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What is an Independent Financial Planner?

What is an Independent Financial Planner?

August 16, 2018

When you visit a Ford dealership and look at cars, do you ever expect the new car advisor to suggest that a Toyota might better meet your needs? No. Everybody knows that the “advisors” at a car dealership work for the dealer and are trying to help you buy one of the cars the dealer sells. They are not trying to help you solve your transportation problems.

So what if you sit down with a financial “advisor” who works for a prominent national financial service brand? Maybe she works for a company that has cool commercials on TV or its name on a stadium. Do you expect that this person is there to sell you the company’s products, or prescribe strategies to meet your financial goals? Of course, the advisor who is employed by the large firm owes her first loyalty to the firm and will promote the products and services of the firm.

Why should you work with an independent financial planner?

I’ve been in this industry for more than 16 years. During the first eight years, I was a registered representative of a brokerage firm. I was compensated to sell securities and investment products. But my clients all expected that I was there to help them reach their financial goals. I worked hard to do that, but eventually it became clear to me that I needed to change the nature of my practice to better align with my ethical priorities.

In 2011 I decided to practice as a financial planner who was always my client’s advocate – a fiduciary advisor and as an advisor who is paid only by my clients – a fee-only advisor. This level of independence allows me to focus on serving my client’s best interests. It has been one of the best decisions of my career.

An independent financial planner is a financial planner who is free to focus on the client’s needs first and can be trusted to provide recommendations that are based on the client’s best interests first. As a fee-only fiduciary financial planner, I’m free to focus on my client’s goals

I don’t have to worry about being limited to a short menu of solutions recommended by the home office.

This independence brings with it an added level of responsibility. I need to be sure that I have carefully identified the most reliable solutions to meet client needs. The higher level of professionalism needed to be independent is just one reason I chose to earn the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional designation.


The CFP® certification required me to complete a rigorous course of study that typically takes two years or more. The six required courses are designed to develop detailed technical financial planning knowledge in six areas of study. I also passed a comprehensive exam that tested my ability to apply financial planning knowledge.

As a CFP® certificant I am required to complete ongoing continuing education courses every year.

I am proud to have added the CFP® credentials to my resume because it helps prepare me for the next 20 years of financial planning practice. I am better able to meet client needs now than ever before.

And since my firm is small, I’m free to customize financial planning recommendations to each client family individually. I’m not locked into a corporate template from the home office. I believe it challenges me to focus on client goals and to do a better job for every client.

As an independent fee-only fiduciary financial planner I can help my clients better because:

  • I am able to look after my client’s best interests.
  • I have a passion for financial planning.
  • I am pleasantly persistent to be sure my clients follow through on the goals they have set for their family.
  • I like and care about each of my clients. I think of the families I serve as part of my extended family.
  • I am available to my clients either by phone or e-mail. I promise to return calls within two hours during the business day and to return e-mails with in 24 hours on a business day.

A great question to ask is ‘why’? 

Any time you get a recommendation from a financial advisor, I suggest you ask why that particular choice was chosen. It’s a simple question, but it can provide some telling information. Your planner should be comfortable explaining how she can to make this recommendation. Her explanation should be clear and understandable to you and your spouse.

There are a million ways to build a swing set. More than one approach might deliver the results you need. But it’s important that you are comfortable with the process your planner used to come to your recommendation. And it’s important that you are clear on how that approach works and why it’s a good fit for you.

Working with an independent CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional will help you create a financial plan that is broad based and accounts for multiple facets of your retirement journey. A CFP® professional can help you create a financial plan that is driven by your goals and priorities and addresses all aspects of your financial life. With a big-picture approach, you will get a meaningful understanding of your goal progress. And you will get a personalized action plan for how to move forward.

Yes, I am a CFP® professional. I’m always a fiduciary and I only work on a fee basis. And, yes, I’m still taking on a few great families to be part of my financial planning practice.

If you would like to talk about what it would be like to work with an independent CFP® professional, contact my office at I am always happy to meet with people who are working on their financial plans. Dunncreek Advisors does not provide legal or tax advice, nor is this article intended to do so.