Financial advisor vs financial adviser vs financial planner vs financial consultant vs investment adviser or advisor. The financial services industry uses a remarkably wide range of labels to describe what are substantively similar job titles that are meant to convey the person is in the business of giving financial advice. But does it actually matter which label you use, or is it simply about individual preference?
In this week’s #OfficeHours with @MichaelKitces, my Tuesday 1PM EST broadcast via Periscope, we look at the question of why there’s a distinction between financial advisor vs adviser, how the labels have evolved over time, and why it actually can matter which spelling you use, at least some circumstances.
Because the reality is that while most financial advisor labels are just thrown around for marketing purposes, the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 does actually define the terms RIA (registered investment adviser) and IAR (investment adviser representative), and those are spelled adviser with an E-R at the end. Because that’s how Congress wrote it into the original law, nearly 75 years ago.
Of course, in the end whether an individual must actually register as an investment adviser or not is dictated by what he/she does, and whether that person is in the business of giving investment advice for compensation. If that’s true, becoming an IAR of an RIA is a regulatory requirement, regardless of whether it says financial advisor vs financial planner on your business card.
Nonetheless, in today’s environment, where advisor with an O-R seems to be the dominant spelling, arguably the decision to use financial adviser actually does connote some distinction – a sense of greater formality, perhaps, giving the Old English roots of the E-R spelling of the word. So while financial advisor vs adviser have the same dictionary definition, and regulators will ultimately judge you by what you do, you may still want to choose the spelling that fits with the kind of brand you want to communicate. But remember, any time you’re actually writing out the definition of the acronyms RIA or IAR, use the adviser with an E-R spelling, because that’s the way it’s written in the law itself!