For the past 17 years, I’ve been a certified financial planning professional (CFP). During all that time, I’ve been explaining to people what I do because they’re confused. I blame industry jargon on this problem, so let me straighten things out a little:

Fee-for-Service Financial Planner vs. Portfolio Manager

A fee-for-service financial planner provides projections and assesses your ability to achieve your goals. She might recommend strategies to improve your financial situation in the future by coaching you on how much you can afford to spend today, as well as tax-effective strategies so your money lasts longer. A financial planner should have the CFP designation to prove that she has completed the necessary training and ongoing continuing education and ethics requirements.

On the other hand, a portfolio manager monitors the investment landscape and recommends investments that are appropriate for you. She should be registered with the Ontario Securities Commission and provide the highest order of customer care as a fiduciary—meaning she is legally obligated to put your interests ahead of her own.

How do I know if I should hire a financial planner?

  • Will your life savings will be enough to maintain your current standard of living in retirement?
  • Considering a break-up, such as a separation or divorce?
  • Nervous about job security?
  • Could a medical condition affect your job prospects and quality of life?
  • Is there a dependent adult child, due to a mental or physical disability?
  • Need to know your financial position before making an important decision?
  • Think you’re paying too much tax on investment income?
  • Do you and your partner disagree about the standard of living you can afford today and in the future?

How do I know if I should hire a portfolio manager?

  • Concerned about your investment returns?
  • Need to begin withdrawing from your savings?
  • Too many different investment accounts on-the-go?
  • Most of your wealth is tied up in your own company or your employer’s?
  • Is your brother-in-law touting a “hot tip”?
  • Need to better understand income-producing investments for your retirement?
  • All of your investments are under the mattress or in GICs?
Monique Madan, lead financial life strategist at Upotential, has been working in the financial services industry for over 15 years and has acquired a unique and sought-after perspective on personal financial planning. She has been featured as a financial advisor in the Globe and Mail and provided her guidance to the Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC®) in the development of their current code of ethics and to Moody’s Analytics as a subject matter expert.