A while back, a friend who had just moved to New Jersey asked me, “How do I find the Best Financial Planner in Wall Township?”
This friend admitted to me he did not know the difference between a stockbroker and a financial planner. And being new to Monmouth County, he did not necessarily need the BEST financial planner in New Jersey; he really needed a personal financial planner who could work with him and help him out.
I told him; “Maybe we should outline the differences between a financial planner and a stockbroker.” He replied, “Well, I heard financial planners sometimes sell life insurance, so maybe you should tell me the difference between a financial planner and a life insurance agent or insurance broker.”
“And for that matter,” he continued, “I do not know the difference between an investment adviser and a financial planner!”
Have you ever heard the term “Certified Financial Planner” I asked him? We spent some time talking about fee-only financial planners, and fee-based financial planners, how they are different and how they differ from fee-only investment advisers — in New Jersey and all around the country.
We looked up a few certified financial planners in Monmouth County, NJ. We found some planners in Red Bank, and more in the county seat, Freehold, NJ. He said Freehold and Marlboro were too far. He was really looking for a financial planner in Wall Township, Spring Lake or Wall Township. He thought he needed a CFP or fee-only adviser who could really help him out and answer his questions.
I told my friend that maybe we should back up. Do you need help with your personal finances? Or do you need help managing your investments? Because there are some financial planners in New Jersey that can help you specifically plan for retirement, and others who can help you plan for your estate. Estate planning in New Jersey is a hot topic lately, is that what you need?
But the longer we talked, the more questions arose. He began to mix up the differences between them and wondered, “How does someone become a financial planner?” And, “what is the annual salary for a financial planner in NJ?” And another question: “So, how does a certified financial planner get paid?”
I told him that really depends. Did you want your planner to implement stock trades, or simply give you planning suggestions? Did you want a written financial plan, including your goals?
These are all great questions. But I sensed he was getting overwhelmed and confused. Because then he started with: “Maybe I don’t need a CFP in New Jersey. Maybe I can find a financial planner online. Maybe all I really need is a stockbroker in New Jersey!”
I think we needed a break, so we drove across Route 35 in Wall Township and headed down to Wall Township Beach. Probably one of the nicest stretches of beach on the New Jersey Shore is right in our backyard in Monmouth County.
My friend said he really appreciated my help in trying to find an independent financial planner here in NJ, but he believed he may not really be ready to speak with a planner. He even mentioned he was going to do more research and look for a course in personal financial planning, and maybe buy some financial planning software.
I think the lesson from all of this is not to get hung up on trying to find the best financial planner in New Jersey, or even the best stockbroker or investment advisor in NJ. Besides, what may work for one individual may not work for someone else. You need to find a financial planner, stockbroker, CFP or adviser who you can communicate with, that will be the best person to help you with your personal finances.
The funny thing is, my friend called me yesterday and asked me if I knew the difference between a Chartered Financial Planner and a Certified Financial Planner…and which of these financial planners are best for someone in New Jersey. I suppose our conversation didn’t sink in after all.