Finding Your Niche Advisor

Gay pilot? Muslim quarterback? Meet your advisor

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Trouble focusing? See an optometrist. Back pain? Maybe visit a chiropractor. In a unique financial situation, or earn your money in a special way? Belong to a specific social group? You may have considered consulting a financial advisor who specializes in a particular niche, be it professional, social, religious or even a hobby. Some advisors, for example, specialize in serving fishing aficionados.

In addition to their certified financial planner designation, some niche advisors might even boast a specific professional certification and/or affiliation in their chosen area of expertise. Those serving mainly divorced women may, for example, be both certified divorce financial analysts (CDFAs) and members of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners (ADFP).

Research firm Cerulli Associates has found that although only 15 percent of U.S.-based advisors concentrate on a unique niches, their practices accounted for 29 percent of overall advisor assets as of the end of June 2013. CNBC takes a look at a small selection of investor demographics and the niche advisors serving them. Maybe one's the right fit for you.

—Compiled by CNBC's Kenneth Kiesnoski
Posted 17 October 2014

Athletes and celebrities

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A big acting break or new football contract can render a once-starving actor waiting tables or amateur college athlete an instant millionaire. Stories of suddenly famous celebrities and professional athletes eventually—or quickly—going broke are legion. A growing segment of financial advisors are tapping into this got-rich-quick pool of potential clients by specializing in the three A's: actors, artists and athletes.

The National Football League Players Association runs a Financial Advisors Registration Program to accredit planners such as RAM Financial Group and authorize them to represent team members. Similarly, the Actors Fund runs a Financial Wellness Program that matches members with financial advisors. And Los Angeles advisory firm Abundance Bound was founded by a group of actors who banded together to help other performers tackle money matters.

LGBT/Same-sex couples

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The financial and legal landscape is changing beyond recognition for LGBT (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender) Americans, thanks to the rapid advance of same-sex marriage, anti-discrimination legislation and other legal advancements across the U.S. over the past couple of years. Whereas lesbian and gay couples, and their legal and financial advisors, once had to wrestle with unique challenges such as inheritance and hospital visitation issues in the absence of municipal, state or federal protections, they now must learn to deal with many of these issues much as other Americans already do.

Advisory firms such as Christopher Street Financial in New York continue to specialize in LGBT clientele, much as they have for decades, but other mainstream firms are adding experts in the niche to their ranks. Kyle Young, a certificated financial planner at Schmitt-Young Investment Group of Wells Fargo Advisors whose clients are nearly all LGBT individuals, told CNBC recently that—because of financial liabilities—he is seeing a 50-50 split on whether or not his gay and lesbian clients want to tie the knot.

Muslim Americans

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Americans professing the Islamic faith are a growing demographic with very specific investing needs tied to religious strictures. There are about 3 million Muslim Americans at latest count, with about 16 percent of them earning $100,000 or more a year. Islamic religious law, or Shariah, is very specific when it comes to how Muslims manage their finances. For example, the earning of interest and types of investments allowed are strictly regulated (e.g., no profit from alcohol or gambling enterprises), and Muslims are required to donate at least 2.5 percent of their income annually to charity (a practice known as "zakat").

Financial advisor Sheraz Iftikhar, managing partner and co-founder of Arch Global Advisors, told CNBC a third of his Muslim clients insist on Shariah compliance. Iftikhar even has a triple specialization—in doctors, Pakistani-Americans and Muslims, through his affiliation with the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America.

Gen Y/Millennials

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The FINRA Investor Education Foundation has found that only 24 percent of Gen Y millennials, generally defined as adults under age 35, can answer four out of five basic financial literacy questions correctly. An investor's 20s and 30s are the best time for him or her to start managing money wisely and investing, particularly in long-term retirement accounts. So there's ample fertile ground among this second baby boom generation of an estimated 80 million Americans from which specialist advisors can reap business and sow prosperity. Accordingly, financial planners such as CNBC Digital Financial Advisors Council member Brittney Castro have made a booming business out of catering to the unique needs of the under-35 set.

Professionals: Airline pilots, doctors

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Relatively high-earning professionals such as physicians and airline pilots can be just as clueless about finances as the rest of us. And it's no secret that certain professions, such as doctors and dentists, are often saddled with far more student debt and operating (pun intended) expenses than the general American public, which can make saving and investing effectively problematic. Specialist advisors such as St. Louis-based Larson Financial diagnose and try to cure medical professionals' financial woes, and Milwaukee's Cleary Gull offers The Pilot Program, a pre- and post-retirement seminar series for pilots flying for airlines American and United.