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Handling financial struggles on your own can be a large burden. Seeking professional help can lead you to smarter decision making, reaching your financial goals and securing your financial future. There are several options for help and each offers certain unique services. Beyond the vast online options to help you tackle your finance needs, it’s important to understand the different kinds of finance experts available before picking the right adviser for your situation.

Certified Financial Planner

The CFP title indicates a professional certification form the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards in the U.S. and by international organizations affiliated with the Financial Planning Standards Board.

This designation is awarded to candidates who meet educational, examination, experiential and ethical requirements and pay a continuing certification fee. Each candidate must demonstrate extensive knowledge in the financial planning field, including client relations, gathering data and goals, analyzing a client’s financial status, developing recommendations and solutions, and implementing as well as monitoring these solutions. The goal is to keep you from making money mistakes.

A CFP will study your income, taxes, debts, investments and other aspects of your financial portfolio and work with you to set and meet goals and clear up financial uncertainty. These financial planners have proven themselves through relevant coursework, success on a 10-hour personal finance exam and at least three years of relevant experience; their designation offers credibility. But they are not the only option.

Money Manager

A money manager manages securities portfolios for people or institutions. These advisers have the fiduciary duty to choose and manage investments in the best interest of clients. Since these advisers are not paid based on commission, but rather on a percentage of assets under management, their interests also lie in the growth of your portfolio. Money managers are regulated as investment advisers by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Financial Adviser

Financial advisers are professionals who provide financial services to clients. These are usually investment professionals such as brokers, investment advisers, accountants, lawyers and insurance agents that provide different products and services based on the license and training they have. These individuals are usually paid by flat fee, hourly rate, commission, or a combination, and are regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States.

Finance Coach

A finance, or money, coach is a personal finance expert who knows about issues like credit, debt, budgeting, saving and retirement. While not planners, finance coaches are educated on investment options and insurance. Working one-on-one with these advisers helps you identify problems and provide you with the tools to manage money and increase your net worth. In general, money coaches are not regulated, so it’s a good idea to do extensive research on a person’s background before hiring.

For all of these options, be sure to ask the necessary questions. Choosing to get help from a finance expert can be the difference between meeting your financial goals and falling short.

Finally, it’s also good for your overall financial health to keep on top of your credit, because good credit can help you save money over time on the money you borrow — whether it’s a mortgage, car loan or a line of credit. These are steps you can take yourself. Check your credit reports at least once a year for inaccuracies or other red flags, working to correct any mistake or resolve old debts.  You can check your credit reports for free every year through AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also monitor your credit scores — by checking them regularly, if you notice a big, unexpected drop, you should check your credit reports to see what’s causing the issue.  (You can monitor your credit scores for free on Credit.com.) Staying on top of your credit will leave you in a better position when you need your credit to work for you.

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