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Top Financial Planners

What does a financial planner do—and when do you need one? Can a money manager pick better investments than you can? Here’s what to know if you’re thinking of hiring someone to help you with your money.

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The category of fee-only advisers includes certified financial planners — who create detailed financial plans and often also manage money — as well as financial advisers who manage and invest portfolios. Fee-only advisers do not accept commissions or referral fees — a practice, they say, that keeps them free of bias. Most charge a flat fee, an hourly rate, or a fee based on a percentage of assets.

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These financial advisers charge flat fees for some services and may earn commissions on products they sell, such as mutual funds. Although some people argue that advisers who earn commissions can’t be free of bias, these advisers are said to work in a client’s interest. The fee-and-commission model can be cheaper than an annual fee based on a percentage of assets for some clients, such as those who make few trades.

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Estate planners prepare wills , trusts, and health-care powers of attorney. These experts all have law degrees; we’ve noted those who also are CPAs. We’ve noted any specialties as well, though most attorneys can handle any type of client.

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These CPAs can handle tax returns and suggest ways to reduce your tax burden. Most do a range of accounting , but we’ve noted specialties given to us by the CPA or someone who recommended him or her.

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These experts advise on and sell insurance. Most are independent agents who don’t sell just one insurance brand.

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Posted at 07:28 AM/ET, 03/17/2012 RSS | Permalink | Guides