS certification for wealth planning help. As holders of the oldest financial credential in America for accountants, CPAs are the cream of the crop in accounting. Unlike an ordinary accountant, Certified Public Accountants are qualified experts in accounting, auditing, bookkeeping, taxes and ethics. Some even elect to broaden their financial education through a Personal Finance Specialist (PFS) certification. Ask any prospective accountant if they hold the CPA and/or PFS certification. If so, they should be able to help you prepare taxes, advise on tax implications of investing, college savings, retirement and estate planning.

Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) and Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC®)

Need help finding the right life insurance policy or updating your plan? Then a Chartered Life Underwriter and Chartered Financial Consultant might be right for you. They are both specialists in life insurance and estate planning. 

A CLU focuses most closely on life insurance, whereas a ChFC includes more general financial planning principles. Also, a ChFC does not require a comprehensive board exam to do their job. Many CFP professionals also have the CLU designation in addition to their other expertise. So if you’ve got life insurance questions, want to establish a trust fund or manage your will and estate, we recommend looking for someone who has both CFP and CLU designations.

Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS)

A Certified Employee Benefit Specialist focuses on selling and administering employee benefit plans. They are a good choice if you need help with 401(k) plans and health insurance.

CEBS are focused on employee benefits. They are well-schooled on insurance, retirement, pension, regulatory issues and other topics. If you have specific benefit questions, than a CEBS is a great resource. If you need more general financial advice, then utilize your CFP and ask if they have CEBS credentials. 

Certified Fund Specialist (CFS) and Chartered Mutual Fund Counselor (CMFC)

A Certified Fund Specialist and Chartered Mutual Fund Counselor are mutual fund experts who can help you decide which funds are best for your portfolio. 

A Certified Fund Specialist has been trained on many aspects of mutual funds and must fulfill continuing education requirements to stay current. The Chartered Mutual Fund Counselor goes through a year-long course that is administered by the College for Financial Planning with no continuing education requirement. Both are mutual fund specialists and can advise you on fund investments.

A specific designation or qualification does not guarantee positive investment returns.