Financial planners can help you with a variety of different issues -- whether it's helping you get a big picture view of your financial health or getting you to pin down all the minute details. Your financial planner might also be that extra motivation or accountability you need to keep you on track with your goals. (Check out our first webinar about financial organization for some great tips!)
So how do you know if you need one? The truth is, not everyone does. If you're the type of person who does your research, is always aware of where your money is going, and knows exactly how much you need to save each month towards your retirement and other goals, you'll most likely be fine without a financial planner. In this case, you might want to seek advice just to get a second opinion and confirm that you're on the right track. But for those of us that are newbies to the personal finance world with no time to do adequate research, we probably have more than a few blind spots, and a professional eye can really help.
This definitely doesn't mean you should go hire the cheapest financial planner you can find (or the most expensive). The costs of financial planners' services do not necessarily reflect their expertise. Remember to ask yourself a couple key questions:
-- Is this person adding value to my overall financial situation?
-- Am I receiving quality information and the assistance I need to improve my finances?
So How Do I Choose a Financial Planner?
Credentials/Experience: Basically anyone can claim to be a financial planner, but you'll want to make sure the person you hire knows what he or she is talking about! If there's a CFP after the name, that means the individual is credentialed by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. This is a good indicator of a high level of financial education as well as a commitment to ethics. (Of course this shouldn't be the only factor you base your decision on).
Objectivity/Fee Structure: Some financial planners work for a commission, meaning every time they get you to purchase a particular financial product, they make money. Obviously this doesn't give them very much incentive to give you an honest opinion of your financial situation. Your best bet is to go with a financial adviser who is fee-only and/or charges an hourly rate.
Fiduciary: This fancy word means the financial planner has made a commitment to work in the clients' best interests at all times. This is the difference between a planner creating a financial plan that is acceptable for you versus building one that is tailored to your financial goals and current situation.
Specialty/Expertise: Financial planners can have different specialties, and you want to make sure that the one you choose is a good match for what you need. They can work primarily with retired clients or newly married couples, etc. What areas are they used to addressing? What types of clients make up the majority of their experience?
Finally, the last thing you should check off is whether or not you feel comfortable working with the person. Go with your gut! If something tells you this person is unsavory or untrustworthy, chances are that you're right. And even if that's not always true, you should definitely feel comfortable with the person who you're receiving financial advice from.
We hope this provides useful information for you on your financial journey! For more specifics on choosing a financial planner, check out this detailed guide from the Wall Street Journal.
This post was written by Euna Kim from the SaveUp team.