Most investors know that financial advisors can do more than just help them populate and manage an investment portfolio in preparation for retirement, set up estate plans, and value your assets and risks. But it’s often not until a client mentions a strange situation they’re in that they learn just how valuable an advisor can be.

“People don’t fully know what I can do for them, and they mention things they’re encountering in passing,” says Aaron Rubin, a CFP at Werba Rubin Wealth Management in San Jose, Calif. “If I have one piece of advice to offer consumers, it’s this: Bring up your life situations with an advisor.”

As a case in point, Rubin mentioned a female client that wanted to help fund housing for a struggling adult sibling who couldn’t support himself. She was evaluating whether to buy a home for her brother, fund his rent, or how to help. Rubin provided her with information so she could help her brother seek out Section 8 housing, housing for lower-income adults and for which he qualified, and assist him on that basis.

While this personal situation falls far outside the stock market that investors associate with their advisors, it’s a financial situation nonetheless since the client was considering shouldering the expense of market-rate housing for her brother—and, with an advisor’s help, could tap a less expensive solution to her conundrum.

Not just investing

Many financial advisors have (or had) the credentials to counsel or sell clients investment-adjacent products including insurance, real estate, legal advice, business planning, and other types of products and services. Sometimes an advisor works at a firm with specialist partners, or sometimes they started out in one service industry (CPA, insurance broker) and moved over to financial advising, bringing with them their prior skills.

If you’re curious about an advisor’s credentials and whether they can help you directly or indirectly with evaluating a financial move or product, read their bio and cross-check out their bona fides through a service such as Brightscope.

Insurance analysis and recommendations

Because advisors look not only at your assets but also at your debt and risks, they typically review your insurance coverage levels to see if coverage is sufficient versus excessive and recommend adjustments if needed. Your advisor may be able to help you with home, auto, mortgage, business, liability, disability, and several other types of insurance.

Insurance becomes more important over time. As an investor ages, he or she may be able to turn investments into annuities—an insurance product with investment benefits which some advisors recommend to clients, if their situation deems it appropriate.

Additionally, long-term care or healthcare insurance can come to play an important role in supporting capital preservation for investors as they age. This is because medical expenses escalate with age, and some types of senior housing are completely or partially funded through long-term care or Medicare coverage.

Therefore, as a financial planning matter, holding adequate insurance is important so that investors don’t have to dip too deeply or too often into savings to fund these costs.

Small business structure

Investors who choose to set up businesses—whether it’s an LLC in which they share a boat or cabin with partners, or a full-fledged business with numerous staff—will face financial consequences with respect to taxes and how they take income. They will also face decisions about whether and how to set aside business income for retirement.

Advisors can help clients assess the best retirement vehicle (SEP IRA, solo 401k, etc.) given their corporate structure, and whether to change or establish a particular corporate structure (LLC, S Corp, incorporation, sole proprietor, etc.) given the nature of the business and the client’s expected income from it or exit plans for it.

Real estate referrals

Real estate as an investment class is growing in popularity among investors. Whether an investor owns a single rental or a city block, their financial advisor can help them both directly and through referrals to professionals in the industry.

Financial advisors can help clients model decisions such as whether to hold property assets in an IRA or partnership, approaches to growing real estate wealth through 1031 exchanges and other transaction types, and the tax consequences of those choices.

Rubin says he frequently points investors to professionals who can help them assess “triple net lease” commercial property investments where an investor draws dividends off ownership stakes in commercial sites occupied by “safe” big-box tenants such as nationally-branded drugstores, grocers, or gas stations, and so forth, which typically hold long and reliable tenures at their locations.

Tax-related planning

Most financial advisors take into account the tax ramifications of gains and losses in a portfolio they’re helping a client manage, and many engage in strategies such as “tax loss harvesting” periodically to make sure clients don’t pay more taxes than necessary on investment activities.

Additionally, as investors’ portfolios grow and they near the age to take required minimum distributions (RMDs), advisors pay attention their client’s future income and its tax bracket and look at whether redistributing funds among different account types could offset a tax hit.

Some advisors, Rubin among them, hold a CPA designation—whether CPA work is a primary activity or not. Additionally, advisors may look at taxes with respect to estate structure and many other aspects of an investor’s financial life. They may recommend that a client begin using a CPA and collaborate with him or her on plans.

Charitable giving strategy

If you give consistently to charities and are entertaining a major gift bequest to a particular cause or organization, an advisor can help you choose what form that gift takes and when to make the gift such that it doesn’t shrink future heirs’ income and so the contribution is made with timing or an approach that is tax-advantageous or carries the most impact.

Referrals to other professionals

Whether it’s analyzing a client’s ability to help an aging parent navigate their housing or healthcare options, or sending a client to another professional (specialized tax or real estate advice, a preferred insurance broker, etc.), planners keep a stocked Rolodex for life’s eventualities.

Often, clients face expenses related to relatives—adult children, aging parents—that they could approach in a different way. Rubin says he’s referred a client to an eldercare consultant regarding whether their aging parent was over-housed or could tap their California medical benefits differently in order to receive the same care at a lower cost.

“We network with a lot of people,” Rubin says. “We’re prepared to help our clients get expert advice so they’re on solid footing.”


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Jane Hodges

Jane Hodges

Jane Hodges is the author of Rent Vs. Own (Chronicle Books) and has written about real estate and personal finance for The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Seattle Times, Fortune and many other publications. Follow Jane on Twitter and Google+