Many of those charged with watching other people's money saw their prestige crumble after the economic crisis of 2007-2009.
From bankers to insurance brokers to mutual fund and wealth managers, public confidence in their investing know-how nearly collapsed—leaving consumers wondering if their money was safe and secure enough to be there when they wanted it.
Some of those investing stewards are still trying to recover, including one of the more visible professions—financial planners—who, analysts say, are trying to win back the trust of investors, while fighting an already sketchy reputation.
"There's no question there's been a crisis of confidence for us since 2008," says Paul Auslander, president of the Financial Planning Association, a membership organization for financial planning experts in the United States. (More:Special Report on the first anniversary of the financial crisis.)
"With 401(k)s falling, plus the Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford scandals, clients are worried. But there's a feeling now that if we don't have consumer confidence, we have nothing," Auslander says. "We're doing a lot of watching ourselves to ensure we have a good reputation." (More: Bernie Madoffand
However, some analysts say even before the Great Recession, many financial planners and advisers—and those associated with them—were anything but reputable.
"They took a hit from the recession and I wouldn't indict an entire industry, but they don't deserve a good reputation now or before," says Jill Gross, a professor of law at Pace University and a director of the Investor Rights Clinic.
"I don't believe many financial planners provide the level of services to customers that they (customers) thought or think they should get," Gross argues. "There's a lot of dubious practices and far too much misunderstanding of what they do."
Trying to figure out what a financial planner does may be like trying to understand a stock derivative—leaving heads spinning over the many levels of service, pay and products.
For starters, almost anyone can call themselves a financial adviser and offer investment advice. There's no training or government registration required if someone simply puts out a shingle or creates a website with the words "Financial Planner" on it.
But there is a higher level of financial planners, whose licenses and/or registration with a U.S. government agency are required when it comes to dispensing investment advice.