May 03, 2018

No matter where you are in your financial life, chances are you could benefit from financial education and support.

But in today’s environment of instant access to information, people often have trouble knowing what information to trust and who to turn to for financial advice. Because different people have different needs, understanding the “alphabet soup” of the personal finance field is crucial, but it’s equally important to evaluate your situation to accurately determine your needs.

At AFCPE®, we connect financial professionals across the continuum to ensure that individuals and families, like yours, can navigate the “alphabet soup” and have access to the highest standard of financial advice, at any stage of life.

For individuals and families who don’t know where to begin, Accredited Financial Counselors® and Financial Fitness Coaches  are great resources. Both types of professionals can help you get your financial bearings, tackle an immediate financial crisis, overcome debt, grow your savings, manage student loans, build a sound financial foundation, and even refer you to a different type of trusted financial professional when your needs change.

Before selecting a financial professional, here are some important questions to ask:

  • What experience do you have? Ask for a brief description of financial professionals’ work experience and how it relates to their current practice. Do they have strong experience helping people in a situation that is similar to your own?
  • Is there an an oversight body requiring ongoing education and ethics? Ask about the credentials your professional holds and learn how he or she stays up to date with current changes and developments in the personal finance field.
  • What services do you offer? Credentials, licenses, and areas of expertise are all factors that determine the services a financial professional can offer. Financial counselors and coaches do not sell insurance or securities products, such as mutual funds or stocks. They also do not typically offer investment advice unless registered with state or federal authorities.
  • What is your approach? Make sure the professional’s philosophy and approach aligns with your needs and values. You also may consider your financial professional’s personality and communication style. Standard wisdom on seeking the advice of financial professionals often overlooks the importance of personal compatibility. 
  • What types of clients do you typically work with? Some financial professionals prefer to work with clients whose assets fall within a particular range, so it’s important to make sure that the counselor or coach is a good fit for your individual financial situation.
  • How much do you charge?  The financial counselor or coach should be able to provide you with an estimate of possible costs based on the work to be performed.
  • How will I pay for your services? Financial professionals can be paid in several ways. As part of your written agreement, your financial counselor should make it clear how they will be paid for the services to be provided.
  • Do others stand to gain from the financial advice you give me? Ask the professional to provide you with a description of any conflicts of interest in writing.
  • Ask for more background. Consider requesting a referral. Also consider asking whether the professional has ever been disciplined for any unlawful or unethical actions.

By becoming an informed consumer, you can choose a financial counselor or coach who is the best possible fit for your financial situation and your life.

Remember: Anyone can call themselves a financial counselor, coach, advisor or planner, but a credential demonstrates a higher level of education, specialty or commitment. In many cases, the credentialing process is like going to school for a specialized program. Also, not all credentials are not created equal. Do your homework. A reputable certification program requires rigorous education and examination, field experience, an ongoing commitment to continuing education, and abidance by a high code of ethics. Whether it be an Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®), a Financial Fitness Coach (FFC®) or another reputable certified financial professional, asking questions is a necessary first step to making the best choice to meet your needs and goals.

AFCPE® counseling and coaching certifications are the most respected in the field of financial counseling and education.

Get involved with AFCPE® today! Here are a few places to start: Become a Member, Sign up for an Essentials Course, or Get AFC Certified!

Want to be an Accredited Financial Counselor®, but don’t know what it entails? Sign up for a free info session! 

10 responses to “Need a Financial Counselor or Coach? Here’s How to Choose One.”

  1. I have recently moved money to Putnam stocks and they require that i have an financial advisor to help me on my account.I don’t know much about getting one and what it will cost.I am not a wealthy person and my investment is around $180,000 with Putnam , can you help me understand the system and what i can get advise for?

  2. Hello, I’m a young professional who just graduated from graduate school and getting her first salary job. I would like to talk to someone about managing my savings and paying off student loans and starting to invest but I’m not sure what kind of professional can help me with this? Can you advise?

  3. I need help receiving advice on how to get rid of credit card debt and helping plan my monthly fees/expenses. Would a financial counselor be best for this and how do I find one? Online searches have been taking me in circles.

  4. Hi Katie,
    Absolutely. You can search for a financial counselor in your area, or find a professional who offers virtual services, on our Find an AFCPE Certified Professional page: We are also currently providing free financial counseling through a grant funded program:
    If you need help navigating either, feel free to reach out to AFCPE’s main line, 614-368-1055.

  5. I’m retiring the end of December, 2021. I’ve spoken with two different Financial Advisors, and I just don’t feel comfortable with either. I am not rich, rolling over @ $290,000.00 from my 401K to a Traditional IRA. I’m middle class, will be bringing home a comfortable salary per month for my retirement. When I calculate the charge, it can be between $2,500 – $3,500 per year from their fees. Can you help me out, and direct me to someone I can speak to? Thank you

  6. I cannot communicate with my husband about financial matters, which are currently in dire straits. Is there someone who can counsel us on financial decisions when we don’t often agree? Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *