Professor and student

Choosing an Academic-Friendly Financial Advisor – 4 Signs to Look For

Choosing an Academic-Friendly Financial Advisor – 4 Signs to Look For

If I had to choose what I love the most about working with academics, it’s that they are discerning. They ask wonderful questions, and know confidently where their expertise lies (and where it doesn’t). Most academics tell us that they can’t stand financial advisors, and we get it.  I, too, would rather schedule a root canal than fill out never-ending questionnaires or voluntarily sit down with a wall-street-type as he speaks directly to my husband.  But we all need sound and strategic financial advice, especially when life changes. So it’s important to find a financial advisor you can understand, trust and feel completely comfortable with.


From analyzing a career transition to understanding your options for lifetime income, an advisor can help take the lead on managing your biggest financial goals. As you begin your search for a financial partner, consider looking out for these four signs.


Sign #1: They Have Referrals From Other Academics.

No one knows what specific financial concerns you have better than your peers. Ask your fellow faculty and administrators who they work with for financial guidance, how they found them and what their experience has been like.

Alternatively, if you work in a larger institution or university, you may have access to pre-screened referrals. Ask your human resources department if they can connect you with a financial advisor who may already be well-equipped to handle your specific financial needs.

Sign #2: They Understand that Money is Different in Academia. 

A client recently shared a story about her last promotion.  When she received her promotion in title and modest salary increase, her husband, a contractor, encouraged her to go back to the department head to negotiate higher pay. She was hard-pressed to convince him that things just don’t work that way for professors.

The unique financial world of academia is not limited to inflexible compensation.  Indeed, benefits from pensions and 403(b)s to relocation stipends are part of your unique financial planning picture that you need your financial planner to fully appreciate – and guide you through.  As an academic, you also need to find someone who can answer your questions efficiently and with clarity. You don’t have the time or desire to vet the claims of brokers who talk about exotic investments. Or insurance agents ready to sell you a convoluted series of policies. You need someone who can help you understand what you have, listen to what you desire, and help you build the plan to marry the two.

Sign #3: They Can Help Cut Through the Noise

In my experience, Academics are skeptics by trade and often by nature.  You are trained and skilled at sniffing out empty promises and falsehoods.  You know when you are getting the run-around and probably avoid financial professionals as a result.  But there is a point in every person’s life when the financial options – and risks – become too much for one person to manage on their own.  And despite years of saying, “no, thank-you,” to financial advice, you’ve reached a crossroads that requires guidance and expertise that you can trust.

The good news is that there is a whole community of Certified Financial Planners ™ who operate as fiduciaries. This means they are required to put your best interest above their own.  If you want to work with a person who recognizes that you need help fully understanding your options, look for someone who listens more than they talk. You need someone who can silence the noise of product sales and focus on your personal financial goals. Someone who understands what you need and which path forward may be most beneficial.

Sign #4: They Can Build a Long-Lasting Relationship

Academics never stop needing financial guidance. And their needs will grow, evolve and gain complexity over time. While in your younger years you were working to pay down student loan debt, and buying a home, your financial needs evolved into making smart choices about where to work and live.  Today, you’re likely considering what winding down your career will mean for you financially and emotionally.  Or how to ensure your adult children will prosper in the future.  As you’re searching for the right financial partner, you may consider finding someone who’s prepared and able to work with you (and your family) for decades to come.

If you’re a tenured professor, would an advisor who specializes in helping entrepreneurs sell a business be the right partner for you? They may come highly recommended by others, but they may not be the right person to help manage your own financial journey.

As an academic, you work, live and breathe your profession. Your job is demanding and fulfilling, your financial assets can be complicated.  You need someone who can take the reins and guide you through investing, tax management, and income replacement. While searching for the right financial advisor for you, ask questions about your unique financial concerns, gather recommendations from your peers and find someone who will be in it for the long-haul.


This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by ReFrame Wealth, LLC. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.



Request a Consultation