While the financial services market has grown and branched out into online investment firms and discount brokers over the last few years, many Americans still prefer the traditional face-to-face advice of financial professionals. In fact, since the recession hit and the economy has been slow to fully recover, there are indications that concerned Americans are increasingly seeking the guidance of financial professionals. It gives them peace of mind when they can sit down and talk with a trusted advisor. However, in selecting an advisor, it is critical for them to be informed of the education and credentials of potential candidates. This is often difficult because it is easy for people to be confused by the myriad designations in the financial service marketplace.
The U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) Office of Investor Education and Advocacy strongly advises consumers to familiarize themselves with the financial services industry and the respective professional designations. An educated consumer is more likely to make a rational, well-informed decision regarding the service and the type of professional he or she needs.
There are a number of resources that consumers can use to identify proper credentials of financial professionals, but the best way to learn is to use the Financial Industry Regulation Authority (FINRA) record of professional designations, which you can find here: http://apps.finra.org/DataDirectory/1/prodesignations.aspx
As Americans increasingly and intelligently turn to practiced professionals, it is important that they know who and what they are dealing with.