The CNBC FA 100 ranking recognizes advisory firms that help clients navigate their financial lives

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In times of uncertainty — turbulent markets, high inflation, geopolitical turmoil — we often write about what financial advisors are recommending to clients.

This advice often boils down to “stay calm” and “don’t let short-term news lead to impulsive moves that have long-term consequences.” Many advisors also offer a reminder that clients who already have a plan in place need to trust in that and stay the course.

Which leads to the next consideration for some readers. No plan? It might be time to make one.

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Helping consumers make smart money decisions is a key part of what the personal finance team does at CNBC, and that includes figuring out when to enlist help, and from who.

That mission has been a big driver behind the CNBC FA 100 list, now in its fourth year. The list is based on a proprietary methodology developed by CNBC in partnership with data provider AccuPoint Solutions. The process starts with data culled from SEC filings for a list of 39,818 registered investment advisory firms, which gets winnowed down to the final 100. (View the full methodology here.)

The top-ranked advisors on the CNBC list have an average 30 years in business, and collectively have more than $300 billion in assets under management.

But that’s not the only — or even the main — factor behind why they made the list.

The CNBC FA 100 recognizes those advisory firms that best help people navigate their financial lives. We consider the services firms offer and their specialties, among other factors. And for the first time this year, we factored in the number of certified financial planners a firm employs, recognizing the expertise that designation lends to planning offerings.

Working with an advisor has financial benefits

The pandemic spurred consumer interest in working with a financial advisor. Nearly 1 in 5 adults, 18%, who didn’t have an advisor before the Covid-19 pandemic say they have now either started working with one or plan to, according to the 2022 Northwestern Mutual Planning & Progress Study.

Across the survey’s 2,381 respondents, 35% work with an advisor.

Those surveyed who have a financial advisor reported higher confidence across the board on their ability to navigate financial issues, including manage debt, plan for retirement and achieve long-term financial security. They were also more likely than those without an advisor to have built savings during the pandemic.

Yet reports indicate that many consumers aren’t thinking about an advisor as their first choice for financial help. A recent survey from advisor technology platform intelliflofound that 59% of respondents want financial advice but aren’t sure where to get it. Those figures jump to 71% for Gen Zers surveyed, and 72% for millennials. (The firm polled 2,067 adults.)

Many of those consumers ultimately turn to family, friends or digital resources for answers. About a third, 32%, use a registered investment advisor.

Beyond awareness, concerns about costs play in. To that point, 35% of those in the intelliflo survey said they don’t think they have enough money to hire a financial advisor.

Don’t believe that myth: Financial advice isn’t just for the wealthy. Additionally, advisory firms aren’t one size fits all, and many don’t require clients come in with hefty investable assets.

How, and how much, you pay for financial advice can also vary widely by advisor and the scope of services. You might pay a management fee based on the assets you ask an advisor to manage, for example, or a flat monthly, annual or project-based fee. Others offer hourly rates.

10 questions to ask a prospective financial advisor

If you are looking for financial assistance, we hope CNBC’s FA 100 can be a resource in your search. The ranking is meant to be used as a starting point for investors who are looking for an advisor. We hope this list will help to narrow your search. If you’re looking for an advisor with a particular specialty or background, search on sites like XY Planning Network and FPA PlannerSearch.

Expect to interview to several advisors as you look for someone you can trust, who feels like the right fit for your life and financial needs.

The CFP Board recommends asking these 10 questions of prospective advisors:

  1. What are your qualifications and credentials?
  2. What services do you offer?
  3. Will you have a fiduciary duty to me?
  4. What is your approach to financial planning?
  5. What types of clients do you typically work with?
  6. Will you be the only advisor working with me?
  7. How will I pay for your services?
  8. How much do you typically charge?
  9. Do others stand to gain from the financial advice you give me?
  10. Have you ever been publicly disciplined for any unlawful or unethical actions in your career?

Don’t take their word for it on that last question. You can look up an advisor’s record on BrokerCheck and with the SEC, and verify CFP certification with the CFP Board.

It can also be smart to ask if the advisor can provide references from clients.

Tune in to CNBC’s “Halftime Report″ at 12p ET today to see George Farra of Woodley Farra Manion, which earned the top spot on the CNBC FA 100 list for the first time this year.

Sophie Tremblay

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